What Are the Differences Between a Nurse Practitioner and a Doctor?
The best way to understand the differences between an NP and a doctor is to think of it as the nursing model versus medical model. This means treating the patient with medicine, as well as maintenance and monitoring of lifestyle versus only medicine for treatment. Very few MDs go into primary care, which is the first level of contact with patients. Coincidentally, this area is seeing major NP growth. An NP serves as the primary care contact for patients seeking ailment from a cough, cold, the flu, or manageable diseases like diabetes. If the patient needs specialized care, the NP would then refer the patient to a doctor or specialist.
The objectives are health management and prevention with patients, which are not touched on by a doctor consulting patients. The priority of an NP is diagnosing and treating illness, and educating a patient how to maintain health. A doctor’s objective is solely treatment through medicine. An NP can work independently from a doctor without supervision and have the ability to run their own clinics. An NP often sees a patient repeatedly, following through with the treatment plan from beginning to end. Following treatment, an NP can regularly see the patient for follow-up concerns and health guidance that may not involve medicine. Another difference between an NP and a doctor is that an NP is continuing with nurse-style care for a patient. NPs are a vital part of the medical community and fit to diagnose, treat and educate patients; with the growing need for primary caregivers, there is a bigger demand for qualified NPs. NPs can also write prescriptions in many states.
Where will I Work as a Nurse Practitioner?
Most NPs are employed by hospitals or clinics. A shortage of physicians in the 1960s is what created the position of nurse practitioner. Patients are able to be diagnosed and receive treatment without waiting to see a doctor. The role of an NP is extremely important, as you’re handling records and caring for patients in the same manner as a doctor. In most states nurse practitioners are allowed to write prescriptions for drugs.
Working in a Clinic as a Nurse Practitioner
NPs working in a clinic are often the only practitioner on duty. There is not always a doctor on duty. This is done to lower the cost of what the clinic spends, while still providing patients with qualified, proper medical care. Working in a clinic, you may be over a team of nurses or medical assistants (or a combination). NPs working in clinics often work in areas with mid-low levels of income. The clinic may be paid for by the government and sometimes, your resources are limited. A common clinic that employs NPs is Planned Parenthood. This position illustrates how a nurse practitioner differs from a doctor. A nurse practitioner would work directly with women, educating them on safe sex, STDs, and other standard sexual education. This may take time to learn the woman’s sexual history and why she has visited the clinic that day. These are general medical issues that do not have to be addressed or treated by an MD.
Working in a Hospital as a Nurse Practitioner
In a hospital, an NP has many duties. He or she may be over an entire floor or in charge of a group of nurses and medical staff. NPs at hospitals wear many hats and should be very comfortable with technology. Hospitals are increasing their use of mobile technology because it makes patient records and treatment more efficient. Another medical professional can immediately see what the patient has been diagnosed with and what the course of action is thanks to computer programs that store all of this information. Working in a hospital, nurse practitioners utilize their prior skills as nurses and also care for more severe cases. NPs are favored for areas of the hospital where patients stay for a long period of time.
Can I Specialize in a Certain Area as a Nurse Practitioner?
An NP can complete the bulk of his or her clinicals in the area they hope to specialize in. These areas include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Geriatric and Senior Care
- Child Care/Pediatrics
- OBGYN/Women’s Health
- Family Care
Online Resources for Learning More about Nurse Practitioners
- Mayo Clinic – Nurse Practitioner as a Career
- A Nurse Practitioner’s View
- New Family Nurse Practitioner
- Advance Web – New Grad NP
- A Nurse Practitioner’s Place
- Because Your Nurse Practitioner Says So
- NP Business
- Nurse Practitioners – Doctors?
- NP Central
- Pixels and Pills – The Rise of the Nurse Practitioner
Can I Work in Any State as a Nurse Practitioner?
For the most part, you will be able to move states and continue to work as an NP. The only thing that may change is your ability to write prescriptions. This varies by state, but you still are able to practice as an NP, giving primary care or specialized care in your area of expertise. Job opportunities are good across the board, especially in urban cities where there is a shortage of physicians. NPs are increasingly becoming the primary care option for many; in order to continue working as an NP, you must have your license renewed every five years. This is done with continuing education courses, which is common for those working in the medical community.
What is it Like to Work as a Nurse Practitioner?
It can be very hectic, but it is a rewarding field. NPs appreciate working one on one with patients, providing primary care and treating illnesses within their realm of expertise. The focus is patient health and education on maintenance for the illness. They are often less driven by pharmaceutical companies and medical supply companies than doctors. For example, most NPs do not sit in for pharmacy presentations. They choose treatment for a patient based on experience, what the patient needs and by conversing with other NPs.
An NP sees the same patients regularly when working in a hospital. This gives the NP an opportunity to connect with the patient and continue to educate on health maintenance after treatment. They enjoy building connections with patients through medical treatment and tap into other resources and techniques they have learned through nursing experience. Even with a very busy schedule, nurse practitioners make it a point to provide high quality care that nourishes the patient mentally and physically. The goal of an NP is to provide patient care and treatment using the nursing model.
Traditional Nurse Practitioner Program vs. Online Nurse Practitioner Program
NP programs are for students who have a degree in nursing and at least a year of working with patients. Because you have this foundation, an online NP program is ideal for working nurses. Online NP programs allow you to study at your own pace, and the program can be completed in as little as 18 months or can be broken up so it takes about two years. This depends on the program and your time commitment.
There’s no reason to quit your job to attend traditional classes for an NP program. Online nursing programs are widely acceptable in the medical community. The only suggestion is for you to apply for an online program that has a traditional campus. You will still take courses online and you won’t make many visits to the campus, but it makes clinicals far easier. A school with an established online NP program and other medical programs has connections to place you in clinicals. Without that, you may have to find a hospital or clinic to complete clinicals on your own. This is not impossible, but it is far easier when the program sets them up for you. If you currently work in a hospital or clinic, you may be able to talk with the staff about completing clinicals at the same facility. You should understand what the requirements are to do this before signing up for classes.
What Are the Prerequisites for a Nurse Practitioner Program?
You must have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and at least one year of field work to apply for most NP programs. If an online NP program is claiming you need no prior medical experience to sign up, take this as a sign that the school that is only after your money. To work in all 50 states in the U.S., an NP must have a degree in nursing, as well as experience and proper licensing for all titles. Your license to work as an NP must be renewed every five years through the American Nurses Credentialing Center.