Advanced practice providers — who they are & what they do

Let’s talk about APPs. No, not that kind — we’re not talking about the handy tools on your phone or the first course at dinner. Let’s talk about advanced practice providers and how they can benefit your health.

You may not be familiar with the name, but you may actually have been seen by an advanced practice provider at some point. They often work hand-in-hand with physicians at your primary care office, as well as in other medical settings.

But what exactly is an APP? Read on as we take a deeper dive into the role of advanced practice providers — and how you and your family can benefit from seeing one.

Defining advanced practice providers

First, let’s put a definition with APP. An advanced practice provider, or APP, is a medical provider who has undergone advanced training in medical care.

While these providers haven’t obtained a medical degree — either an MD or a DO — they have been through six to eight years of training and education, obtaining at least a master’s degree in their specialization. Just like physicians, advanced practice providers complete regular continuing education to ensure their knowledge and abilities remain up to date.

They work alongside physicians to provide optimal medical care to patients, either in a primary care setting or in some other type of medical environment, including specialty care like cardiology, dermatology, emergency services or even surgery.

So, what’s their role specifically? Well, think of them as an extension of your doctor, one that allows you to be seen more quickly and still be offered full-spectrum care.

Different types of advanced practice providers

Under the umbrella term of “advanced practice providers,” there are several different types of APPs. The two you may be most familiar with are PAs and NPs.

PAs are physician assistants, while NPs are nurse practitioners. While the two have separate educational paths before beginning to practice, they can provide many of the same services that physicians do.

This includes basics like taking a patient’s medical history, conducting a physical exam, providing diagnosis and treatment, and ordering imaging or other tests — as well as more complex tasks like delivering babies, performing women’s wellness checkups, helping patients manage chronic conditions and making referrals to other medical specialists. They can also prescribe medications.

Other advanced practice providers you may be less familiar with include certified nurse midwives and certified registered nurse anesthetists.

Benefits of seeing advanced practice providers

At times, when you call your medical provider’s office, you may be offered the opportunity to see an advanced practice provider. What’s the benefit of doing so?

The most obvious benefit — and one you may have noticed previously — is that you’ll likely be able to schedule an appointment or work in a visit more quickly. That’s because there is a physician shortage nationwide, particularly in primary care, and their time and attention is in somewhat limited capacity. An APP can usually see you in the meantime or act as your primary care provider.

Nationwide surveys have shown that APPs routinely achieve high patient satisfaction scores, likely because they often come from nursing or other patient care backgrounds. That background allows them to connect with patients on a personal level and work collaboratively to provide optimal care for both acute and chronic medical conditions.

When you see advanced practice providers, you benefit from having a complete medical team that also consists of a physician and other clinicians. This collaboration is a true benefit — you have a comprehensive care team.

Another bonus? Advanced practice providers have been shown as especially effective in a hospital environment, helping to decrease length of stay and infection rates, along with hospital readmissions.

Looking for a medical provider? Click here for help finding a doctor or advanced practice provider to meet your medical needs!