Whether you’re going to a healthcare facility for an annual checkup or a specific problem, there are a few things you’ve come to expect. You assume there may be some waiting in the waiting room while they prepare for you, and you presume to see the doctor during your visit. So, when a nurse practitioner leads you to a room and begins asking questions and conducting the bulk of your appointment, you may be wondering what the difference is between your doctor and the nurse practitioner? Is there a difference at all? And if so, how can you be sure you’re getting the same quality care that you deserve?
What is a nurse practitioner?
A nurse practitioner (NP) is a licensed healthcare professional who focuses on preventing diseases and managing existing conditions. Becoming an NP requires a minimum of a registered nurse (RN) program and a Master’s Degree in nursing practice. NPs can also choose to receive additional training to specialize in different areas of medicine — such as pediatrics or dermatology.
Once schooling is complete, nurse practitioners are required to pass the APRN certification exam. After certification, nurse practitioners can work on their own, without needing to do their jobs under the supervision of a physician.
Nurse practitioners provide various services you can obtain at any health care facility. The most common ones include:
- Preventive care
- Routine checkups
- Lab work
- Diagnosing illness
- Creating treatment plans
- Prescribing medications
- Managing health conditions
- Monitoring patients’ health
What is a doctor?
Anyone with a Doctorate’s degree is considered to be a doctor. More specifically, a doctor is a qualified practitioner of medicine or a physician. Unlike an NP, a doctor requires more years of schooling and training. They’re required to get a Bachelor’s degree, pass their Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), and attend medical school. But, before they can receive their medical license, they’ll have to complete a residency post-medical school graduation.
A residency provides on-the-job training and is typically conducted at a hospital under the guidance of a doctor. Once someone completes their residency, they can finish obtaining their medical license. Typically, this includes taking two out of three of the United States Medical Licensing Exams (USMLE) while in medical school and then taking the third test after their residency has been completed. However, medical licensing is managed at the state level by state boards of medicine. This means that every state sets its own licensing requirements and procedures.
Once licensed, doctors may seek additional training and certifications in specific areas of medicine. There are 24 specialty boards that certify doctors in hundreds of specialty and subspecialty areas — one of which is the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). A doctor may also choose to undertake a fellowship program in a chosen specialty, like oncology or neurology.
In addition to all the services offered by an NP, doctors can offer additional specialty services. These typically include:
- Rare illnesses
- Persistent illnesses
- Anything that requires surgery
Can you see an NP instead of a doctor?
While a doctor may require additional specialized training, many of the same services can be provided by both a nurse practitioner or a doctor. Many NPs develop the same skills while under guidance by a doctor — similar to the residency that doctors go through. And, it’s becoming increasingly common for nurses to obtain a doctorate in their field (DNP). This means that more often than not, you can expect the same quality of care provided by an NP that you’d expect from a doctor. But, with a nurse practitioner, you are more likely to be seen quicker and will likely be able to schedule appointments sooner. That’s because instead of waiting to see a single doctor — along with two to three other patients waiting to see the same physician — there are multiple NPs available.
Despite most situations allowing you to see a nurse practitioner instead of a doctor, seeing a physician may be necessary if your situation is outside the norm — such as with rare or persistent illnesses and surgery. This type of care requires specialized attention that some nurse practitioners may not have the experience to provide.
If You Have a Healthcare Concern, Nurse Practitioners of Florida Can Help
At Nurse Practitioners of Florida, we have a dedicated team of certified nurse practitioners who have an unwavering commitment to providing you with care and compassion. When you call any of our locations, you will be greeted by a live person who’s ready to offer acute medical care as well as preventive measures — including pap smears. And, above everything else, you will be treated like family.
If you need assistance, call us or fill out our online contact form.