That might sound like the opening to a joke, but the question is an important one to ask if you're considering a career in healthcare. The main difference is in how APNs and physician assistants work with physicians. Marie Lindsey of the Illinois Society for Advanced Practice Nursing describes the difference this way:
In Illinois, the relationship between physicians and APNs is distinctly different from the relationship between physicians and physician assistants (PAs). Physician assistants by law are supervised by physicians, whereas APNs collaborate with physicians. The different verbiage in the Physician Assistant Act and the Nursing Act is not an accident; rather it is a result of long hours of negotiation between APN leaders and representatives from physician associations. Another major difference between the Physician Assistant Practice Act and the Nursing Act is the issue of "ratios." A physician is allowed to supervise only two PAs, although PAs may have more than one supervisory physician (thus allowing a PA to have more than one employer). Such ratios do not exist for APNs, as a result of intense political negotiations back in 1997 and 1998.
The issue of "ratios" is especially important to weigh if you are considering working for multiple employers. If you would like to discuss the pros and cons of the career paths ahead of you, don't hesitate to contact the Goldberg Law Group.