Although there is tension between some primary care physicians and a growing number of nurse practitioners, for the most part, doctors realize there is a shortage of medical doctors and patients aren’t getting the care they need in many areas of the country. Some doctors are saying that nurse practitioners could fill the void and they go on to talk about reasons why this might be the easiest solution, both in the short-term and long-term. According to a survey cited by The University of Arizona, both groups do recommend students should study to be an NP.
What Is the Difference Between Nurse Practitioner and Doctor?
The question on many people’s minds is, “What is the real difference between nurse practitioner and doctor?” Since both can diagnose, treat and prescribe medications, is there really any difference other than the length of time each goes to school and the relative costs involved in their training? While MDs go to school an average of 11 years, inclusive of college, nurse practitioners study an average of seven years, inclusive of their four year degree. Also, doctors do a longer internship/residency than do nurse practitioners. This, then, is one of the primary reasons why many doctors recommend students pursue a career as a nurse vs. doctor. To put it simply, it’s faster.
Why Is ‘Faster’ Better?
When you are looking at nurse practitioner vs doctors, why is faster any better, you might ask. Actually, this is in answer to the dilemma of the critical shortage we now face in the United States and abroad as well. There are simply not enough doctors to go around and that shortage is being amplified by the day as Boomers age and are in even greater need of medical attention. Since it takes an NP a shorter amount of time, inclusive of approximately 700 hours of clinical experience, to be licensed to practice, it makes sense to train as many as possible as quickly as possible to fill the gap.
Most NPs Have Experience in the Field
Another school of thought is the need for a greater patient-centric approach to care. Whereas some say that doctors study to treat diseases and NPs study to treat patients, this may actually be another solution. Many nurse practitioners go on to advanced training only after having worked in the field as a nurse for a length of time. Many even put themselves through graduate school in this way.
So while it could be said that some MDs are still against the notion of giving NPs ‘equal pay for equal work’ the reality is that not all doctors feel this way. There is still a body of those ‘hold outs’ who hold steadfast to the notion that medical school is the solution, but these are most likely the same MDs who hold out against DOs who study a parallel path, but in a different school of medicine. In any event, there is a growing body of MDs who are recommending students study the shorter NP course because the need is great and time is limited.