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Doctor vs. Nurse Practitioner - Whats the benefit and downside to each career?

I'm a junior in highschool and i'm trying to decide what career I want to pursue.

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Michelle’s Answer

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Both careers are interesting options to pursue if you are interested in a career in healthcare. Instead of thinking which career that I would want to pursue, I would suggest considering pursing a career as both a NP and a doctor. Many Nurse practitioners are highly skilled with major clinical skills such as completing physical examinations, setting up IVs, taking blood from patients, suturing, etc which is essential for a career as a physician. In addition, you will start earning a higher pay salary in a related healthcare field and can apply to medicine as a second degree.


The major reason that I suggest pursuing both is that you do not a bachelor degree before applying to nursing school whereas most north American medical schools require a bachelor degree. So why not having nursing as your first degree and do an additional year to become NP. In addition, getting into medical school can be more competitive than nursing and it is great to have a rewarding back up career in health care while waiting for admission to medical school.


There is a growing trend of nurses transitioning into careers as doctors and medical schools value the experience that NPs have. As you start researching your future employment, I would suggest narrowing down what areas of health care that you are interested in such as: working with children (pediatrics), working in emergency care, etc. Volunteer work with hospitals, clinics, etc. can help provide you with some idea.


As for benefits and disadvantages, I would suggest one major difference is that as a doctor you have more control over health care work (i.e. responsibility to prescribe, control over patient care) whereas NP has to report to a physician for consultation/ training regarding prescriptions and health care for patients. It is personal opinion whether you see this as a benefit or a disadvantage.


I hope this answer helps. Please let me know if you have any other questions and I will do my best to answer your question.

Thank you comment icon Thank you! I may do what you are suggesting and become a NP and then on to a doctor. Josie
Thank you comment icon If you are in the states, I promise you this is a completely unnecessary and regrettable decision. It will be a ton of wasted time, effort, and money. You do not, in the States, go to nursing school with the original intent of going to medical school. I understand the suggestion as "that would be nice" but it would make things incredibly difficult for absolutely no gain. Don't go to nursing school with the intent of becoming a physician, work in a hospital while you're working toward medical school Jared Buescher
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Jared’s Answer

I highly highly recommend on not doing both. People do not go to nursing school with the intent of going to medical school. These are related but completely separate fields. Nursing school is extremely challenging and not worth your time if you have no intention of maintaining a career as an RN. You can obtain an English degree and, as long as you complete all medical school requirements for prerequisite classes (Physics, Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, etc.) then you can apply to Medical School. Plus it is not an extra year to get a degree as a nurse practitioner in the US. It is two years of prerequisite work (or however long it takes to get your nursing prerequisite classes done), toward the end of your sophomore year you apply to nursing school. If you get in, you begin Nursing School your Junior year of college (3rd year) and, as long as you pass all the classes, complete the nursing specific program by the end of your senior year of college (4th year). In order to become a nurse practitioner, it is anywhere from 3-6 years in addition to your undergraduate work. So Nurse Practitioner School is a total of 7-10 years, much like medical school. The Nurse Practitioner Programs are for the most part online anymore so you can work full-time while in these programs and they help you set up your clinical training and the exams are online and proctored by a separate agency through the camera in your computer. You also must have a Bachelor Degree in order to be admitted to a Nurse Practitioner Program.


As far as differences, Medical School entails four years of undergraduate (Bachelor Degree) work, followed by four years of Medical School, then four years for residency and 3-4 more years to specialize. They are ultra competitive and extremely stressful. As a Physician you are a healthcare provider and independent once you have completed your residency. It is a lot of responsibility but interesting, stressful, and rewarding.


As far as Nurse Practitioner is concerned, most students specialize, school includes graduating with a bachelor of nursing then entering a nurse practitioner program. The first year or so, depending on the program, is a lot of reading and study. You will have online homework, quizzes, and tests. The second year you begin a lot of your clinical work but couple that with study and tests, the last year(s) are a ton of clinical hours. You can diagnose, treat, suture, insert central lines, examine, and are considered a provider. The laws vary state-to-state with Nurse Practitioners but they are close to independent without being a physician. In Missouri you may practice independently as long as you are within 30 miles or so of a physician whom can oversee your care. If you have any other questions, please feel free to email me

Thank you comment icon Thank you! That's more of what I was looking for, a description of the careers Josie
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Jared’s Answer

In reading your question I realized I went into more detail about education as opposed to careers.


Physicians have extensive education in all body systems while in medical school and from medical school and residency may specialize in one body system (cardiology, pulmonology, etc.) or be a family practice doctor. They assess patients, diagnose, and treat either through the use of medications, recommending for surgery, or performing minor surgical procedures themselves, depending on the specialization. You may work in a clinic with normal business hours, you may primarily work in a hospital, or like a large number of physicians, work in both. It can often be very long hours but many physicians may have careers that mostly involve what are considered business hours. You may be a surgeon and perform surgical procedures within a hospital operating room or a surgical center. It is a vast career with a ton of different options. You can be a public health physician who serves underserved areas or population groups (homeless, low-income areas, remote rural areas, etc.).


As a Nurse Practitioner, it varies greatly depending on what state you are in. Some states (in the US) are very liberal with the privileges allowed to Nurse Practitioners. Some states they are more considered "an extension of the physician" in which they still work very closely with physicians and don't have a lot of freedom in their practice and can act almost like an assistant. Some states allow you to have your own practice as long as you work within a certain distance away from a physician. You can assess patients, diagnose, and treat conditions with medications, referrals to different services, or minor procedures (suturing and such). It is also a wide open career field and one in which, once you compete your schooling, don't have to do a residency or extra specialization education in addition to obtaining your nurse practitioner degree (in most cases anyway). I hope this answered your questions. Physician and Nurse Practitioner have very similar roles in the healthcare community but very different privileges and responsibilities in certain settings. The benefit, in my opinion, to going to medical school is, once you are a physician, you have more freedom of practice, greater income, and you have more opportunities to learn to more skills. The benefit to going to Nurse Practitioner school is the entire educational process is shorter, you are looked at as a provider much like a physician, it is a very nice income (six figures in many settings and regions of the US), great opportunity for specialization, and greater freedom during your schooling since it is an online based program for most universities so you have more ability to work as an RN during your education.

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