Difference Between Nurse Practitioner and Doctor

Nurse practitioners are trained nurses. They are primary caregivers and are trained to diagnose conditions.

They can prescribe medication to patients and also suggest treatment. They can interpret laboratory tests and come up with treatment plans.

Doctors got higher training than Nurse Practitioners. Their technique of treatment encompasses their entire training.

Their preparation in Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment is deep and intensive. The attention of Doctor is more on identifying and treating diseases.

They diagnose the disease using drugs, radiation or surgery. Doctors can opt for any particular field of study.

They can advise on the medication and carry out the surgery. They can practice anywhere provided they get the license.

Nurse Practitioner doesn’t specialize in a specific specialty like Doctors.

Nurse Practitioner vs Doctor

The difference between Nurse Practitioners and Doctor is they both require distinct degrees in a particular professional field. A nurse practitioner requires a ‘Master of Science in Nursing’ (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. Conversely, a doctor needs a ‘Medical degree’ (such as phD. or MBBS). A nurse practitioner is a mid-level specialist in the field, whereas a doctor is a high-level professionalist.

Nurse Practitioner vs Doctor


Comparison Table

Parameter of ComparisonNurse PractitionerDoctors
EducationMust earn a degree in nursing and at least a masters degree in nursingMust hold a bachelor degree and complete a medical school.
Time to PracticeNurse practitioners take 6-8 years of education and training.Doctors take 11 years of education and training.
Typical DutiesTheir responsibilities differ at a great extend.Doctors duties vary depending on specialization
License and CertificateNurse practitioners are licensed by the licensing board. They must obtain a registered nurse licenseThey are licensed by the licensing board. Their requirements for licensure vary. They require recertification on regular basis.
Continuing Education RequirementsContinuing education requirements for nurse practitioners vary depending on specialization.Continuing education and improvement or Continuing medical education vary depending on state.
Career outlookBetween 2016-2026 nurse practitioners would increase by 36% than other occupations. This is according to the BLS report of 2018.Openings for family and general doctors would grow 14% between 2016-2026 as per 2018 BLS report.
Medical prescriptionsThey have to lias with doctors to prescribe pharmaceutical, medical devices and certain treatmentsThey prescribe medication without collaborating with a nurse practitioner.


Who is Nurse Practitioner?

They are trained practitioners who determine patients needs, order and clarify the nature of an illness. They also read laboratory tests. They make plans and establish treatment for patients.

They work jointly with other professionals in the health care system to provide a full range of primary and distinctive health care services.

Health services the offers include:

  1. Managing patients care
  2. Prescribing medications and other treatments
  3. Counseling
  4. Educating patients on how to prevent diseases and positive health style
  5. Order, perform and interpret diagnostic tests like x-rays.
  6. They diagnose and treat acute and chronic conditions like diabetes, infections, and injuries.

Some nurse practitioners have also specialized in

  1. Pediatric/Child Health
  2. Acute Care
  3. Adult Health
  4. Oncology
  5. Family Health
  6. Women Health
  7. Mental Health
Nurse Practitioner

Who is Doctor?

A doctor is a qualified professional in the field of medicine. Their centre of work is to encourage, provide and bring back health.

They do this through study, diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment of disease, physical and mental impairments.

Doctor’s duties vary according to specialty but all doctors need to do the following:

  1. Prescribe medication
  2. Prescribe and administer treatment
  3. Diagnose conditions
  4. Assess symptoms
  5. Refer patients to other providers, provide follow-up care, and interpret laboratory results.

Doctors are responsible to communicate findings to patients. They work with patients when they are at their most vulnerable.

They perform specific tasks related to their specialty.

For instance, surgeons should have the manual dexterity to do a precise operation. They should spend long hours in the operation room. 


Main Differences Between Nurse Practitioner and Doctor


A nurse practitioner needs to get a degree in Nursing. Should be a registered nurse and get a postgraduate degree.  Nurse practitioners need to spend four years as undergraduate students.  They need an internship period to gain work experience. They need to spend more 2-4 years to further their studies.

Doctors can either hold both degrees (Doctor of Medicine or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine). They must graduate from medical school/programs and complete a residency.

They have to study for an undergraduate for four years. Spend another four in a medical school.  And then spend 3-7 years of residency. Their education and professional coaching is extensive compared to a nurse practitioner.

Practice Authority

Nurse practitioners do not have full practice authority. They need to work closely or consult with the doctors to authorize medications. Often, nurse practitioners work under the supervision of doctors.

Doctors have direct jurisdiction. They offer practice services as per their education. They put in place their training and expertise without restrictions. Either supervision provided they have a license.


Nurse practitioners can concentrate and become experts in a particular service. Most of these areas include oncology and those listed above.

Doctors have these skills and expertise.  They are also experts in immunology, cardiology, dermatology, and more.

Timeline to Practice

Nurse practitioners take six to eight years of education and training.

Doctors spend 11years of education and training.

Individual Philosophical Focus

Nurse practitioners are physicians. Most of their activities are on the state of being good health and mentally.

Doctors at their core are scientists. They research on disorders and how to diagnose them.

Difference Between Nurse Practitioner and Doctor


  1. https://thorax.bmj.com/content/thoraxjnl/57/8/661.full.pdf
  2. https://www.magonlinelibrary.com/doi/abs/10.12968/bjon.1995.4.16.938
  3. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0272989×05284107
  4. https://bjgp.org/content/bjgp/38/312/314.full.pdf
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