What Is The Difference Between A Nurse Practitioner And A Doctor?

In the world of healthcare, both nurse practitioners and doctors are concerned with helping patients and making them feel better. Before discussing their differences, let’s look at their similarities. First, they can provide primary care to patients. They examine patients, check their vital signs, ascertain their symptoms, request for laboratory procedures to be done and prescribe the necessary medications. They also give advice to patients on how they can integrate healthy living practices to improve their medical conditions. They also monitor the progress of their patients and make adjustments to their drug dosages depending on how they respond to the course of treatment.

However, there are fundamental differences between nurse practitioners and doctors that have even caused some degree of controversy between the two professions. Despite the shortage of doctors in primary care, many physicians aren’t too comfortable in allowing nurse practitioners to expand their roles and lead teams that could provide that kind of care to patients. Nurse practitioners, for their end, feel that they are ready and equipped to assume primary care roles and that they should receive the same pay as doctors if they assume these roles.

One of the differences between the two professions focuses on the kind of education and training that they receive. Both aspiring doctors and nurse practitioners start their journey to train for their professions with a four-year bachelor’s degree. The standard bachelor’s degree, preferably in the sciences, is the most common path for those who want to become doctors while the bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN) course is the program of choice for those who want to become nurses. To gain entry into formal medical school, however, individuals must have high scores in the Medical College Admissions Test. BSN graduates, on their end, must pass the National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to become a Registered Nurse as well as the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) to be eligible to study in a master’s of science in nursing (MSN) program. Both student doctors and student nurse practitioners need to hack these respective programs to get the necessary training they need for their respective professions.

Aside from the differences in the topics covered and the orientation of both professions in these educational programs, another difference lies in what happens afterwards. Doctors are required to complete their residency training in a hospital setting which typically lasts for anywhere from three to seven years depending on their specialization. No such requirement exists for nurse practitioners. However, it should be noted that some MSN programs require RNs to have a solid number of years of clinical experience before admitting them to their postgraduate program. In terms of educational training, then, physicians spend more time in school. Doctors need to allocate at least 11 years for school and residency to complete their programs while RNs can become nurse practitioners in about seven years or less.

Both professions also are also different because of the number of hours of clinical instruction they receive. In a comparison made by the American Academy of Family Physicians, the total lecture and study hours and residency hours undergone by a student before becoming a full-fledged family physician range from 20,700 to 21,700 hours while a doctor of nursing practice spends 2,800 to 5,350 hours.

Whatever their professional differences, both doctors and nurse practitioners have the welfare of their patients in common. They also work side by side in many healthcare settings, drawing on each others’ expertise and skill to cure the sick.

Career Spotlight: Nurse Practitioner

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