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Nurse Practitioners growth is expected to be 45%, and Physician Assistants 31% from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations (7%). according to the BLS (2019).

A Nurse Practitioner attends a nursing school, while a Physician Assistant attends a medical school or center of medicine.

Nurses follow a patient-centered model, in which they focus on disease prevention and health education. NPs also handle assessment, diagnosis and treatment. Physician assistants follow a disease-centered model, in which they focus on the biological and pathological components of health while also practicing assessment, diagnosis, and treatment.

NPs can specialize in several areas, including gerontology/geriatrics, mental health, pediatrics, and women’s health. PAs undergo a more generalized education, but can also specialize in areas like emergency medicine, orthopedics, and general surgery.

Both have good job outlooks in California’s future. By a recent count there were nearly 8,000 licensed physician assistants working in California, making an average annual salary of $101,880. Nurse practitioners are earning roughly the same.

The current trend in the healthcare industry is shifting to favor the employment of PAs and NPs as the number of more expensive doctors relatively shrinks. There are currently nine college and university campuses across the state that offer accredited PA degrees with that number expected to rise with the increasing demand for PAs.

The American Academy of PAs (AAPA) recently voted to change the name of their profession from physician assistant to physician associate. It was a decision several years in the making.

“The title physician associate will position PAs to successfully compete in the ever-changing healthcare marketplace by boosting the profession’s relevance and impact among stakeholder groups, especially patients,” AAPA CEO Lisa Gables told MedPage Today via email.

The name change process officially started in 2018. Over 100 possible new titles were considered. The investigation culminated in a final report presented to the AAPA on Nov. 20, 2020.

AAPA said that PAs should refrain from calling themselves “physician associates” until legislative and regulatory changes can be made. The AAPA website said that doing so prematurely could confuse patients, and may be interpreted as stepping beyond the scope of current PA licensure.

The California Department of Consumer Affairs, Physician Assistant Board posted an Alert on its website that warns “While the Physician Assistant Board is aware of the title change, it is inappropriate for PAs to hold themselves out as “physician associates” unless and until legislative and regulatory changes are made to incorporate the new title.