Nurse Practitioner Vs Physicians : Differences
Students and professionals alike should know the key distinctions between nurse practitioners and physicians. Understanding how the two careers coexist is key to planning long-term goals and time commitments.
Many duties can overlap, but a nurse practitioners role differs from a physicians in flexibility and scope. A nurse practitioner, for example, can often be available to patients needing immediate care sooner than a physician, allowing nurse practitioners to serve as a front line of defense in helping patients.
Additionally, nurse practitioners and physicians differ in the extent of education they need to advance. Nurse practitioners who choose to pursue further education can earn a specialization that can deepen their knowledge and make them candidates for advancement.
Nurse practitioners can pursue educational goals while still working because a nurse practitioners educational requirements arent as extensive, overall, as a physicians. All else being equal, this may allow them to advance to a higher level quickly.
Consider some key differences in nurse practitioner vs. physician roles.
How Healthcare Is Changing
While the growing number of nurse practitioners could fill the need for more doctors in the US, many doctors are fighting not to let NPs care for patients without supervision. According to Bloomberg Business Week the United States is facing a shortage of 13,000 doctors, which could grow to more than 130,000 within 12 years. Meanwhile, there are 155,000 NPs willing to fill that need. In the near future, that could spell more freedom for NPs to practice without supervision, particularly in urgent care settings and with the roll-out of healthcare reform whereby creating the need for greater accessibility and care team accountability. Understanding the difference between nurse practitioners and traditional physicians can be difficult, because in many cases the job descriptions overlap. The key differences are that many states require NPs to have physician supervision, and that medical doctors have much more extensive and comprehensive training.
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Americas Growing Physician Shortage
Physicians are in increasingly short supply, and this is a problem that will continue to worsen. Data published by the American Association of Medical Colleges project a shortage of between 46,900 and 121,900 physicians by 2032, including both primary care doctors and specialty care doctors .
The nations population is growing and aging, and as we continue to address population health goals like reducing obesity and tobacco use, more Americans will live longer lives. These factors and others mean we will need more doctors, AAMC president and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, M.D., explained in a press release. Even with new ways of delivering care, Americas doctor shortage continues to remain real and significant.
Angela Golden, DNP, FNP-C, FAANP, president of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners from 2012 to 2014, doesnt see this as an issue. There is a healthcare provider shortage all over the United States, she points out. Since 80 percent of nurse practitioners practice in primary care, we are an excellent source for health care.
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Nurse Practitioner And Doctor
Are Nurse Practitioner Doctors Real Physicians? No longer are physicians the only healthcare professionals with a doctorate degree . Pharmacy recently transitioned to doctoral preparation, mandating that students earn a doctor of pharmacy degree in order to practice. Audiology , physical therapy , and occupational therapy have also done the same. Now, nurse practitioners arrive on the job with a doctor of nursing practice degree . When the entire healthcare team has a doctorate, the question arises, Who is the doctor? It seems simple enough professionals with doctoral education go by doctor.
The public tends to associate the title doctor with the MD degree however, they address other professionals this way, too:
- Osteopaths .
- Psychologists .
- Chiropractors .
The word doctor actually comes from the Latin term docere, meaning to teach. The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines doctor as, a learned or authoritative teacher a person who has earned one of the highest academic degrees conferred by a university. By these definitions, the title belongs to any person receiving a doctoral degree in any field.
Interested in working in different states? Check out our handy “Interactive NP Scope of Practice Law Guide.”
A Nursing Degree Vs A Medical Degree Isnt The Only Thing That Separates Nurse Practitioners From Doctors
If youve been to the doctors office lately, its possible you didnt see a doctor at all. In recent years, the American medical system has been turning to nurse practitioners to help meet rising healthcare demands.* In fact, employment of nurse practitioners is growing much faster than average and is expected to increase by 31% in the coming years.
Nurse practitioners and doctors may deliver similar types of healthcare to a variety of patients, and studies have shown that nurse practitioners quality of care is equivalent to that of physicians. However, the two professions are not identical. Heres where they differ:
Different Philosophical Focuses
Doctors, at their core, are scientists. They study diseases and how to cure them. Nurse practitioners, at their core, are healers. The vast majority begin their careers as registered nurses and focus their care on wellness of the whole body and mind. Thats not to say doctors never take a more holistic approach to healing or that nurse practitioners dont use scientifically tested treatmentstheres plenty of overlapbut their basic approach to patient care does differ at the philosophical level.
Different Paths Into the Professions
Physicians earn a Doctor of Medicine or Doctor of Osteopathy degree, which requires 4 years of medical school after earning a bachelors degree, typically in the sciences. This is generally an 8-year path followed by an internship and residency, which brings it to about 12 years.
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Whats Next For The Nurse Practitioner
With opportunities expected to grow in the next decade, many nurse practitioners are developing their skills and education, gaining the edge they need to advance in this important career. As patient numbers rise, so does the need for nurse practitioners. By earning a degree that takes the future into account, you can develop the skills needed to advance your career and meet the upcoming demand for nurse practitioners.
Duquesne University recognizes and responds to the investment of time and talent that nurse practitioners make to further their work in healthcare. To develop and expand your expertise in nursing practice and patient care through any of Duquesnes array of targeted nursing programs, take the next step and learn more.
Earning an online Master of Science in Nursing degree from Duquesne University helps nurse practitioners become more independent in their nursing careers. Nurses who pursue an MSN degree become changemakers, advocating for patients in todays health care systems through increased expertise in a variety of nursing care and practice areas. The MSN program offers Family Nurse Practitioner, Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, and Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner tracks, among others.
Find out how Duquesne University can help you advance your nurse practitioner skill set and improve the quality of life of every patient who comes under your care.
What Is The Requirement For Bsn
Aspiring registered nurses should expect to fulfill a variety of requirements prior to acceptance into a BSN program. Program requirements vary by school, but may include a minimum GPA, SAT or ACT scores, letters of recommendation, and prerequisite courses.
Some schools also require applicants to take the Graduate Management Admission Test or submit official transcripts and diplomas from any previously attended colleges or universities.
Tasks for aspiring nursing students may include completing an application form, taking an entrance exam, and submitting letters of recommendation from previous instructors.
A bachelors degree in nursing is the typical minimum requirement for admission into a masters degree program, although some programs accept applicants with a baccalaureate in another field.
Many masters degree programs in nursing are geared toward working RNs who wish to complete additional formal education. Program lengths range from one to two years, depending on the program.
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What Is The Difference Between A Nurse Practitioner And A Physician
The main difference between a nurse practitioner and a physician is the type of training. While both roles play a necessary part in patient education and communication, physicians are trained in the medical model, whereas nurses are trained using the nursing model.
The notable differences between the two are:
- The amount of time spent pursuing a degree required to practice
- Different licensing requirements by their respective state licensing boards
Physicians are licensed to practice independently in every state and can work without supervision or oversight from another practitioner. Nurse practitioners can practice independently in many states and work under a collaborative agreement with physician oversight in other states.
That list of states where nurse practitioners can practice independently continues to grow. “This is a wonderful trend,” said Dixon. “Getting providers to set up practice in smaller towns is difficult, so having more nurse practitioners there allows for even more impact to these smaller communities.”
Education Differences Between Nurse Practitioners And Doctors
When deciding between the two careers, some key factors to consider include the type of degree required, total clinical hours, and the length of time it takes to complete the program.
Doctors are required to complete a professional doctoral program in medicine and NPs must complete a master of science in nursing . The time it takes to complete these programs also differs. Doctors spend around twice the amount of time completing their program than NPs for an MSN degree. These differences often guide learners to one position or the other.
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Nps Provide Quality Care
From the initial open-ended question and throughout the interview, physicians consistently indicated that NPs were great for primary care. Specific qualities that were highlighted included NP adaptability, their ability to provide routine primary care with ease, and the benefits of their unique nursing approach to patient care.
I think theyre veryespecially in primary care, for the majority of the population without special needs, I think nurse practitioners are perfect for that.
So to maintain a daily service and basically to keep the lights on in our practice, its very useful to have nurse practitioners to see patients with usits great.
NPs, consistent with the views of their representative organizations, felt their skills were an excellent fit for primary care, including improving patient access to primary care, their attention to social issues and education, and the benefits of their nursing background.
I think that patients are overall really satisfied with our care and what we provide to them, and I think it improves access for a lot of people, because theres a lack of providers in primary care.
I think nurse practitioners do an awesome job of providing primary care to all those patient groups, adult, family, women, because I believe that nurse practitioners speak at the level of the patient.
Most Physician Assistants Practice Medicine Autonomously
In most states, upon completion of their education and certification process, physician assistants work with a physician under a collaborative agreement, but their day-to-day work usually does not require any direct MD oversight. Physician assistants often operate independent PA-led clinics, and their physician interaction is usually limited to a few monthly on-site visits.
While about half of the states now grant nurse practitioners freedom to practice and prescribe independently without having any collaborative agreement with an MD, many states still require nurse practitioners to maintain collaborative agreements with physicians and are not considered independent practitioners.
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Education Of Physician Assistants And Nurse Practitioners
Physician Assistants: To become a PA, you are required to complete a minimum of 2-4 years of a university undergraduate degree , a minimum GPA, and if you are interested in PA Consortium then you are required to have 910 hours of health care experience . You also require a GPA of 2.7-3.0 or higher on the OMSAS scale. You do not need a science undergraduate degree to apply to the program. Nurses may also apply to become PAs.
- In Ontario, there are two schools that offer PA programs, both are Bachelors degree in PA studies. Manitobas PA program offers a Masters Degree.
- Education is based on the medical model
- Program length is 24 months. The first 12 months includes basic medical foundations, and the second year consists of clinical rotations through different areas of medicine. You cannot bypass any aspect of this training, and this applies irrespective of your experience or background.
- PA education is not tiered. Once a PA graduates, they are open to practice in any area of medicine .
Nurse Practitioners must complete a Bachelor in Nursing first, then apply to a Masters in Nurse Practitioner studies. The NP programs are competitive to get into and requirements differ between different programs. An example of what they may require includes: minimum 2 years of direct RN nursing experience in the last five years with a GPA of B or higher in an undergraduate nursing program.
What Does A Nurse Practitioner Do
A nurse practitioner blends clinical expertise in evaluating, diagnosing and treating various acute and chronic health conditions as part of a patients healthcare team, said Carte.
In addition to providing clinical care, nurse practitioners focus on communication and patient education. Incorporating these practices helps put patients at ease and increases the likelihood that patients will more “willingly participate” in their own health care, said Dr. Jequie Dixon, APRN, AGACNP-BC, clinical coordinator of MSN programs at SNHU.**
Nurse practitioners can provide quality healthcare in virtually any medical setting. They may:
- Assess the health status of patients
- Diagnose acute and chronic diseases
- Address health concerns
- Prescribe pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments
- Order and interpret labs and diagnostic imaging
- Collaborate with an interdisciplinary team
Nurse practitioners can serve as healthcare providers in such settings as:
Becoming a nurse practitioner enables nurses to advance their careers, building upon a solid nursing practice foundation to diversify specialty skill sets. Professional growth was critical throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. “The nurse practitioners stood up and showed their value by providing high-level care to patients in need during the overwhelming healthcare crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dixon said.
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How Do You Become A Nurse Practitioner
In order to pursue a degree in nursing, you will need to complete an accredited nursing program.
This nursing program should take four years of full-time study to complete, but most students choose to attend part-time because this allows them more time for work and family obligations.
They spend between 4 years getting the necessary education before taking the boards exams to become certified by the National Commission on Certification of Nurse Practitioners .
If you want its possible for you to enroll in an accelerated nursing program that lasts just 4 years. However, this involves taking classes at night or online and dedicating yourself full-time towards completing your degree.
Nurse Practitioner Vs Physician: Whats The Difference
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Patients often find the line that separates the nurse practitioner and physician roles to be a little blurry, especially patients who receive their primary care from a nurse practitioner. After all, both these health care professionals use their skills to improve patient outcomes, and there are times when the fields respective skills overlap. Yet there is a distinct difference between nurse practitioners and physicians, from educational requirements, to career opportunities, and beyond.
Prospective students who are looking to pursue a career in medicine should know the factors that differentiate the role of a nurse practitioner vs. physician. Nursing students and health care professionals who are considering furthering their medical careers can earn an online post-masters certificate.
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Both Fields Pursue Higher Education And Examinations
When nurses advance from a bachelor’s to a master’s or doctoral degree and complete an exam, they receive a nurse practitioner certification. Physician assistants also need to complete their master’s degree and follow their own certification process, the Physician Assistant National Certification Exam .
- Nurse practitioners need to re-certify every five years, but can also re-certify by meeting the clinical practice and continuing education requirements. In most states, that’s 1,000 clinical hours and 75 continuing education hours.
- Physician assistants need to re-certify every 10 years and have 100 continuing medical education credits.
Who Supports Nurse Practitioners
The Institute of Medicine and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation are long-time supporters of nurse practitioners. They advocate that nurse practitioners provide patient care equal to the care provided by their physician colleagues.
In their 2010 report, The Future of Nursing, Leading Change, Advancing Health, the Institute of Medicine asserted that states across the country should remove legal barriers, often imposed by physicians, that nurse practitioners from practicing to the full extent of their education. Shortly thereafter, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation founded the Campaign for Action, which advocates for nurse practitioner independent practice in the United States.
More recently, the United States Federal Trade Commission published their perspective on the nurse practitioner and physician debate. In their paper titled Competition and the Regulation of Advanced Practice Nurses, the FTC stated that when physicians attempt to control nurse practitioners ability to practice, they are actually impeding quality competition, raising healthcare prices for patients, and diminishing access to care.
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When Should Patients See A Nurse Practitioner Vs A Doctor
Typically, it is easier to make an appointment with an NP vs. a doctor due to an NP’s flexibility. Since they are able to diagnose, treat, and prescribe medicine, patients can book an appointment for urgent issues with an NP instead of waiting for a future appointment with a doctor.
For treatment that may be more experimental or for patients who have an unclear diagnosis, it is best to visit a doctor. Seeing a doctor is also recommended for patients who require surgical procedures or who need invasive treatment.