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Advanced practice providers (APPs) make up a large part of the health care workforce. You may have heard of a physician assistant or a nurse practitioner, but do you know about their training, what they do, and how important they are to a health care system?

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What is an Advanced Practice Provider?

An APP is a health care professional who undergoes specialized education, training, and certification to provide services like medical diagnosis and treatment. They include physician assistants (PAs), nurse practitioners (NPs), certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs), and certified nurse midwives (CNMs).

APPs are among the most clinically flexible groups of health care professionals. Not only are they the primary health care providers in many clinical settings, they also have skill sets that make them strategically important in the event of a health crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Physician assistants

As one of the fastest growing medical professions in the U.S., PAs can diagnose illnesses, develop and manage treatment plans, prescribe medication, and act as a patient’s primary care provider.

During their education, including undergraduate and graduate studies, PAs undergo intense training, including 2,000 hours of clinical rotations in different areas of medicine.

With their exposure to the various medical and surgical specialties and practice types, PAs are a well-rounded group of health care professionals.

Nurse practitioners

NPs are registered nurses who have earned a Master of Science in nursing, or a doctorate in nursing practice.

While NPs’ experience as nurses gives them a unique approach to patient care, their additional education often focuses in a specialty area of their choice like family medicine or pediatrics. This can allow them to take on even more responsibilities.

NPs have more authority than registered nurses and can prescribe medication, order diagnostic tests, examine patients, and provide patient treatment.

Certified registered nurse anesthetists

CRNAs are registered nurses who receive special training and certification to administer anesthesia to patients for a surgical procedure.

Prior to surgery, they evaluate patients to determine which type and amount of anesthesia they need. They work alongside anesthesiologists during a procedure to help monitor a patient’s vital signs. They also monitor patients after surgery.

Certified nurse midwives

CNMs are registered nurses with special training and certification catered towards women’s health.

Like an OB-GYN doctor, CNMs provide a variety of health care services to women, like family planning, gynecological exams, and prenatal care. Their primary role is to help deliver babies safely and naturally, and they work alongside physicians during cesarean section births.

Why Are Advanced Practice Providers Important?

APPs are an important group of medical professionals in a health care system. They all hold a master’s degree or higher and undergo rigorous clinical education and training.

APPs are trained to work in all types of clinical settings, from hospitals to outpatient clinics, and can deliver many types of care, ranging from patient exams to prescribing medication.

APPs play an integral role in UPMC’s delivery of quality patient care. There are nearly 3,500 APPs at UPMC.

“APPs provide equal quality of care as physicians and that team-based care delivery improves both safety and patient access,” says Ben Reynolds, PA-C, chief advanced practice officer at UPMC. “It’s a win for patients when an APP is on your care team.”

With the worldwide spread of the coronavirus, health care workers are needed more than ever to care for patients with COVID-19. The volume of COVID-19 patients greatly outnumbers the physicians available to provide critical care, which is why APPs have been stepping in and providing treatment.

“APPs have been a major tactical pillar in UPMC’s COVID-19 response,” Reynolds says. “They are first-line providers in the treatment and diagnosis of the disease and have been responsible for maintaining access for our non-COVID patients by expanding our telemedicine services. APPs in UPMC have provided nearly 150,000 telemedicine visits since the pandemic began.”

For more help finding a provider for you, visit: Providers.UPMC.com.

About UPMC

Headquartered in Pittsburgh, UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. We operate 40 hospitals and 700 doctors’ offices and outpatient centers, with locations in central and western Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, and internationally. We employ 4,900 physicians, and we are leaders in clinical care, groundbreaking research, and treatment breakthroughs. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as one of the nation’s best hospitals in many specialties and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals.