As the name suggest the doctor of nursing practice degree is a doctorates program in nursing, however this should not be confused with Doctor of Medicine or MD degree program.
Both nurse practitioners and physicians are able to perform many of the same duties in regards to patient care, however their are differences between the two healthcare fields.
The primary difference between nurse practitioners and physicians has to do with their educational background.
A nurse practitioners education focuses on a patient centered model of care that’s centered on health education and diseases prevention.
These healthcare experts focus on educating their patients about their health and medical condition, and providing their patients with ways to prevent potential diseases from occurring or getting worse.
Nurse practitioners also learn how to assess, diagnose, monitor and treat the conditions of their patients and may specialize in a particular area of healthcare such as neonatal care, women’s health, family care and geriatrics.
A physicians education is centered around a disease centered model which focuses on the assessment and treatment of various diseases and injures among other physical and/or mental ailments.
A physicians background is based on understanding the biological and pathological components of physical and mental patient health.
Physicians are able to assess, diagnose, monitor and treat their patients conditions and at the highest levels a physician may choose to become a surgeon after extensive training.
From a career standpoint physicians typically follow a more general healthcare approach than nurse practitioners however they may also choose specialize within a certain area of healthcare.
What can nurse practitioners do?
At the highest level of care nurse practitioners are able to perform many of the duties of a physician or MD such as opening their own clinic, being able to act as the primary healthcare provider for their patients, diagnosing their condition, interpreting test results, checking their patients medical history, writing prescriptions, prescribing rehabilitation programs and performing some medical exams.
Furthermore nurse practitioners may specialize in a particular field of healthcare such as neonatal care, adult care, neurology, gastroenterology, women’s health and emergency care among other fields.
Depending on the chosen field a nurse practitioner practices in they may be limited in their range of care.
For example a nurse practitioner that is certified in neonatal care most likely isn’t able to practice gastroenterology or provide extensive care to geriatric patients, however they can become certified in multiple fields in order to expand the type of care they can provide.
Depending on the state a nurse practitioner works in he/she may be required to work alongside a supervising physician.
However as the demand for highly qualified nurse practitioners continue to rise and the demand for affordable medical care continues to grow more and more states are moving towards allowing nurse practitioners to run their own practices without the supervision or approval of a physician.
The growing debate
There is a growing debate between the national physician groups and nursing association regarding what the role of nurse practitioner in the field should be and title they should be allowed to carry.
Within the physician group there a number of physicians that feel the role of nurse practitioners is important, however they also feel that nurse practitioners should continue to work under the supervision of a primary physician.
On the other hand many nurse practitioners feel that they should be able to provide primary care without the assistance of a physician or MD given the fact that they are able to perform many of the same duties as a physician whether or not a physician is present.
There are also some physicians that do feel that nurse practitioners should be able to operate on their own in order to meet the growing demands of the economy.
As the shortage of available physicians continues to grow the demand for qualified nursing practitioners to fill the gap will to increase making this debate even more apparent.
Healthcare cost, the demands for adequate patient care and the increasing need for community education are all factors that will increase the demand for nurse practitioners in the field.
In the end what truly matters is that patients receive the care they need by those who have adequate training in their field and that the patient is happy and comfortable with the care they are being given.
Ultimately in many cases the patient has the choice to decide where they want to receive their care and who they want to work with.
And it is up to the physicians and nurse practitioners to find a happy balance that focuses on patient care and the healthcare system in order to maximize the opportunities for excellent healthcare within the communities they serve.