Doctor, nurse, nurse practitioner, physician's assistant, doctor of nursing — who does what? What is the difference between all of these healthcare professionals, and how did they get to where they are? If you are interested in continuing your education but are not quite sure where you want to end up, here is a condensed list of options that may be available to you.
A physician is someone who has finished a 4-year bachelor's degree, as well as 4 years of medical school. They will then do an additional 3–7 years of residency or a fellowship, depending on what type of doctor they choose to become. With this training, physicians are able to perform surgery, prescribe medications, and have their own practice. Most earn more than $150,000.
Physician assistants (PA) are highly trained professionals who work closely with doctors in a wide variety of settings. As with all medical professionals, a 4-year bachelor's degree is required. PAs then go on to complete a 2–3 year Masters level PA program. Physician assistants can prescribe medication, see their own patients, and assist in surgeries, all under the direct supervision of a physician.
Doctor of Nursing
A Doctor of Nursing or someone who possesses a doctorate of nursing practice (DNP) is a highly skilled professional in the nursing field. While the DNP does not make them a physician, these healthcare professionals usually work as nurse practitioners, certified midwives, nurse anesthetists, or in managerial/administrative healthcare positions. A DNP degree can be acquired in several ways. One way is by going from a 4-year Bachelors of Science in Nursing (BSN) to a DNP with 3–4 years of study. It is also possible to first get a Masters in Nursing Practice (NP) and then take 1–2 years of classes to complete the doctorate program.
A nurse practitioner is someone who has a master's in nursing. These professionals work alongside physicians to diagnose, treat, and follow up with patients. Working under the supervision of a doctor, they can even see their own patients.
In conclusion, while all of these careers are useful and needed in the world, the one that you should pursue ultimately is up to you. Examine yourself. How many years do you want to spend in school? How dedicated are you to reaching your goals? What are your specific skills and qualities? Once you have found answers to these questions, you may want to talk to a counselor or academic advisor at the school of your choice to see how you can qualify.