Doctor vs. Nurse: 6 Reasons to Become a Nurse Instead of a Doctor

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If you’re wondering, “Should I be a doctor vs. nurse?” there are many factors you should consider. Some reasons why you might decide to become a nurse instead of a doctor include less rigorous education requirements, the ability to act as a true advocate for your patients, and being able to enter the workforce more quickly.

portrait of a nurse crossing her arms and smiling

“Should I be a nurse or doctor?” You know you want to work in health-care, but you’re having a difficult time trying to decide between medical school and nursing school. There are potential benefits of pursuing either a career as a nurse or doctor. However, there are some compelling reasons why, in the choice between doctor vs. nurse, many learners interested in health-care may want to choose the nursing profession.

If you do decide that becoming a nurse is the right choice for you, Xavier University is here to help you pursue your dream career. If you have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree, you could be eligible for our Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program, which confers the BSN degree. Talk to an admission counselor today to find out more.

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To learn more about pursuing nursing as a second degree, check out this blog!

Doctor vs. Nurse: What Are the Differences?

Doctors and nurses are both health-care professionals who make it their life’s work to help their patients enjoy better health and quality of life. Doctors and nurses work collaboratively and, often, alongside each other as equally valued members of a patient care team. However, there are a number of differences to be aware of.

Nurse or Doctor Education Requirements

To pursue a career as a doctor, you would need to do the following:

  • Complete a pre-medicine bachelor’s degree at a four-year institution
  • Complete four years of medical school
  • Complete a residency of three to five years

The education requirements for a nurse are quite different and they allow for more flexibility. For example, some aspiring nurses enroll in a four-year BSN degree program. After earning their bachelor’s degree, they’ll need to pass the national nursing licensure exam before getting to work as a nurse. That means that it’s possible to become a nurse in a little more than four years.

Not every nurse enrolls in a four-year BSN program, however. Some complete a two-year associate degree in nursing before earning their license. These nurses might decide to go back to school later to complete an accelerated RN to BSN program.

xavier absn student listening in stethoscope

Other nurses come to the profession after having already earned a non-nursing bachelor’s degree. They decide, after having worked in another profession, that they would like to switch to the health-care field. In these situations, it’s possible to earn an accelerated nursing degree in as few as 16 months. Then, after passing the licensure exam, they can immediately pursue a nursing job.

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Would you like to learn more about the admission process at Xavier? This blog is packed with info!

Doctor vs. Nurse Daily Job Responsibilities

The exact job responsibilities of any nurse or doctor will depend on their area of specialization and the particular needs of any given patient. Furthermore, some nurses have more autonomy than others, depending on their credentials and the regulations of the state in which they practice. To make some broad generalizations, however, here’s a quick look at the differences in job responsibilities between a doctor vs. nurse:

  • Doctors perform procedures, such as surgeries, while nurses may assist with those surgeries (e.g. nurse anesthetist) and care for the patient following the operation.
  • Nurses take patient medical histories and question them about their symptoms. Doctors use this information, coupled with physical exams, to develop diagnoses.
  • Doctors order and interpret lab work and imaging studies, whereas nurses may help the patient understand the interpretation of the results.
  • Doctors evaluate the recovery of a patient, while nurses monitor and support the patient.
  • Doctors develop treatment plans, while nurses implement those treatment plans and coordinate health-care services.

Should I Be a Nurse or Doctor? Here’s Why Nursing Is a Great Choice!

Now that you’re a bit more familiar with the differences between a doctor vs. nurse, it’s time to consider which career path might be right for you. Although either health-care career is certainly a worthwhile pursuit, here are a few reasons why you might want to become a nurse instead of a doctor.

1. Nurses Practice on the Front Lines of Patient Care

From administering IV fluids to lending an ear, nurses assist in all aspects of patient care. Also serving as the liaison between doctors and patients, nurses are easily the eyes, ears, and voice of health-care, especially in a hospital setting. They not only have the ability to identify and alert doctors of critical situations, but also the holistic perspective to advocate for their patients.

Did You Know?

As our country’s health-care system continues to grow in complexity, the nursing role is following suit by becoming more diverse than ever.

It’s increasingly common for nurses to work as health coaches, disease managers, and care coordinators.

It’s also worth mentioning that nurses tend to have more say in patient care these days, as more medical providers realize the value nurses bring to health-care efficiencies and the improvement of public health.

2. Nurses Possess an Incredibly Diverse Skillset

Nurses play a multi-faceted role in health-care. Nurses are caregivers, innovators, critical thinkers, and patient champions, to name but a few. Not only do nurses understand the implications of short-term illnesses and chronic health conditions, they also have the empathy and interpersonal skills to bring comfort and reassurance to patients and their loved ones.

3. Nurses Act As True Advocates

Take a look at the annual Gallup poll results for the past decade, and you’ll discover that the nursing profession continuously holds top honors for ethics and honesty. The American public views nurses in high esteem, and for good reason.

While doctors diagnose and prescribe, nurses focus on the overall well-being of their patients. For nurses, it’s not just about ailments; it’s also about personal connections. If you’ve ever been in the hospital, you know it’s common for doctors to visit patients once or twice a day and for only a few minutes at a time. Nurses, however, are with patients for the long haul, monitoring their progress, administering their medication, listening to their concerns, calming their fears, and so much more.

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4. Nurses Can Choose from an Array of Specialties and Work Settings

Nurses wear many different hats, allowing them to work pretty much anywhere there’s a need for patient care. Nurses in hospital settings can transfer to different departments or work across several units. Doctors, on the other hand, usually need to develop in-depth expertise in a specific area (except for primary care physicians). That’s not to say nurses don’t specialize in certain areas of practice. However, nurses carry out a more task-driven, patient-oriented role that allows them to do their job in multiple practice areas and settings.

5. Nurses May Sometimes Have More Predictable Work Schedules

While work schedules for nurses differ based on where they practice, the best place to compare the work schedules of doctors and nurses is in the hospital. While some doctors are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, nurses work in set shifts every week, typically five eight-hour days or three 12-hour days.

Did You Know?

  • In 2010, the Institute of Medicine published a report that recommended increasing the number of BSN holders in the U.S. workforce from 50 to 80 percent by the year 2020.
  • The American Association of the Colleges of Nursing recognizes a BSN as the minimum education requirement for professional nursing practice.

6. Nurses Can Enter the Workforce More Quickly

The education requirements are an important consideration in the debate between doctor vs. nurse as a career path. Doctors are required to complete four years of medical school and a multi-year residency before they can officially enter the workforce as a physician. Nurses, on the other hand, can begin working much more quickly. It’s possible to earn RN licensure and begin practicing as a nurse with a two-year nursing degree.

However, earning a four-year BSN or completing an accelerated nursing program is preferable. Nurses can choose to end their degree-focused education there or they may pursue additional credentials. With a BSN, it’s possible to significantly expand your scope of practice by earning an advanced degree or becoming certified in a particular specialty.

xavier absn student grabbing supplies

As you can see, there are myriad compelling arguments that could be made in favor of becoming a nurse. If you’re still wondering, “Should I be a nurse or doctor?” you may want to do some further reading and perhaps complete some job shadowing opportunities as you make up your mind. The choice is up to you, and either career path would enable you to pursue a meaningful career that will allow you to help others.

Start Your Nursing Journey at Xavier

If you do decide that becoming a nurse is the right path for you, you could potentially earn your accelerated nursing degree in as few as 16 months at Xavier University College of Nursing. You can use your non-nursing bachelor’s degree as a foundation for pursuing an accelerated BSN. No prior non-nursing education is required; however, you may need to complete one or more prerequisites before beginning your health-care studies. Our friendly admission counselors are here to help you get started. Contact our admission team today!