Nurse vs. Doctor: The Major Differences
Those who work outside of the medical industry often confuse the roles of doctor and nurse, not aware that the two have very different functions. Although the two work side-by-side in many situations and need each other to complete certain tasks, there are major differences between a doctor and nurse. Both roles, however, are essential for the medical industry and of equal importance. Putting stereotypes aside, the differences between a doctor and nurse are evaluated below.
Doctors and nurses first differ in their job descriptions. In most cases, the doctor is tasked with examining and diagnosing patients. A nurse, on the other hand, will have a more hands-on role with physically treating a patient based on the doctor's diagnosis. Nurses often joke that they are just as knowledgeable, yet are paid less and charged with performing the "dirty work". However, both jobs can be physically and emotionally demanding. It should be pointed out that the role of a nurse is not always as a subordinate to doctors. Advanced nurses, such as nurse practitioners, will also diagnose patients and can even prescribe medication.
Another major difference between a doctor and nurse is their salary. While not always true, the average doctor earns a higher yearly income than the average nurse. According to a 2006 study by Allied Physicians Incorporated, a hospital staff nurse earns an average of $45,000 a year. A hospital staff doctor, however, earns well into the six figures in the first year of practice. While an advanced practice nurse in a supervisory position could take in at least $75,000, an experienced surgeon could earn over $1 million.
Nurses and doctors also differ in length of college study. While some nurses obtain specialized degrees in a graduate program, the minimum degree requirement for a registered nurse (RN) is a four-year bachelor's degree. A doctor, however, must obtain a PhD, which takes eight years on average. A specialist physician, however, could remain in college for over a decade. Both a doctor and nurse will typically earn a higher wage for obtaining advanced degrees. It seems that both are compensated for lengthy college stays.
While it is obvious that the career of a doctor and nurse are different, it is important to note that the two complement each other in the process of healing patients. Neither could exist without the other and neither role is more important. Those debating which field to enter, however, should consider their own bedside manner as well as the differences of salary and degree requirements.