Nursing as Compared to Doctoring

Written by NS StaffJuly 30, 2011

Many people probably would agree with the following statement when it comes to nursing: That nurses view themselves, or have come to see their profession, as secondary to medicine/doctoring. As such, nursing commonly finds itself viewed from the outside as a supplemental career. This could not be further from the truth.

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Nursing is, in fact, a wholly independent career as that of a physician, and nursing professionals are increasingly seen as vital components of today's health care system. Nurses are highly educated (four years of college or, in many cases, a masters degree) and, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, opportunities for nurses are on the rise. There are currently over 2 million jobs for nurses nationwide, and nursing is near the top of the list in terms of professions projected to have the largest number of new jobs in the coming years.

There are a few reasons why nurses are in such high demand. As the "Baby Boomer" generation (the largest generation in U.S. history) reaches retirement, a greater number of highly-trained professionals is needed. Many nurses are also reaching retirement age, creating many new job openings. But perhaps the most critical element affecting nursing today is the change in health-care delivery itself: the country is shifting toward more of a nursing care centered system.

What does this mean? Generally speaking, that nurses are taking charge of more elements of the health-care system. And, as nurses tend to work more directly with patients than a doctor does, a specially trained nurse who enjoys working with (and genuinely helping) other people could find a career as a nurse very fulfilling.

Already, when you go to the hospital, nurses will be in charge of things like taking your blood pressure, but recent studies have shown that substituting nurses for doctors results in high quality care. There has been an explosion in nursing specialty areas - anything from surgery and emergency nursing, to specialties in pediatrics, school nursing, and nurse-midwifery - that give the next generation of nursing professionals a thorough training in almost any interest that they have. Nurses can also find themselves in primary care positions in places such as schools, long-term care facilities, and community health centers. Nurses with advanced training (Advanced Practice Nurses, or APNs), are under increasing demand as well, particularly in terms of education and preventative care. Some APNs are even opening their own practices!

As with any career in care giving, nursing is not without its stress. Nurses often work long hours or extra shifts, and the day-to-day experience of dealing with patients in a wide variety of moods and needs can take its toll. Many nurses also feel the pressure to work straight through their shifts without taking a break, thus denying themselves a calm moment or two during the day.

While the life of a nurse can at times be stressful, it is less so than the life of a doctor, who can often be "on-call" all hours of the day and night, and who are under the constant pressure of possible malpractice suits. Career health practitioners would do well to be mindful of the stress related to their jobs, and take the initiative to de-stress, and safeguard against burning out at the workplace.

Given what's outlined above, comparing nurses with doctors is a little harder than it seems at first. While doctors undergo more schooling, nurses are also well-educated and get to work more closely with patients. With the recent emphasis on specially-trained nurses, people looking for a specific care giving role (midwife, pediatrics, emergency) could find that a career as a nurse more enjoyable, as well as equally fulfilling.

See a list of schools/colleges offering nursing programs

Learn More About Your Future Career as a Nurse:

Nursing Career Summary
Salary & Compensation
Day in the Life of…
Job Outlook
Typical Career Path
Medical Assisting as a Pathway to Nursing
Profile of a Nurse
Nursing as Compared to Doctoring
Blood and Needles