Health and Wellness

Nurse Practitioner Vs. Doctor – An Outline of their Differences

Your hospital experience might have exposed you to the differences between a nurse and a doctor. Doctors are in charge of the whole medical team, with nurses following their orders and instructions obediently. The doctor performs the surgery while the nurse practitioner assists. As we have all observed, this is a definite difference between nurse practitioners and doctors. But do you believe this is all they are distinguished by? 


Nurse Practitioners Vs. Doctors – A Closer Look at What Each of These Professions Entails

The doctor is a licensed professional who can diagnose and treat diseases in patients. Depending on his diagnosis, he may prescribe specific treatments. In any case of illness or emergency, a professional doctor will act in accordance with his or her training and knowledge in a particular field. Alternatively, a nurse provides assistance to the doctor on duty and takes care of sick people. A nurse practitioner can treat patients but cannot diagnose disorders as smoothly as a doctor. 

While all healthcare professionals dedicate themselves to providing services that directly benefit human life and adhere to the same standards of knowledge, compassion & service, they differ in terms of specialties, education, training, and experience. Let’s explore their differences in greater detail. 


Differences in The Specialties 

Over the past decade, nursing has undergone dramatic changes. Today we have Registered Nurses (RNs), Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) and Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs). While all nurses complete the same undergraduate education, APRNs also have master’s degrees. Having earned a master’s degree, they have a better insight into the nursing profession and better job opportunities. For a step up, nurses can enroll in a post master’s program and enhance their expertise in either the same area of interest or pursue a different specialty. 

Interested students will find both in-house and online post master’s certificate nurse practitioner programs that will enable them to expand their knowledge. The program offers five specialty areas: 

  1. Forensic Nursing
  2. Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
  3. Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
  4. Executive Nurse Leadership & Health Care Management
  5. Nurse Education and Faculty Role
  6. Family Nurse Practitioner

These post master’s certificates will enhance your previous master’s learning in today’s competitive world.  

Doctors, on the other hand, are required to go for higher education and practice after passing the basic examinations in a medical college. Their further education allows them to prove their reliability as their acts directly affect a human’s life. Although some doctors choose to stay general practitioners, several of them become specialized in different domains such as radiology, cardiology, gynecology, anesthesiology, neurology etc. 


Education and Training 

Nursing school requires a four-year bachelor’s degree to qualify as a nurse practitioner. Taking a master’s program requires two to four years, after which nurses must pass a certification examination to prove their credibility. Overall, nursing education takes around six to eight years.

A doctor invests more time in medical school than a nurse does. Following an undergraduate program of around three to four years, doctors have to go through a phase called residency for three to seven years, the purpose of which is to put knowledge into practice. After successfully completing these years, a doctor is required to pass a licensing examination with the objective of making a difference in a patient’s life. Overall, becoming a doctor requires ten to fourteen years of dedicated study.    


Roles and Responsibilities 

The responsibilities of both professions are very important and valuable in healthcare. Among the variety of tasks nurse practitioners are responsible for, the following stand out:

  • Identifying any acute and chronic illnesses, such as low blood pressure, wound infections, diabetes
  • Conducting diagnostic tests like ECG, EMG, X-rays
  • Monitoring patient’s vital signs, including respiration rate, body temperature, pulse rate, and blood pressure in mild conditions
  • Interpreting the diagnostic lab tests
  • Maintaining a stealthy record of patients’ health
  • Prescribing medicines, in some cases
  • Counseling patients and their partners on good health choices

A doctor’s general responsibilities include the following:

  • Analyzing the medical history of a patient
  • Diagnosing disease and suggesting a proper treatment
  • Ordering any necessary tests for disease diagnosis
  • Detecting any unusual findings in patient’s test reports
  • Designing schedules of treatment and recommending compliance
  • Prescribing proper medications and advising against taking any other without research
  • Answering concerns of patients and helping them with their well-being


Nurse practitioners generally practice in settings that correspond to the domains in which they are certified. The most common settings include private group practice, inpatient and outpatient departments in the hospital. For doctors, usually, it is a private or a group clinic, hospital, academic institution, or any other healthcare system. 

Doctors and nurse practitioners have different schedules based on where they practice. Let’s compare their schedules in the hospital setting. 

NPs are bound to work in shifts specified to them, typically eight hours daily every week, or a twelve-hour shift is assigned four days a week. Whereas doctors are on-demand all day and all night, they must cater to emergency cases at any hour of the day. 


The Difference in Income

Doctors are clearly paid more than nurse practitioners in light of their extensive training and longer educational path. In contrast, a nurse’s salary is determined by the degree they hold. The higher the qualification and training, the more the pay.

As per reports, a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) earns an average of $47,480 annually in the United States while a Registered Nurse (RN) an average of $73,300, per year. Among the groups, Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) are the higher-earning ones with an average of $157,000 yearly. Meanwhile, the average earning of a doctor depends on the area of specialization, typically ranging from $300,000 to $526,000 per year. 



In a nutshell, Nurse Practitioners and Doctors are both healthcare professionals committed to promoting health, preventing harm, and providing the best advice to patients. The relationship between them is like a brain and the hands. As the doctors analyze the patient’s problems and address them, the nurse practitioners follow through relentlessly on their prescribed treatment. Despite their challenging professions, they differ in various aspects. However, a doctor certainly possesses more responsibility and control than a nurse practitioner. Despite that, the two jobs are gratifying as it encompasses the well-being of patients.  


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