As many of us are growing up, when we are asked what we want to be we reply ‘a doctor.’ Becoming a doctor is a admirable career goal, but there may be a number of alternative options within the healthcare industry.
One such alternative is to become a nurse practitioner (NP). Often times, becoming a NP still offers high pay rates, while requiring far fewer student loans and fewer years of schooling, for example through an accelerated nursing program. Better yet, in many areas, NP are able to retain the same level of autonomy and control over patient care as doctors.
A Shortage of Healthcare Professionals
It may not be news at this point, but the United States is suffering from a serious shortage in healthcare professionals at all levels. In particular, there is a distinct lack of new doctors graduating from medical school that are interested in pursuing primary care. This has created a gap in one of the most significant areas of healthcare, which is beginning to be filled through an increasing number of nurse practitioners.
In fact, many states have begun working to make it easier for NPs to work autonomously, or without the direct supervision of a doctor. By allowing NPs to be their own bosses, state legislatures are increasing the number of healthcare providers available in primary care facilities, hospitals, and rural communities throughout the states. Ultimately, this means better and more affordable healthcare for everyone.
Big Benefits of being a NP
Although it is frequently touted that doctors make a significantly higher annual salary than either nurse practitioners or physician assistants, this doesn’t tend to take into account a number of expenses. For instance, the cost and time commitment of medical school and later residency for doctors. Both NPs and PAs spend less time in school and acquire far fewer student loans. This gap in education can seem like a major difference, but often times similar tasks are performed between all three careers.
Those who have chosen to become a nurse practitioner in particular tend to make an average of 99,000 annually. They are still able to write prescriptions for patients, diagnose illnesses and develop treatment plans. Perhaps the largest difference is that most nurse practitioners are not commonly involved in leading surgery (although they can assist in surgery) or complicated cases of patients that often need the care of a specialist.
Cost Savings for Patients
For many patients, quality care does not come down to the letters listed behind the name of the healthcare provider they are seeing. More frequently, it is important for them to feel as though the person treating them is knowledgeable and makes them feel comfortable. In one study, researchers actually found that patient satisfaction was higher after visiting clinics with NPs on staff than clinics with only doctors treating patients.
By providing opportunities for nurse practitioners to take over some aspects of primary care, it may be possible to overcome the shortage of healthcare providers in this subsection of healthcare. Ultimately, this means shorter wait times for patients, fewer overworked providers, higher quality of care, and occasionally even cheaper services. Providing these types of benefits to patients is worth considering becoming a NP by themselves.
Choosing to become a nurse practitioner over a doctor offers a number of benefits that are worth taking into consideration. Nurse practitioners do not make quite as much money annually, but when taken with cost savings on school and residency time the two careers are much more financially comparable. Additionally, NPs are often able to complete many of the same tasks as doctors within the healthcare setting, with only a few significant exceptions. These healthcare professionals are improving the quality and affordability of care for many individuals yearly!