Every type of medical professional has to undergo extensive education and training that makes them eligible for handling, diagnosing, and curing ailments, physical issues, and diseases in their patients. Whether it is a neurosurgeon or a lab technician, they all play a crucial role within the healthcare system that ensures that every patient’s needs are met. However, it can get confusing for a patient to decide which healthcare professional they should visit for their specific ailment. Such confusion is particularly prevalent among patients who have to choose between visiting a doctor or a nurse practitioner.
While there are specific differences in the title of both professions, doctors and nurses are more alike than you can imagine. Nurse practitioners commonly referred to as NP, provide primary healthcare services in many medical hospitals and offices or, at minimum, are part of the healthcare team. To understand it better, let us look at who a nurse practitioner is.
What qualifications are required to become a nurse practitioner?
A registered nurse with advanced medical education and training is known as a nurse practitioner. A registered nurse can become a nurse practitioner after their nursing degree, but most NPs opt to acquire a master’s or doctoral degree. Pursuing higher education doesn’t only make them better healthcare professionals but also improves their career potential since there is a significant difference between a simple nurse practitioner’s salary and an MSN nurse practitioner salary.
What can a nurse practitioner do?
Just like a doctor, a nurse practitioner has the training and qualifications to become a patient’s primary care provider. They have the authority to diagnose their patients and treat any acute conditions that they may have. Moreover, they can take charge of their patient’s overall healthcare services and order different x-rays, diagnostic tests, or lab work. Nurse practitioners can also be board-certified in some specialties, including women’s health or family practitioners.
Apart from that, many states allow nurse practitioners to prescribe medication to a patient while working under the supervision of a physician. Hence, it won’t be wrong to say that a nurse can pretty much do anything that a doctor can except perform surgeries independently.
What can a primary care doctor do?
Doctors can help their patients in several ways, such as diagnosing their ailments, planning their long-term treatments, analyzing their medical history, and putting preventative care measures in place. They are responsible for monitoring your ongoing health problems and also help in preventing more health issues from arising.
So if you want consistent monitoring of your pre-existing condition or want a check-up for any persisting condition, a doctor is better equipped to analyze your whole medical history to find out an issue and develop a treatment plan to help you.
The reason why a primary care doctor has an edge over nurse practitioners is that doctors need to have a minimum of 20,000 hours of clinical experience, whereas a doctor of nursing practitioner needs only 1,000. Hence, your doctor has a better chance of witnessing and treating various ailments and conditions simply because they have spent more time in the clinic than a nurse practitioner.
Difference between a Nurse Practitioner and a doctor
Doctors and nursing practitioners have a lot in common, but there are some notable differences as well. One of the biggest differences is the time these two professionals spend training. A nurse practitioner has more practice than a registered nurse. However, a doctor requires at least 20,000 hours of training.
Doctors and nurse practitioners are also differently licensed where a nurse practitioner receives their license from a Nursing Board, and Doctors receive their license from the Medical Board. Another difference between these two professionals is the ease of access to patients. Patients have easier access to a nurse practitioner because they can get an appointment without any issues. On the other hand, getting an appointment with a doctor can be difficult, especially considering the shortage of primary care providers in the country.
Which one should you go to?
Due to ease of access, patients often opt to visit a nurse practitioner rather than a primary care doctor. But you should assess the situation to determine which healthcare provider best fits your needs. So if you require urgent care, book an appointment with an NP instead of a doctor. Moreover, many primary care doctors tend to take time off for breaks and holidays, which puts their patients on hold for weeks and months. In that case, visiting an NP is in your best interest as they can still make a diagnosis, monitor your condition, and prescribe you medication.
But if you are dealing with an unclear diagnosis or an experimental treatment, then it is best to see a doctor. All the matters concerning toxic treatments such as radiotherapy or chemotherapy are supervised by doctors specializing in that field. Similarly, if there is any need for surgical procedures or any kind of invasive procedure, you should consult a primary care doctor instead of an NP.
If you are making your decision based on finances, then a visit to an NP can cost you less than an appointment with a doctor, depending on your health insurance plan. Hence, you have to consider all the factors before deciding which healthcare professional out of the two is best suited to handle your case.
Both doctors and nurse practitioners provide invaluable expertise to the healthcare sector and play an important role in your healthcare team. These two professions have to work in collaboration with each other to provide the best possible care to the patients. Hence, if you are unsure who to visit, consider their responsibilities, your condition, and other factors when making a choice.