Advance Practice Providers: An important part of your medical team



In this article:

  • The United States is facing a physician shortage. Advanced Practice Providers play a role in helping to fill the gap in health care.
  • There are several different types of Advanced Practice Providers, each playing a unique and crucial role in health care.
  • Understanding the differences in providers can help you get faster access to regular, routine care.


According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the United States could see a shortage of over 100,000 physicians by the year 2030.  Advanced Practice Providers (APPs) are helping to fill this gap and can increase access to healthcare by providing high-quality, evidence-based care at all levels of medicine and nursing in all healthcare settings.


APPs are health care experts with advanced education and experience to provide medical care that ranges from checkups and diagnosis to treatment and follow up. You’ve probably received care from an APP and not even realized it. They make up a sizable part of the health care workforce, including Physician Assistants, Nurse Practitioners, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists, Certified Nurse Midwives, and Clinical Nurse Specialists.


Each role is critical in its unique way to provide the best care for patients.


  • A Physician Assistant (PA) is one who can diagnose, create, and oversee treatment plans, and prescribe medication. PAs have advanced training in general medicine and complete a master’s degree program in addition to the specialty clinical training in the area where they practice. You have most likely encountered them when you have scheduled your check up with your primary care provider. They can also serve as your primary care provider in most instances.


  • Nurse Practitioners (NP) can also be your primary care provider and diagnose, treat, prescribe medication and manage acute and chronic medical conditions. All NPs complete a master’s or doctorate degree and have advanced clinical training beyond their initial registered nurse (RN) training. NPs focus on health promotion, disease prevention, and health education.


  • A Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) provides anesthesia during surgical procedures. They monitor patients while they are in surgery, as well as when they are coming out of the anesthesia.


  • Certified Nurse Midwives (CNM), or a nurse midwife, is a registered nurse who has the education and credentials to assist in childbirth, caring for pregnant women, and anything involving women’s reproductive health.


  • Lastly, a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) is a practicing nurse who has advanced training and certificate in a specific specialty with an emphasis on patient education. Within that specialty, they can diagnose and monitor patients’ issues with the ability to prescribe medicine with the partnership of a certified physician.


Although these titles sound similar, there are significant differences in education and certification. Some nurses can diagnose and prescribe medication. Additional providers, like a certified nurse midwife, are limited to caring for patients receiving only one type of care, whereas others can take on a wide variety of illnesses, much like the care you may receive from your primary care physician.


“Providence and our family of organizations understand the important contributions of our Advanced Practice Providers. We rely on each one to provide care at all levels of medicine and nursing and deliver on our Mission to care for those who are poor and vulnerable,” says Syl Trepanier, DNP, Chief Nursing Officer for Providence. “They help us to deliver daily on the promise we make to each patient to ‘Know me. Care for me. Ease my way.’ Our health care systems could not fully function without their work at the bedside and in leadership roles.”


Overall, there are a variety of different types of providers to help assist you in any area of support, demonstrating the way healthcare services have expanded. Like physicians, APPs are focused on disease prevention and health care education to make each patient experience meaningful.