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What’s the Difference Between Nurse Practitioners and Medical Doctors?

When people think of doctors and nurse practitioners (NP), they often think of doctors as medical experts and NPs as assistants. While many nurse practitioners help doctors do their job, that’s not their only role.

In Idaho, nurse practitioners can practice independently of doctors. They can diagnose your problems, order X-Rays, prescribe medication, and more. If you’re looking for a checkup, they’re a great alternative to doctors, who tend to be busier and more focused on their niche.

In this article, we’ll cover a few of the differences between doctors and nurse practitioners.


Doctors often specialize in particular areas of the body. You might visit a cardiologist if you’re having problems with your heart or a dermatologist if you’re having problems with your skin.

As opposed to doctors, NPs usually specialize in a particular type of patient. So, two of the most popular nurse practitioner specializations are family medicine and women’s health.

When you visit a nurse practitioner, you’re more likely to get holistic treatment, with an emphasis on prevention. When you visit a doctor, you’re more likely to get someone focused on the specific disease you came in with.


The reason you’re likely to get a different approach from a nurse practitioner compared to a physician is that the NP has a nursing background. They try to look at how the disease or problem affects the patient. Nurse practitioners and physicians come to the same conclusion with the same outcomes but take different routes to get there. Doctors are focused on treating the disease, but nurse practitioners have a background in nursing which concentrates on helping educate the patient to navigate the disease process. That valuable, hands-on perspective is a nurse practitioner’s greatest advantage.


There’s a shortage of doctors in America. The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates that there may be as many as 12,000 vacancies for doctor positions.

Luckily, nurse practitioners are here to fill the gap.

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