5 Differences Between a Doctor and Nurse Practitioner

5 Differences Between a Doctor and Nurse Practitioner:

Nurse practitioner (NPs) has been in great demand recently due to increased healthcare needs. The job growth rate is expected to increase by 40% between 2021 and 2031, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Differences between a doctor and nurse practitioner
Fig: Differences between a doctor and nurse practitioner

Even though it may seem like doctors and nurses do not provide similar types of healthcare to patients, the truth is that the importance of nurses is comparable to that of a physician, even though both professions differ completely. Today, we shall examine what makes NPs different from doctors so you can choose the right profession for yourself.

1. Career Paths:

Doctors or physicians get an MD (Doctor of Medicine) or DO (Doctor of Osteopathy) degree. These degrees take four years to complete from a medical school. Candidates must have a bachelor’s degree in sciences or another relevant field to be eligible to apply. The entire education takes eight years to complete, which is followed by an internship and residency. This makes 12 years in total.

Becoming an NP requires a good deal of education as well. Nurses start at nursing school by enrolling in a BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) or an RN (Registered Nurse) program. Graduates may apply for an RN-BSN bridge program later and can even opt for the MSN (Master of Science in Nursing).

Nurses need to pass the NCLEX-RN (national nurse practitioner certification exam) to get a license to practice legally. Nursing education takes six years to complete, and an RN-MSN bridge program can make this duration even shorter.

2. Philosophical Approach:

Doctors are essentially scientists who study various diseases so they can learn how to cure them. Nurses, on the other hand, are caretakers and healers. They begin their careers mostly as an RN (Registered Nurses) and focus greatly on the body and mental well-being of patients. This does not mean that doctors are not healers or that nurses are not involved in scientific tests and treatments. Both approaches overlap, but the philosophical approach differs for each.

3. Education:

Most doctors get their education from a medical school. They are required to attend long classes and also spend clinical hours at a clinic or hospital for proper training. Very few students work while they study due to spending most of their time studying.

Nurses can attain their education and degree either at school or online due to the arrival of BSN and MSN online programs. Online education allows students to study without putting their daily life on hold. They can study from their home and even work alongside.

Online programs also consist of several practicum courses where a nurse is trained under the direct supervision of an RN or clinical preceptor. Clinical settings are picked based on the nurse’s specialty and can be an office or a health department, for example. The best part is that both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in nursing can be completed online. Some universities even offer bridge programs such as the RN-BSN and RN-MSN online.

4. Specialty:

Some opt to become a GP (General Practitioner), while others train to become highly specialized. Examples include cardiovascular surgeons (heart doctors) or gastroenterologists (digestive system specialists). Doctors must complete one or more medical residencies once they acquire their degree to become specialized. This is a total of three or more years of additional training. Nurses can specialize as well, though these specializations are broader as they are the core pillars of primary care. Master of Science in Nursing degree specializations include:

5. Regulations:

Doctors receive a certification from the National Board for their specialty. They can acquire this certification by passing an exam they must sit for repeatedly every six to 10 years. Doctors also need to have state licensure to practice legally. Nurse practitioners need to pass the NCLEX-RN exam to get certified. Other regulations may vary by state and will include one out of the following three types of practice environments:

Full-Practice State:

  • Fully licensed and complete autonomy,
  • Nurses can evaluate patients, diagnose conditions, order tests, manage and begin treatments and prescribe medication.

Reduced-Practice State:

  • One or more practice elements, including providing prescriptions, may be restricted,
  • Nurses do not have full authority unless they partner with another medical institution, like a clinic or hospital.

Restricted-Practice State:

  • Nurses may require physician supervision,
  • May only be allowed to practice within a hospital setting.


If you opt to become a nurse, find out the exact state requirements where you wish to practice. As a nurse, you will not be allowed to work without a license. The good news is that NPs are in great demand, and the profession is excellent for individuals that hope to care for patients.

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