differences between a nurse and a doctor | United States of America (2023)

differences between a nurse and a doctor | United States of America (1)

Nurses (NPs) and Physicians (MDs) spend their days making a difference in people's lives. Providers in both professions are dedicated to treating patients' illnesses and injuries using the best available science and technology.scharfCautiousTechniques. In the US healthcare system (depending on the state), both can serve asprimer respondedor.

The main difference between a nurse and a doctor is that NPs receive less training than MDs, so their responsibilities are different. This blog post describes the main differences between education andwork description of a nurse versus a doctor to help you decide which career might be right for you.

What do the nurses do?

What is a nurse?a nurse is aNursefocused on providing compassionate, evidence-based patient care. not just does this type ofAdvanced Practical Nurse treat acute and chronic diseases; They also focus on preventative and holistic care.

what nurses do?The typical tasks ofnursescan include:1

  • Collect the patient's medical history and perform physical examinations.
  • Provide primary and emergency patient care.
  • Create treatment plans for patients, prescribe medications, and monitor patient progress
  • Request and performance of diagnostic tests
  • Educate patients on the benefits of healthy eating and exercise to prevent disease.
  • Offer mental health support

In states where professional nurses have full practice authority, they may serve as primary caregivers. in fact accAmerican Association of Nurse Practitioners, 89.7 percent of NPs are certified in some area of ​​primary care, while 69 percent actually provide primary care. The section "why we need nurses' explains why this is important.

Key Differences – Nurse vs. doctor

differences between a nurse and a doctor | United States of America (2)

(Video) Clinical Differences in the USA ❘ Nurse' Experience

differences in responsibilities

Nurses and doctors share many of the same responsibilities. In 22 states and Washington D.C. NPs have full practical authority, which means they can evaluate patients, order and interpret diagnostic tests, create and administer treatment plans, and prescribe medications, all without medical supervision. In the remaining states, nurse practitioners have restricted or restricted practice, which means they must have certain patient care decisions approved by a doctor.2

educational differences

To become a nurse and, more importantly, to become afamily doctor, obviously you have to comestrict schooling. However, both careers are also extremely rewarding, and whether you choose nursing or medicine, you will be working to improve the lives of others.

a benefit ofbecome a nurseis that students can more easily continue working while earning a livingDegree in Nursing. Especially with online nursing graduate programs, it is very possible to have a job while earning your PhD or Master's degree.learn onlinePrograms offer more flexibility.

To become a Nurse, you must meet the following requirements:

  1. Earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN): Your path to a BSN may vary depending on your previous education, but a full-time BSN program typically takes four years.
  2. Failing to pass the NCLEX-RN exam: You must pass this exam to earn your nursing license, which is required to practice as a registered nurse (RN). Once licensed, it is recommended that you gain two or more years of valuable work experience before applying to graduate school. However, program requirements vary.
  3. Earn a Graduate: win oneMaster of Science in Nursing(MSN) oDoctor of Nursing Practice(DNP) with a specialty as a nurse asfamily caregiver(FNP), Adult Nurse (ANP) or others. After the didactics course, she will complete an internship in which she will work directly with a professor in a clinical setting for several hundred hours. Depending on the program chosen, graduate studies (including internships) typically last two to three years.
  4. Become a Certified Practicing Nurse (CNP): You must pass a national certification exam through one of five national certification bodies to become a registered nurse.

More information about our care programs

Doctors spend more time in school than nurses: they attend four-year medical school and then complete accredited residency training. Depending on the subject, the residency lasts at least three years.3The steps to becoming a doctor include:4

(Video) US nurse or UK nurse? What will you choose? US vs UK

  1. get a bachelor's degree: Your bachelor's degree can be in any subject, but medical schools require several rigorous prerequisites.
  2. Take the Medical College Admission Test® (MCAT®): Before applying to medical school, you must complete this standardized test.
  3. Earn a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree.:In this typically four-year program, medical students complete courses andclinicalExperiencethat prepare them for the internship and stay.
  4. Pass the US Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE): Before you can take sick leave, you must pass this three-step test.5
  5. Complete assistant training: Residents typically spend three to seven years training alongside healthcare professionals and under the supervision of treating physicians. The first year of residence is called "practices".
  6. Get a state license:To practice, doctors must be licensed in their state. Regulations vary from state to state.
  7. Get a board certification (optional): Physicians can become certified in their chosen specialty.

specialization differences

differences between a nurse and a doctor | United States of America (3)

Both nurses and doctors can specialize or even subspecialize in a particular field.nursing disciplinesthey tend to be slightly different from those of doctors. For example, a nurse may specialize in women's reproductive health and childbirth as a women's health nurse (WHNP) or family health nurse (FNP).6, while a doctor would specialize in OB/GYN as an OB-GYN.

Common Nursing Specialties

  • family caregiver
  • pediatric nurseOptional
  • orthopedic nurse
  • psychiatric nurse
  • specialized clinical nurse
  • nurse anesthetist

common medical specialties

  • Family Medicine
  • pediatrics
  • Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
  • Psychiatry
  • Internal Medicine
  • Operation

differences in the work environment

Doctors often work in private practices, but also in group practices, clinics, and hospitals.7Doctors also work in academia and for the government.

Almost half of the nurses work in medical offices.8Around a third work in state, municipal and private hospitals. NPs also work in ambulatory care centers, educational services, and other offices of health professionals.

(Video) Nurse Salary in the US, UK, Germany, Canada, and Australia

How are the job prospects different?

US news and world reportranks the nursing profession in 4th and the doctor in 5thList of the best healthcare jobs in 2020.

The demand for nursing professionals is growing rapidly. Job growth is expected to increase by 28.2% between 2018 and 2028, with an estimated 53,300 new jobs added during the period. sup9In 2019 theMedian base salary for full-time NPs was $115,800. That's significantly bigger than that.median base salary for RNs, which was $73,300 in 2019.

The estimated job growth rate for physicians is much lower than that for nurses, but is still 7 percent above average, with an estimated 55,400 new jobs added between 2018 and 2028. The BLS says that in 2019, the median annual salary for physicians and surgeons wasequal to or greater than $208,000.

The need for nursing staff.

In 2019, the Association of American Medical Collegespredicts that the United States will be short of nearly 122,000 doctors by 2032. As the US population grows and ages, and health issues like obesity and tobacco use are addressed so people can live longer, the demand for doctors grows faster than the supply. super10

Nurses, who can provide equivalent primary care at less cost than physicians, may help fill this gap. Inflexible care models that rely on primary care contribute to more and more patients without access to primary care. sup11

Closing this gap has long been the vision of nurses. In 1965, assistant professor of nursing Loretta Ford and pediatrician Henry Silver developed the role of pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP) at the University of Colorado and suggested that this role "bridges the gap between the health care needs of children and the ability of families to access, have and pay could shut down basic health care. super12


Choosing between a career as a nurse or a doctor largely depends on your personal and professional goals, as both roles are highly rewarding positions in healthcare.

The University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (USAHS) offersMaster of Science in Nursing(MSN),Doctor of Nursing Practice(DNP) eGraduate Certificates in Nursingdesigned for working nurses. Our degrees are offered online, with optional face-to-face immersions* and an annual interprofessional trip abroad. Role specialties includefamily caregiver(FNP),nurse,** ztop nurse. MSN offers several options to reduce course completion time. Take courses whenever and wherever you want, and earn your nursing practice degree while balancing your work and life.

*The FNP role-playing specialty includes two mandatory intensive practical courses as part of the curriculum.
**The Nurse Educator specialty is not available for the DNP program.

ask for more information


  1. Nursing Schools, “Nurses vs. Doctors (Doctors)”:https://www.nursepractitionerschools.com/faq/np-vs.-doctor/
  2. American Association of Nurse Practitioners, "Issues at a Glance: Comprehensive Practice Authority," Revised December 2019:https://www.aanp.org/advocacy/advocacy-resource/policy-briefs/issues-full-practice-brief
  3. American Medical Association, "International Medical Graduate Residency Program Requirements":https://www.ama-assn.org/education/international-medical-education/residency-program-requirements-international-medical#
  4. Association of American Medical Colleges, „The Road to Becoming a Doctor“, diciembre de 2019:https://www.aamc.org/system/files/2019-12/Road_to_Becoming_a_Doctor_December%202019.pdf
  5. Princeton Review, "What is the USMLE?":https://www.princetonreview.com/med-school-advice/usmle
  6. Nursing Card "Nurse":https://nursinglicensemap.com/advanced-practice-nursing/nurse-praktiker/
  7. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Physicians and Surgeons,"career prospects handbooklast modified on April 10, 2020:https://www.bls.gov/OOH/healthcare/physicians-and-surgeons.htm
  8. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, „Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners“,career prospects handbooklast modified on April 10, 2020:https://www.bls.gov/OOH/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm#tab-3
  9. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Employment Projections — 2018–2028”, September 4, 2019:https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/ecopro.pdf
  10. American Association of Medical Colleges, “New Findings Confirm Physician Shortage Predictions,” April 23, 2019:https://www.aamc.org/news-insights/press-releases/new-findings-confirm-predictions-physician-shortage
  11. Christopher Kerns and Dave Willis: "America's health care problem is not a lack of doctors."Harvard Business Review, March 16, 2020:https://hbr.org/2020/03/the-problem-with-u-s-health-care-isnt-a-shortage-of-doctors
  12. Keeling, Arlene, "Historical Perspectives on an Expanded Nursing Role",OJIN: Online Magazine of Nursing Issues, May 31, 2015:http://ojin.nursingworld.org/MainMenuCategories/ANAMarketplace/ANAPeriodicals/OJIN/TableofContents/Vol-20-2015/No2-May-2015/Historical-Perspectives-Expanded-Role-Nursing.html


What is the major difference between doctor and nurse? ›

Doctors give orders and develop treatment plans, while nurses collaborate with a team of providers to put those plans into practice. Doctors interpret reports such as lab results and X-rays; nurses help patients with activities of daily living (ADLs).

What's between a nurse and a doctor? ›

A nurse practitioner works directly with patients, and is typically responsible for providing urgent, primary, and specialty care to a specific population of people.

What is the difference between nursing and medicine? ›

Ferguson notes that nursing is "knowing how to take care of patients' needs, whether they are physical, social, psychological. Medicine is much more scientific; diagnosing the disease, not just the symptoms, weighing risks and benefits of treatment, understanding lab results and what they really mean.

What DO doctors and nurses have in common? ›

What are the similarities between doctors and nurses? Doctors and nurses perform well under pressure and have the ability to make quick, life-saving decisions. They are also able to exhibit soft skills like: Critical thinking.

What can nurses do that doctors Cannot? ›

For nurses, their specialty is more task-oriented and patient-oriented. Doctors can't make nursing diagnoses. We stay with the patient for long hours, assessing and catering needs, while doctors have limited time with patients. They can't perform variety of hands-on tasks, like us nurses.

What's the difference between a doctor and a nurse practitioner? ›

These professionals can also work together to deliver patient care. But there is one vital difference between nurse practitioners and physicians. The duties of NPs revolve around providing patient primary care, whereas the duties of physicians encompass complex patient diagnoses, specialty care, and treatments.

Is it better to be a doctor or a nurse? ›

Doctors and nurses are very different career paths in terms of education and responsibilities, but nursing could be the best path for you if you value starting sooner, having a wide range of career opportunities, and developing meaningful patient relationships.

Is a nurse basically a doctor? ›

While doctors and nurse practitioners have many similarities, there are some notable differences. The biggest difference between the two is the amount of time spent on training. While NPs have more training than a registered nurse, they receive less training than a doctor. They also are licensed differently.

Do nurses know the same as doctors? ›

Your experienced floor nurse knows way more about medicine than your average intern. Physician assistants can sew up wounds and assist in surgery. A person who becomes a nurse is just as smart as a person who becomes a doctor, which has always been true, but not always acknowledged.

What is the difference between nursing and medical problems? ›

What is the difference between a medical diagnosis and a nursing diagnosis? A medical diagnosis deals with disease or medical condition. A nursing diagnosis deals with human response to actual or potential health problems and life processes.

Why do nurses become doctors? ›

Reasons Why Nurses May Want to Become Medical Doctors (MDs)

It is only after being in the field and seeing the differences between nurses and doctors do those individuals desire this career path again. Others want to be more helpful to their patients.

Is it harder to be a nurse or a doctor? ›

Instead most are more focused on doing their jobs to the best of their abilities. Is being a nurse harder than being a doctor? No, being a nurse and being a doctor are both equally hard. While they both face different challenges it's hard to look at either profession and say that one is “easier” than the other.

Can a nurse override a doctor? ›

In short, no a nurse does not always have to follow a doctor's order. However, nurses cannot just randomly decide which order to follow and which not to follow.

Do doctors have authority over nurses? ›

Their authority in healthcare contexts is also typically less than that of physicians. The physician bears primary legal responsibility for the patient. It is the physician who makes the key decisions about patient medical diagnosis and treatment and issues orders that nurses are expected to follow.

Do patients prefer nurses or doctors? ›

Patients indicated they are more satisfied with nurse practitioners' care than with doctors', according to a small survey conducted researchers at the University of Michigan. NPs outscored physicians on more than three-quarters of the satisfaction questions, the findings, released Friday, show.

What is the hardest thing a nurse has to do? ›

Seeing the death of their patients.

"Seeing those patients you took care of die and how devastating it is to the family" is the hardest part of being a nurse, said Melissa, a nurse from Oklahoma city.

What is the hardest thing as a nurse? ›

Here are some of the challenges nurses face in their profession:
  1. Long shifts. Nurses often work 10- or 12-hour shifts. ...
  2. Changing schedules. ...
  3. Emotional involvement. ...
  4. Physical demands. ...
  5. Exposure to illness and chemicals. ...
  6. Lack of nurses. ...
  7. Changing technology. ...
  8. Poor treatment from patients.
Mar 10, 2023

Why are nurses more trusted than doctors? ›

They are honest in their words, delivery of care, and actions. They are honest in delivering education and answering questions. They do not want to mislead patients—and want the patients to know the facts. But, they have a way of delivering this news or education with compassion and patience.

Why am I seeing a nurse practitioner instead of a doctor? ›

Many patients prefer to visit a nurse practitioner rather than a doctor as they often find the interactions to be overall more friendly, the wait times when scheduling an appointment to be far shorter and the prices to often be far more affordable.

Can you be a nurse and a doctor at the same time? ›

It's fairly common for doctors to choose a field they worked in as a nurse. For example, if you worked as an RN in the pediatric unit, you may decide to become a pediatric doctor since you're familiar with the duties and responsibilities within that specialized field.

What is the difference between a doctor and a physician? ›

The significant distinction between doctors and physicians is that the latter typically have a broader background, whereas doctors specialize in a specific field of practice. A physician can become certified in six years, but doctors frequently need 10 or more years to complete their education.

Is nursing school harder than med school? ›

However, don't take it for granted that nursing school will be much easier than medical school, especially in an accelerated format. Both offer a unique set of challenges and demand the utmost in student commitment and work rate.

Can nurses diagnose patients? ›

Some nurses can diagnose a patient's condition, as previously mentioned. However, extensive education and specialized training are required to ensure an accurate diagnosis. As a result, nurse practitioners and some advanced practice registered nurses can diagnose their patient's conditions.

Do nurses see more patients than doctors? ›

Conclusions: Physicians, nurses, and critical support staff spend very little of their time in direct patient contact in an intensive care unit setting, similar to reported observations in both outpatient and inpatient settings. Not surprisingly, nurses spend far more time with patients than physicians.

What is above a nurse but under a doctor? ›

In basic terms, a nurse practitioner is a registered nurse (RN) with advanced education and clinical training. A physician assistant is a medical professional with advanced education who is trained in the same way physicians are.

What is the difference between a nurse and a nurse practitioner? ›

Although both registered nurses and nurse practitioners focus on patient observation and care, the largest difference between the two roles is that NPs are permitted to prescribe treatments, order tests, and diagnose patients—duties normally performed by physicians—whereas RNs are not.

What is the full meaning of a nurse? ›

: a person who cares for the sick or infirm. specifically : a licensed health-care professional who practices independently or is supervised by a physician, surgeon, or dentist and who is skilled in promoting and maintaining health compare licensed practical nurse, registered nurse.

Can a nurse act like a doctor? ›

Some feel that "nurses shouldn't pretend to be doctors." Although this is not the DNP nurse's intent, it can be misconstrued negatively. So, the short answer is yes – a DNP nurse may be referred to as "doctor," however, some states have legislation surrounding this.

Are nurses more empathetic than doctors? ›

Research suggests that nurses are more vigilant about patient safety, are more empathetic and are more honest, especially at the end of life.

Can nurses defend themselves? ›

Healthcare workers may exert reasonable force in self-defense, although the standard response to possible violence should be to prevent it or to talk one's way out of it, if possible.

Is there a difference between RN and nurse? ›

What is an RN? A registered nurse (RN) is a nurse who has completed all educational and examination requirements, and has been licensed to practice nursing in their state. You will also see 'registered nurse' as a job title or position.

Why nursing instead of med school? ›

For instance, nursing may provide the opportunity to work in a variety of healthcare fields, whereas pursuing a career as a physician may mean focusing on one specialty area. Nursing school also provides more flexibility than medical school, allowing students more leeway to pursue their degree at their own pace.

What are medical mistakes as a nurse? ›

Here are a few of the most common nursing mistakes: Forgetting to turn on the bed alarm for a patient at high risk for falls. Incorrectly programming an IV pump resulting in underdosing or overdosing. Failing to report a change in a patient's condition.

Do doctors learn what nurses do? ›

Nurses and physicians work together to provide the best possible care to patients. Although their specific roles differ, there is still much a physician can learn from nurses. It behooves physicians to actively engage with nurses, and observe and emulate their interactions with patients.

Is it worth it to be a nurse? ›

Many senior-level nurses make an average salary of well over $100,000 and have the sought-after luxury of terrific job security, which can't be undervalued in this day and age. Depending on which nursing field you pursue, you can make even more, according to a recent article featured on nurse.org.

Can a man be a nurse? ›

The number of men in nursing steadily increased over the past 20 years due to several factors, such as the education, benefits and positions available to nurses. There are more men in nursing today than at any time in history — that's good for male nurses and the profession.

Who was the nurse that went to jail? ›

RaDonda Vaught, the Tennessee nurse convicted after a medical error led to a patient's death, was sentencedopens in a new tab or window to 3 years of supervised probation, evading a possible prison sentence of up to 8 years.

Can a nurse hold a medication without doctors order? ›

Can a Nurse Hold a Medication Without a Doctor's Order? A nurse has a duty to ensure the safety and well-being of a patient. If you notice a patient has ill/adverse effects from a medication given to them, you have a duty to hold the medication and contact the physician for clarification of orders.

Can a nurse refuse to give you your medication? ›

As a nurse you can't just refuse to complete an order. You can talk to the doctor to get clarification. If you are uncomfortable with the administration of whatever the drug is or the ordered treatment you should have a more experience charge nurse on staff to consult with or she can help or administer the med.

Who is above the charge nurse? ›

Those looking to work with patients outside of a traditional hospital setting may be drawn to home care RN positions. To recap, the nursing hierarchy from bottom to top is: nursing aids, LPNs, Staff Nurses, Charge Nurses, Nursing Managers, Directors of Nursing and finally the Chief Nursing Officer.

Who is above a nurse? ›

The highest level of nursing education is the doctoral level. Positions that require doctoral nursing degrees include certain types of advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), as well as leadership positions such as chief nursing officer or director of nursing.

Who controls nurses? ›

The Board of Registered Nursing (BRN) is a state governmental agency established by law to protect the public by regulating the practice of registered nurses.

Do doctors or nurses save lives? ›

One study shows that nurses save lives every day, catching more than two-thirds of safety-compromising medical errors – such as wrong drug dosages – before they reach the patient.

Why do nurses make the best doctors? ›

Nurses who become doctors are often better at communicating with their nursing staff, having worked on a team of nurses themselves. If you're a nurse who can communicate personally and effectively with patients, as well as the other roles you'll encounter as a medical doctor, you're on the right track to success.

Do doctors respect nurse practitioners? ›

I can say with confidence most physicians, particularly those that hire nurse practitioners, treat NP's with respect. Our scope of practice is different than that of physicians but as a nurse practitioner I know my boundaries and abide by them.

Which is harder being a nurse or doctor? ›

Instead most are more focused on doing their jobs to the best of their abilities. Is being a nurse harder than being a doctor? No, being a nurse and being a doctor are both equally hard. While they both face different challenges it's hard to look at either profession and say that one is “easier” than the other.

What is higher than a nurse but lower than a doctor? ›

Many people have primary care providers that are NPs or PAs. But what's the difference? In basic terms, a nurse practitioner is a registered nurse (RN) with advanced education and clinical training. A physician assistant is a medical professional with advanced education who is trained in the same way physicians are.

Is doctor more stressful than nurse? ›

Stress levels depend on what you personally find most stressful, your specialty, and your role. Doctors have more responsibility and are more likely to be sued. Nurses and nurse practitioners are more likely to experience bullying and harassment from patients and colleagues.

Do nurses eventually become doctors? ›

A registered nurse (RN) can become a doctor if they complete the required certifications and education. Typically, nurses have many of the prerequisites that medical schools require, so you may be able to accelerate the medical school admissions process.

Can a nurse question a doctors order? ›

One of the rights of medication administration is "right medication." If the nurse performs a safety check and finds that a medication is not indicated, he or she has every right to question the doctor's order.

What is the lowest nurse called? ›

1. Nursing assistant (CNA) Nursing assistants also go by the title of nursing aides or CNAs (Certified Nursing Assistants). While these professionals are not technically nurses, they are on the frontline of contact between medical staff and patients—and the role can serve as a starting point for many aspiring nurses.

What is the lowest type of nurse? ›

As the name suggests, CNAs assist nurses with patient admittance and vitals. It is the lowest-level credential related to the nursing field and the quickest point of entry.

What is the highest nurse called? ›

Chief Nursing Officer (CNO)

Chief nursing officers are nursing administrators who work within the leadership team of a healthcare organization. They are considered the highest level of nursing leadership.


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