Depending on where you live and what kind of care you need, you may have a number of different options when it comes to seeing a doctor. Depending on your needs, this could be anything from a general practitioner to an internist to a surgeon. Many people are familiar with the idea of having a primary care physician (PCP). These are the doctors who take care of patients’ general medical needs, such as checkups for physicals and immunizations, minor illness care and referrals to specialists for more complicated issues. A nurse practitioner is another type of health professional that offers similar kinds of services as a primary care provider. However, there is one big distinction between these two groups: Their scope of practice.
- 1 How Practicing Nurses and Physicians are Different
- 2 What’s the Difference Between a Nurse Practitioner and a Physician?
- 3 So, Why Are Some Health Professionals Called “Nurse”?
- 4 The Scope of Practice of Nurse Practitioners
- 5 The Scope of Practice of Physician Assistants
- 6 So, Which Is Better?
- 7 What Can You Do With a Doctorate in Nursing?
- 8 So, Should You Go to Medical School to Be a Nurse Practitioner or Physician?
How Practicing Nurses and Physicians are Different
There are many similarities between the jobs of a nurse and a doctor, which is why many nurses become doctors. Both professions are highly regulated and skilled. A doctor usually has a four-year medical degree program, followed by one or two years of residency training. After residency, doctors are able to practice alone, but many join a group practice. In contrast, nurses have a variety of educational and job paths, but all of them require a minimum of a two-year associate degree program. Nursing programs may be granted Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degrees, which lead to advanced practice roles. Nurse practitioners (NPs) have a minimum of a three-year nursing program, followed by an additional two years of additional education to become a certified NP.
What’s the Difference Between a Nurse Practitioner and a Physician?
Physicians are medical specialists who have completed four years of medical school and have taken a year or two of residency training to become certified to treat certain health conditions. A physician can practice anywhere a patient might need medical care, like a doctor’s office or hospital. Nurses may also be certified to diagnose and treat certain conditions. However, most nurses have their training as health care practitioners but do not have the additional certification to treat certain conditions like a physician would. Nurse practitioners (NPs) are registered nurses who have completed a minimum three-year bridge program to become certified to diagnose and treat patients under the supervision of a physician. This often means patients receive more comprehensive care, including medication management, than they would if they were seen by an unregistered nurse practitioner.
So, Why Are Some Health Professionals Called “Nurse”?
Many professions that are trained in health care are referred to as “nurse practitioners.” Registered nurses may have a two-year bachelor of science (BSN) degree program followed by a three-year registered nurse (RN) degree program followed by a two-year certified nurse practitioner (CNP) degree program. These health professionals may be supervised by physicians but also deal with patients on an outpatient basis. Certified nurse midwives (CNMs) are also health care practitioners. They have a minimum bachelor of science (BSS) degree program followed by a one to four-year nursing degree program. They practice with patients who are pregnant and have newborns, but also have a focus on women’s health care.
The Scope of Practice of Nurse Practitioners
The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) defines a nurse practitioner as “an advanced practice registered nurse who, by education, training and licensure, assumes the totality of practice responsibility for the diagnosis, treatment and management of health problems common to entire populations.” This means that a nurse practitioner provides comprehensive care, including medication management, diagnosis and treatment of more serious health problems. While nurse practitioners help patients with common illnesses and health problems, they may not be able to help with issues that require more specialized care, such as surgery, birth and mental health. In those cases, patients may be referred to a physician, a surgeon, a psychologist or a mental health professional. Nurse practitioners are allowed to provide primary health care, like immunizations, chronic disease management and checkups, as long as they are under the supervision of a physician. They may also have the ability to order tests and prescribe medications.
The Scope of Practice of Physician Assistants
Physician assistants (PAs) are registered nurses who have completed a minimum three-year professional nursing program. They may have a bachelor of science (BS) degree program or a master’s degree program, or both. PAs may have received a bachelor of science in health care (BSSc, SHC) degree, depending on the school. Nurse practitioners who have taken a one-year graduate degree program in medicine may be eligible for a PA license. PAs complete an extensive three-year certification program in order to become licensed. They complete required courses related to health care and have to pass a certification exam to become certified. PAs may practice in any type of health care setting, like a hospital, clinic or an office.
So, Which Is Better?
Doctor vs. nurse practitioner vs. physician assistant. One helpful way to think about this question is to do some research and find out what your options are. You may find it’s helpful to talk to your friends and family members who have had health care experiences, as well as medical professionals. Assess your needs and preferences. In general, a primary care physician is a good option for most people. Once you’ve identified your best option, make sure you’re taking advantage of all the services available through your doctor. Additionally, try to avoid unnecessary hospital visits. If you have a serious health problem or a difficult-to-diagnose condition, see a specialist.
What Can You Do With a Doctorate in Nursing?
A doctorate in nursing can help you advance to the highest levels of nursing and lead a life filled with research and education. For example, a doctorate in nursing may help you advance to the highest levels of nursing practice, like a professor at a medical school. Another type of doctorate in nursing is a doctorate in public health, which may focus more on policy and planning.
So, Should You Go to Medical School to Be a Nurse Practitioner or Physician?
Nurse practitioners and physicians both have years of experience. However, a physician’s education is generally considered more prestigious. For this reason, many people choose to be a physician or a physician assistant after medical school. However, a doctorate in nursing may be a good option if you want to focus on research and education. In most cases, it’s up to you what career path you want to take. There are many jobs that are possible with a nursing degree, but it’s important to keep in mind what you want to focus on most. If you want to practice as a nurse practitioner, make sure you choose a school that encourages you to focus on this type of practice.