As the needed number of medical experts in the country exceeds the number of practicing physicians in the country, medical offices, especially primary care providers, have been hiring a greater number of nurse practitioners to help meet the needs of their patients. Like many people, you may wonder just how a traditional physician or doctor differs from a nurse practitioner and which medical expert is best for your needs as primary care patient.
Read on to learn how physicians differ from nurse practitioners and how to decide which medical provider type is likely to make the best primary care provider (PCP) for you.
Education & Training
A traditional physician, or doctor of medicine (MD), first typically earns their bachelor's degree in one of several common science-based pre-med majors, such as biology, physical sciences, or biochemistry. However, a physician can choose to instead study another topic, such as humanities, during their undergraduate years if they choose. They then attend medical school for four years before completing a residency in a healthcare setting that lasts an average of three years.
A nurse practitioner, on the other hand, typically begins their education by obtaining a bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN). Next, they typically complete a program to earn their master's degree in nursing (MSN) that lasts about three years. Finally, they complete a doctorate in nursing practice (DNP) program that can be completed in three to four years.
As you can see, the educational paths of these two medical professionals differ greatly, but both of their educational paths are lengthy ones that help them learn what they need to know to care for their patients well.
A traditional physician and nurse practitioner do offer similar medical services, although the services a nurse practitioner can provide can differ based on the specific state they work in.
In 22 states and the city of Washington D.C., nurse practitioners can fully practice medicine on their own without the oversight of a fully licensed physician. However, in the remaining 28 states, their practice is restricted, meaning that they need to obtain a traditional MD's permission before completing some medical tasks or services.
Both healthcare provider types can write prescriptions for medications in all 50 states.
Which Healthcare Provider is Right for Your Medical Needs?
As you can see, both physicians and nurse practitioners have the training and experience to provide good-quality care to their patients. While some patients prefer to seek out traditional physicians, these patients often have to wait longer to obtain their care due to the U.S. shortage of traditional physicians.
Other patients choose to visit nurse practitioners instead of physicians due to the often shorter appointment wait times these medical professionals can offer and the good-quality care they can provide.
Now you understand how traditional physicians, or MDs, and nurse practitioners differ in their training and expertise so you can make a more educated decision when choosing a primary care provider.
For more information on physicians and nurse practitioners, contact a company like Sandhills Medical Foundation Inc.