Nurses vs. Doctors: What Nurses Can Do That Doctors Can’t and Vice Versa
Let’s face it. Nurses are often viewed by the general public as the doctor’s assistants, and only act on the physician’s orders. This perception has become raging over the past years that even nurses, themselves, are beginning to doubt their capabilities and believe the conviction that has been thrown to them by the unacquainted community. What the public doesn’t really understand is that nurses actually work hand-in-hand not just with physicians, but also with other members of the health care team.
What registered nurses can do that doctors can’t
Nursing is an independent, self-governing profession, a separate scientific discipline with many autonomous practice facets. Despite what shows on television, spoofs and other members of media may portray, nurses are not under the command of doctors. We are equipped with knowledge regarding special expertise such as wound care, health education and patient care. We have taken and passed nurse licensure exams crammed with questions on independent nursing practice. Therefore, nurses are self-directing professionals who do not depend on doctors’ discernment alone.
Yes, they have spent more years in studying medicine, but we, too, have burned candles in nursing school, only with a different focus and scope compared to them. Thus, it may be hard to believe for some but there are tasks in the clinical setting that they can’t do, but we can.
- Nurses are able to work across several wards or units depending on their job descriptions, while doctors are limited to their specialized field only.
- Doctors need to be specialized in order to entirely assess the causes of an illness or a problem. For nurses, their specialty is more task-oriented and patient-oriented.
- Doctors can’t make nursing diagnoses.
- We stay with the patient for long hours, assessing and catering needs, while doctors have limited time with patients.
- They can’t perform variety of hands-on tasks, like us nurses. They only perform more specific technical aspects of medical care.
- Our care plan is focused on treating the person as a whole, while doctors are focused on treating the disease and physiology.
What doctors can do that nurses can’t
However, there are also tasks which are not in our scope of practice. No matter how long our job experience has been, there are still some activities which we are not qualified and trained to perform.
- Registered nurses are not allowed to engage in activities that require the use of independent medical judgment
- A nurse cannot legally certify death – this is one of the few activities mandatory by law to be done by a registered medical practitioner
- Nurses are not allowed, even with a lot of job experience, to make a medical diagnosis and determine how to treat.
- Nurses can’t prescribe medications and treatment without the doctor’s order.
- Nurses can’t perform surgeries and other invasive procedures such as endotracheal intubation and surgeries.
- Doctors make the final decisions in cooperation with other interdisciplinary members of the health care team, while nurses may suggest plans of care.
On equality and teamwork
A nurse, despite others’ mentality, is not in a lesser position than a doctor. They actually are two diverse disciplines and should be respected separately. Scopes of practice must be realized and observed by each professional, in order to avoid malpractice and lapses in the clinical setting.
Amidst the differences in the job descriptions, nurses, doctors and other members of the health team must be treated as equals. Nurses may be considered as the limbs of a medical facility, while doctors are the eyes and brains. Each one is important and neither one can’t function without the other. Thus, they and must function as a team as they have a similar goal in mind which is the health and wellness of patients.