What is the difference between a doctor and a nurse practitioner?

What is the difference between a physician and a nurse practitioner?

What is a Family Nurse Practitioner?

Family nurse practitioners (FNP) are advanced practice registered nurses who work autonomously or in collaboration with other healthcare professionals to deliver family-focused care. With the exception of surgery, nurse practitioners are allowed under Texas state regulations to provide many of the same services performed by physicians. Given the rather broad nature of the “family” patient population focus, FNPs offer a wide range of healthcare services that revolve around the family unit; from health promotion and disease prevention to direct care and counseling across the lifespan.

Because FNPs possess a graduate-level education, as well as clinical training in family medicine, they are qualified to diagnosis and treat complex health conditions of the body and mind. These services include diagnosing and treating health problems; performing pre-natal and adult care check-ups; diagnosing and managing minor trauma, including suturing and splinting; prescribing medications; and teaching health promotion and disease prevention to patients. Their advanced training and education also often qualifies FNPs to serve as hospital and clinic administrators and policy makers.

FNPs may work in a variety of settings, including conventional doctor’s offices, clinics, private homes, schools, or hospitals. Family nurse practitioners place a strong emphasis on wellness and prevention, but also provide treatment for everything from mild ailments to serious conditions affecting any member of the family, from children to grandparents. An FNP can be expected to perform duties that include:

·       Developing treatment plans for acute and chronic diseases

·       Educating and guiding patients on disease prevention and healthy lifestyle habits

·       Understanding the changes in health promotion throughout the aging process

·       Conducting exams

·       Performing diagnostic tests and screening evaluations

·       Managing overall patient care regarding lifestyle and development issues

·       Emphasizing preventative care and disease management

·       Prescribing medications

The short answer is that doctors study diseases and how to cure them while nurses and nurse practitioners study people and how to heal them.

The more detailed answer is that a physician is a person with formal education and training in medicine, i.e. the treatment of diseases using drugs, procedures and/or surgery.

A nurse practitioner is a registered nurse with formal education in the care of the sick plus advanced education and training in the diagnosis, treatment and management of common and chronic illnesses.

Physicians and NPs are similar in that both diagnose, treat and manage acute and chronic diseases, order and interpret labs and diagnostic tests and prescribe medications. Studies have found that NPs do about 80% to 90% of what physicians do. Studies have also found NP care to be at least equivalent and, in some cases, superior to physician care. Both professionals practice the healing arts but they do so from different perspectives.

Physicians and NPs are different in how they are educated and in their philosophical approach to care. Physicians are in school longer and their focus is on the study of disease. Many if not most NPs are already skilled and experienced RNs before going on for advanced education and training in advanced practice. NPs care for patients in all aspects of their lives. Many physicians choose specialities in which to practice because of their expert knowledge of disease states (and higher reimbursements). Physician and NP care and knowledge overlaps and is complementary, but each has a core expertise that is distinct and unique. NPs make ideal primary care providers because of their holistic and wellness orientation that emphasizes health education, risk identification and reduction, and preventive care through lifestyle modification.

Lindsey enjoys a special connection with patients, at both a professional and personal level, to create a relationship of trust and caring.  She has over 10 years of clinical experience and extensive coordination of care within the Baylor Medical community. Lindsey's primary practice interests include a preventive healthcare, patient education and wellness promotion.  Lindsey and her husband live in Sachse, Texas, along with their two young boys.

A doctor has a degree from medical school (4 years, either an MD or a DO) and has gone through residency (anywhere from 3 to 10 additional years of training). They are licensed to practice medicine or surgery (or both) independently, write prescriptions, etc. They are board-certified, if qualified, on the national level and must obtain a state license where they practice. 

A nurse-practitioner is a nurse with an advanced degree beyond the RN, usually a masters but sometimes a PhD. Whether they practice completely independently or not varies by state, but in many states they do. They usually are highly specialized, like doctors who specialize, and prescribe under their own DEA number. They are also nationally certified and licensed by the state.