Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 33, Issue 11, pp 1857–1858 | Cite as

Primary Care Confusion—Public Knowledge of NP and PA Duties and Their Information Gathering Behaviors

  • Evan K. PerraultEmail author
  • Grace M. Hildenbrand
Concise Research Reports


As the number of medical students entering primary care as a specialty declines, this deficit is increasingly being filled by mid-level providers such as physician assistants and nurse practitioners (PAs and NPs). Despite these providers’ abilities to provide a similar quality of care as physicians,1 confusion likely exists regarding the kind of care these providers are able to deliver in comparison to the more widely understood physician profession. These problems are likely further compounded by the numerous combinations of alphabetical abbreviations appearing next to providers’ names. Prior analyses of over 2000 primary care providers’ online biographies2 found 181 unique combinations of alphabetical abbreviations next to names (e.g., PA-C, FNP-BC).

Little is known about the public’s knowledge regarding what kinds of duties these mid-level providers can perform in comparison to physicians, nor the locations from which they seek information about providers before...




Prior Presentations



Startup funds provided by the College of Liberal Arts at Purdue University.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare they do not have a conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Purdue University: Brian Lamb School of CommunicationWest LafayetteUSA

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