The Differences Between a Nurse and a Doctor

Both doctors and nurses are obviously important to the medical industry. One provides opinions and diagnosis while the other offers aid and physical treatment. In short, they are both complementary factors to what makes a medical facility operate smoothly. Thus, comparisons made between nurses and doctors are to be made carefully. To say that a nurse is at a level lower than that of doctors is not accurate as there are multiple positions within the nursing vocation. It is the same for doctors as well.

There are staff nurses, who are also known as licensed practical nurses, registered nurses, administrative nurses, head nurses and advanced practice nurses, who are allowed to make prescriptions like doctors. Doctors who usually lead the pack when it comes to a routine medical treatment can also be differentiated to primary care doctors (or general practitioners), dentists, surgeons, and specialists of various departments in healthcare.

In hospitals, nurses are the limbs while doctors are the eyes and brains. Neither can work without the other’s presence. Without doctors, the patient’s diagnosis would not be delivered whereas without nurses, the medical treatment and other services would be put to a halt. Nurses conduct every form of activity from seemingly minor needs like changing the bed sheets and fixing meals, to drawing blood and handling medical equipment and machinery. Nevertheless, nurses are not authorized to do any of these tasks without a doctor’s approval. They take the bigger share of the tasks, whilst doctors take the bigger portion of the responsibilities and decision making. As for which job is tougher to handle, the answer will always be subjective. Interpreting a patient’s results may be hard but preparing the patient as well as the machinery for testing and results can never be proven to be an easier task.

Apart from that, doctors are limited to their specialized field whereas nurses are able to work across several wards or units depending on their job descriptions. Doctors need to be specialized in order to fully assess the roots of an illness or a problem. For nurses, their specialty is more task-oriented and patient-oriented. Once a doctor is convinced that a patient’s condition is out of his specialty range, he will refer the patient to a colleague who has a better understanding of that condition. The nurses, however, are to inform the replacement doctor of the patient’s condition and subsequently follow up with the patient’s progress until he/she leaves the hospital.

In addition, nurses enjoy a closer relationship with their patients as compared to doctors since they have more direct contact with them. Doctors also have a constant need to detach themselves emotionally from a patient so as to be able to continue with their work. As a result, patients will often times identify better with nurses than with doctors, usually showing their preference by the form of the co-operation they offer.

On top of that, doctors need to read a lot and thus take a longer time to acquire new and accurate knowledge whereas nurses rely more on their experience to provide the best treatment possible. This is not to say that nurses do not study and advance in terms of education levels. Nurses in fact are able to study for bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees and doctorate degrees in nursing.

Therefore, the more education a nurse receives, the better the chances of gaining better income levels. This sometimes brings an overlap of authority that becomes a source of disputes between doctors and nurses. Doctors generally have authority over their patient’s conditions and treatment and will then require the nurses to implement certain procedures. However, when priorities collide, doctors may need to succumb to the authority figures of Head Nurses or Head Units since the latter group has managerial control over a specific ward, floor or unit. The same authority overlap problem also occurs when new practicing doctors first join a medical facility. Experienced nurses tend to question analysis given by the young doctors since nurses’ knowledge is based on actual past experiences, not from theories. Nevertheless, in general, the two share a mutual respect for each other’s responsibilities.

One of the greatest differences between nurses and doctors is salary. Nurses have one of the most diverse salary ranges since there are many different levels within the nursing profession. Staff nurses start off with an average starting pay of $39,000 while registered nurses usually earn an average of $57,000 per year. Advanced practice nurses are among a higher earning group with nurse anesthetists earning the highest—$157,000 per year.

General doctors earn an average of $160,000 per year whilst physicians that work in emergency rooms and in surgery average a $240,000 yearly income. Doctors with higher pays usually get higher respect and a higher societal status for being a walking encyclopedia whereas nurses who go about making life easier for the patients may not get quite the amount of respect they deserve. Of all the differences between nurses and doctors, this glaring disparity is one that has been around for ages and will continue to be a part of the medical profession for years to come.

Search for a nursing degree now