Nurse vs Doctor: What Are the Differences? | Northeast University (2023)

Nurse vs Doctor: What Are the Differences? | Northeast University (1)

If you are considering a career that involves evaluating, diagnosing and treating patients in primary care, there are several options to consider. One of the most obvious paths is to enroll in medical school with the intention of becoming a doctor. An alternative career path is to become a registered nurse.

Both positions can provide rewarding opportunities to make a truly positive impact on patients' lives. However, a nurse's duties differ from a physician's in terms of the level of education required and the scope of their duties and responsibilities. Before choosing any of the races, consider the overlaps and differences.

What is a Nurse?

Nurse practitioners are registered advanced practice nurses (APRNs). In other words, registered nurses are registered nurses (RNs) who have additional education and training that allow them to assume a broader scope of authority and provide a broader range of patient care services than typical registered nurses. Nurses may treat patients in the primary care or critical care setting, and in some cases even work as specialists. Sometimes nurses care for themselves, other times they work closely with a doctor or a team of doctors.

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What are the nurse's basic skills?

Nursing professionals benefit from a number of core competencies:

1. Patient care, including treatment of acute and chronic illnesses and injuries
2. Critical thinking, essential for the correct assessment and diagnosis of patients
3. Interpersonal skills, including the ability to communicate clearly with patients, families, nurses, and cooperating physicians.
4. Collaboration skills that allow you to work with other providers, including physicians.

What types of nurses are there?

The specific duties of a registered nurse may vary by certification or specialization. For example, consider the critical care nurse (ACNP). These healthcare professionals usually work in hospitals or intensive care units, treating patients who are sick, injured or in need of surgical procedures. The ACNP's job description may include assessing a patient's condition, administering tests, and making diagnoses. Additionally, these nurses can perform intubations, treat wounds, and much more.

In contrast, Family Nurses (FNPs) provide primary care; His role is very similar to that of a general practitioner. These nurses diagnose and treat acute and chronic conditions in patients of all ages. They can also help encourage patients to maintain a healthy lifestyle and prevent disease. More than 75% of RNs are FNPs, making them the most common type of RN. Some additional types of nurses are:

  • Adult Gerontology Nurse (AGNP)
  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse (PMHNP)
  • Women's Health Nurse (WHNP)
  • Pediatric Nurse (PNP)

What is the nursing job description?

When determining which of these careers might be right for you, take a deeper look at the basic nursing job description. The job description varies by practice setting and specialty certification. With that in mind, a general description of a nurse's role might include:

  • Order, perform, and interpret diagnostic tests, which may include X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, and blood tests.
  • Diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, infections and injuries.
  • Develop and implement treatment plans, which may include prescribing medications or referring patients to specialist therapy or treatment.
  • Counseling for patients, education about treatment options, and advice on health promotion and prevention.
  • Educate patients and their families on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle, including factors such as diet, exercise, and sleep.

How do you become a nurse?

The requirements to become a nurse or doctor represent an important difference between the roles. Steps to becoming a nurse include:

become a nurse

To become a registered nurse, you must earn either a two-year Associate's Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a four-year Bachelor's Degree in Nursing (BSN). After completing a course, you can take the NCLEX-RN nursing exam, which validates that you have the right medical knowledge and clinical skills to become an RN.

In search of continuing education

To become a Registered Nurse, you must build on your RN experience with a more advanced degree. Specifically, registered nurses require at least a master's degree in nursing, which can take two years or more.

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Some nurses even earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), which can come in handy if you want to become an educator or lead a team of advanced nurses. In addition, you may want to obtain graduate certificates in specialized programs (such as psychiatry or pediatrics) to further your practice.

completing exams

Finally, before you can practice as a registered nurse, you must pass a national NP board certification exam. You can then apply for admission to practice in your chosen state. You may need to periodically renew your license and certification to meet specific requirements or continuing education.

What is the typical salary of a nurse?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for registered nurses in 2020 was approximately $111,680. If you are considering this position, please be aware that several factors can affect your salary. Some examples are:

  • Years of experience. Nurses with additional experience tend to earn higher salaries.
  • Education. A more advanced degree can allow you to earn a more competitive salary.
  • Geography. Your salary may also vary depending on the area you work in, as some cities or metropolitan areas have a higher demand for nursing or a higher cost of living.

What are the career prospects for nurses?

Career prospects as a nurse are promising. The BLS predicts a significantly above average growth rate of 52% between 2020 and 2030.

One of the biggest drivers of this growth is the looming shortage of doctors. As the US population ages and requires more chronic health care services, medical schools are struggling to keep up with patient demand. Increasingly, nursing professionals are being asked to take on this role and provide primary and acute care to patients in need.

What is a doctor?

To better understand the differences between the roles of a nurse and a physician, it may also be helpful to consider the physician's job description. Generally, "physician" refers to a physician trained in medicine. Doctors diagnose illnesses and treat illnesses and injuries and perform surgeries or surgeries. They can also promote wellness by advising patients on diet, lifestyle, and other preventative medications.

What are the doctor's basic skills?

Although physicians can work in a variety of specialties and practice settings, physicians generally have six main roles:

1. Patient care, including treatment of acute and chronic illnesses and injuries
2. Advanced medical knowledge, including expertise in anatomy, physiology, and physical and cognitive health.
3. Practice-based learning, i. h a commitment to continually assessing its standards of patient care and seeking opportunities for improvement
4. Interpersonal skills, including the ability to communicate clearly with patients, families, nurses, and cooperating physicians.
5. Professionalism, including a commitment to ethics and the ability to provide sensitive care to a diverse patient population
6. An awareness of your role within the broader healthcare system combined with an ability to optimize patient outcomes within that system

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What types of doctors are there?

If you decide to become a doctor, you will have the opportunity to become certified in different areas. Some examples of specialist doctors are:

  • Anesthesiologists who ensure patients are safely and adequately sedated prior to surgical procedures
  • Pediatricians who work with infants, children, teens, and teens.
  • Obstetricians and gynecologists whose practice focuses on women's health and safe pregnancy and childbirth
  • Surgeons who treat diseases and conditions that require surgical intervention
  • Primary care providers who treat acute and chronic conditions.

What is the doctor's job description?

Instead, consider the basic physician job description. Please note again that this may change depending on the type of practice and type of healthcare facility you work in.

  • Assess patients' health by taking their medical history and performing physical exams.
  • Updating charts and medical records with documentation of new diagnoses or treatments to ensure a comprehensive view of the patient's overall health.
  • Order and interpret tests, including X-rays and blood tests, which are usually performed by nurses or technicians.
  • Develop and implement treatment plans, which may include prescribing medications or referring patients to specialist therapy or treatment.
  • Counseling for patients, education about possible treatment options, and advice on health promotion and disease prevention.
  • Educate patients and their families on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle, including factors such as diet, exercise, and sleep.

How do you become a doctor?

More pedagogical and formal training is required for a physician than for a nurse. The extensive responsibilities of physicians require extensive study and experience.

Get a medical degree

Becoming a doctor always starts with a bachelor's degree, which could be in medicine, biology, life sciences, or another related field. From there, graduates enroll in medical school to earn a Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree. Please note that students must pass the MCAT exam to be admitted to medical school.

Some medical schools offer programs that combine undergraduate and graduate degrees. Your medical training includes both classroom learning and hands-on experience managing patient care.

gain experience

After studying medicine, you will participate in a residency program in an area of ​​your choosing. Residencies can help you gain hands-on clinical experience in a hospital, clinic, or even private practice. A stay can last between three and nine years. Some subspecialties, including delicate procedures like hand surgery, may require additional years of formal training.

be licensed

To practice medicine, you must obtain a medical license in your state, which means you have either the US Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX-USA). Requirements may vary by state. Also remember that while a specialization is not essential, it can help with job opportunities.

What is the typical salary of a doctor?

Physicians' salary range tends to be slightly higher than that of nurses. Physicians and surgeons earned an average annual salary of at least $208,000 in 2020, according to the BLS.

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The type of medical specialty you choose can have a big impact on your salary. Anesthesiologists had the highest median annual salary among physicians in 2020: $271,440. In contrast, general and family physicians earned an average salary of $214,370 that year.

As with most careers, geography and years of experience can also affect your salary.

What are the career prospects of a physician?

The BLS projects overall job growth for physicians and surgeons of around 3%, slightly slower than the average and significantly slower than the 52% projected for nurses.

What are these career prospects for doctors? BLS data finds that demand for medical services is increasing, but a number of factors are holding back real job growth. For example, technologies like remote monitoring allow doctors to treat more patients more efficiently. Furthermore, the BLS confirms that attending physicians are now taking over many of the routine tasks of physicians.

Nurse vs doctor: what are the fundamental differences?

Considering the roles of nurses and physicians, essential differences become visible. Some of the main differences are:

  • The level of education required. To become a doctor, you must obtain an MD or a DO, both of which require years of study. Nursing professionals can practice with a Master of Nursing or higher; While still an advanced degree, it doesn't require as many years of education as an MD or DO.
  • The level of hands-on training required. To become an MD, you must complete a residency, which can last anywhere from three to nine years. This residency allows for training that is more focused on the chosen specialty. Instead, nurses must complete an internship, which typically consists of 500 hours of supervised clinical care.
  • The level of autonomy. According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, 26 states do not recognize full autonomy of practice for nurse practitioners, meaning that they must practice under the guidance of a physician, especially when prescribing medication. In 24 states and Washington, D.C. Nurses have full practical autonomy, which means they do not need guidance from a doctor and have no restrictions on their practice.
  • Wage gaps and job prospects. Salary expectations and career prospects also differ between the two roles. In general, doctors can expect a higher salary range, but they also have far fewer job opportunities than nurses.
  • specialization differences. Both nurses and physicians can choose specialties, but these specialties vary. For example, physicians may choose to perform surgery that is not a nurse's specialty. For example, nurses might choose mental health or women's health care.

Decide which area of ​​healthcare is right for you

Whether you become a nurse or a doctor, you have the opportunity to see patients every day, perform critical diagnostic and treatment tasks, and ultimately have a positive impact on patient health outcomes.

If you are comparing nursing and medical careers and decide that becoming an NP is right for you, consider nursing programs at Northeastern University. OurOnline Program for MS in NursingIt is offered with three concentrations of NP. Our online degree programs will help you improve your medical knowledge and expand your patient care skills. Explore the program and qualify online today.


Association of American Medical Colleges, "The Road to Physician"(pdf)
American Association of Nursing Professionals, State Practice Establishment
American Nurses Association, Der Weg zum Becoming a Nurse Practitioner
American Association of Nursing Professionals, What is a Registered Nurse?
National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners
National Council of State Boards of Nursing, NCLEX and andere Prüfungen
FOR US Bureau of Labor Statistics, anesthesiologists, midwives, and nurses
US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Physicians and Surgeons
US Census Bureau, "Population age 65 and older is growing rapidly with baby boomers"
US Medical Licensing Exam
WebMD, "What is a Nurse?"
WebMD, "What is a Doctor?"



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