4 Reasons to Become a Registered Nurse vs. a Doctor

Medicine or nursing: which is right for you? - nurse talking with doctor

If you’re interested in entering the field of healthcare, you’ve probably wondered about the differences between working as a nurse vs. a doctor. After learning more about the responsibilities and impact of each profession, many pre-med students change paths to nursing. Read on to find out why.

Nurse vs. Doctor: What’s the Difference?

While both doctors and nurses hold patient-facing roles in the healthcare field, their level of responsibility differs. For example:

  • Doctors observe symptoms and form diagnoses, whereas nurses inform doctors by gathering and reporting critical information.
  • Doctors give orders and develop treatment plans, while nurses collaborate with a team of providers to put those plans into practice.
  • Doctors interpret reports such as lab results and X-rays; nurses help patients with activities of daily living (ADLs).
  • Doctors perform medical procedures; nurses serve as patient-advocates.

It’s worth noting that nurses have a much greater role in patient care than they did in days past, as care providers have come to realize the extent of nurses’ influence on health outcomes.

4 Reasons Why You Should Choose Nursing

Though there are pros and cons to working as a nurse vs. a doctor, we’ve identified four reasons why becoming a nurse might be a better option for you.

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1. You Can Become a Nurse Sooner

To become a doctor, first you must earn a bachelor’s degree, which typically takes four years. Then, you’ll need to attend medical school, which takes an additional four years. After that, you’re required to spend from three to five years in residency before you may practice as a licensed physician. In sum, the path toward becoming a doctor can take up to 13 years.

In contrast, to become a Registered Nurse (RN), you can opt to earn an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), which takes two years, or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), which traditionally takes four years). Through an accelerated BSN program such as the one Northeastern University offers, you can earn your BSN in as few as 16 months.

Giovanna, a former pre-med student who went on to pursue nursing says:

I struggled a lot with [pre-med courses]. And it just discouraged me. So, I decided to take the prerequisites needed [for the Accelerated BSN program at] Northeastern. I really enjoyed learning the content, because it was stuff that I could actually apply in my future career with patients.

– Giovanna, 2021 ABSN graduate

Although the ADN might serve as adequate preparation for some roles, the BSN has become the preferred standard for practicing nurses nationwide. In 2019, the percentage of U.S. nurses with a BSN degree or higher was approximately 56 percent, up from 49 percent in 2010. The trend continues.

As we mentioned earlier, if you already hold a non-nursing bachelor’s degree with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher, you might be able to earn a BSN even sooner. Provided you meet the admissions requirements, the Accelerated BSN (ABSN) program at Northeastern University (in Charlotte, North Carolina or Boston, Massachusetts) will allow you to leverage your prior degree to complete a BSN in as few as 16 months.

What to Expect From the Northeastern University ABSN Program

The accelerated nursing program at Northeastern follows a blended learning model, including:

2. Nurses Have Greater Career Opportunity

An increased focus on preventive healthcare, the aging and associated medical needs of the baby boomer generation, and the mass retirement of nurses, have led to a nursing shortage across the country. The demand for nurses is at an all-time high. And according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of nurses will grow by 7 percent between 2019 and 2029.

Two ABSN students studying online together

The demand for doctors is rising as well, but while physicians’ opportunities can be limited by their specialty area, nurses can work in a variety of settings — both inside and outside the hospital. Nursing opportunities beyond the bedside include:

  • Public health nursing
  • Informatics
  • Case management
  • Health coaching
  • Pharmaceutical or medical-device sales

Additionally, BSN-prepared nurses with some experience under their belt can pursue graduate study to become Advance Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs). Advanced nursing careers include:

  • Nurse Practitioner
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Nurse Midwife
  • Nurse Anesthetist

3. Nurses Have a Greater Impact on Patients

According to a Gallup poll, nursing has been the most trusted profession in America for 19 years running. This is true, in part, because patients have more facetime with nurses than with any other healthcare providers.

Typically, doctors spend only a few minutes per day with each patient, diagnosing illness and prescribing treatment. Nurses spend much of their shift with patients, ensuring their overall well-being.

Nurses serve as the liaison between patients and doctors. They listen to patients’ concerns, administer their medication, and advocate for their needs — all while providing comfort and emotional support.

Working so closely with the nurses on my unit … made me realize how much of an impact nurses had on our patients and their families, and how grateful these families were to have such compassionate nurses advocating for them and their children.

– Giovanna, 2021 ABSN graduate

4. Nurses Have Better Work Schedules

In the traditional hospital setting, the work schedules are much different for nurses vs. doctors. Doctors may earn a larger annual salary than nurses, but they are required to be on call 24 hours per day, seven days per week. And while they frequently take charts and paperwork home to complete, nurses do not.

In contrast, nurses tend to work set shifts each week. In a hospital, that typically means five eight-hour shifts or three 12-hour shifts per week. Additionally, with a median annual salary of $75,330 per year, nurses earn a competitive wage.

Northeastern University ABSN student using computer

Contact Us to Learn More

Now that you know about some of the differences between becoming a nurse vs. a doctor and you’re aware of the option to become a nurse sooner at Northeastern, you may have questions.

Contact us today. We’ll connect you with an admissions counselor who will answer your questions and assist you throughout the application and admissions processes. We’re excited to help you begin your path toward nursing.

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