Nursing Practitioner vs. Doctor: Who should I visit?

The human body is fragile and constantly exposed to diseases that can make us ill and tired. We've all woken with a stuffy nose, body pain, or racking cough – sure signs that we are ill. However, whether you have the flu or a terrible bug, staying at home and riding out a sickness is often the option many people take. We all want to get rid of it as soon as possible, so we start some initial remedies to feel well and separate ourselves from our loved ones to ensure their safety. Despite these initial self-care steps, our illness gets prolonged. Thus, we are forced to reach out to a professional for help. Our initial reluctance to see a professional can prolong the illness.

Getting medical attention at the early stages prevents serious health issues, so you should immediately seek professional help. However, choosing between doctors and nurse practitioners during your ailment can be tricky. Both nurse practitioners and doctors are qualified to assess and treat you as they have substantial medical training and educational degrees. So, let's explore this further to determine who you should visit when you are ill.

Whom Should I visit?

While the choice of who you seek treatment from is entirely up to you. We all want someone who understands the illness, has a good bedside manner and readily listens to patients’ complaints and concerns. However, there are a few more considerations you need to make.  

Educational background:

The best way to choose between nurse practitioners and doctors is to take their expertise into account. Both follow different medical courses. Doctors generally start practicing after completing their MD degree, while nurse practitioners must complete online post master's certificate nurse practitioner programs. Nurse practitioners receive adequate training in providing care by identifying and treating numerous common ailments, whereas doctors are formally trained in diagnosing and treating illnesses. Although the distinction between physicians and nurses is becoming increasingly hazy, as both are licensed health professionals capable of treating patients, they are still not the same in training and treatments. A nurse practitioner can administer medicine, check underlying problems, and diagnose sickness; however, a doctor should be consulted if you undergo experimental therapy or have an uncertain diagnosis.


A nurse practitioner helps you by responding to questions, organizing necessary tests or screening, and coordinating treatment or visits that your primary care provider doesn't cover. They frequently spend more time with patients, allowing for better patient development and education of a valued provider-patient interaction. According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, nurse practitioners are also excellent at delivering holistic treatment and stressing preventive and general health management. In that regard, they have the potential to become your go-to source for overall body healthcare. On the other hand, doctors take the necessary measures to establish an accurate diagnosis, offer therapy, and monitor their patients' development. They provide attentive and professional care to their patients. However, you need to wait or schedule an appointment with a doctor.


Similarly, availability is also an essential factor to consider. You want to be listened to and treated as quickly as possible so you can go back to enjoying your everyday life. According to AAMC Research, there is a growing shortage of doctors, so swift availability may not be possible. Furthermore, many prominent primary care doctors take vacations during the holidays or school breaks, causing patients to wait months for an appointment. On the other hand, nurse practitioners are trained in the clinical practice field and are readily available, translating into shorter patient wait times.

Patient satisfaction with services:

If a patient is satisfied with their treatment, you will see a speedy and noticeable improvement in their health. So, patient satisfaction is essential when it comes to treatment. Both nurse practitioners and doctors are equally capable of delivering exceptional healthcare services depending upon their workload and availability. However, research has shown us that nurse practitioners have a slight edge over doctors. A study was conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan, in which they interviewed two hundred people in Michigan to find out which service they find better. Patient feedback showed that nurse practitioners provided better treatment than physicians. As per the findings, nurse practitioners spend more time with patients, engage more intently, offer more advice, respect patients' ideas, etc. According to the researchers, physicians performed well on the survey, with an average score of 7.2 out of ten. Nurse practitioners, on the other hand, received an average of 9.8.  

Another study was conducted to determine the patients' views regarding their communication with a doctor or nurse practitioner, timely assessment, and patient-to healthcare professional relationship. Also, patients were asked about whom they would prefer visiting next. When it came to the efficacy of the nurse practitioner's communication abilities, 84 percent of respondents stated that nurse practitioners put them at ease. At the same time, a mere 7% felt it was challenging to share their issues. Three-quarters said that the nurse practitioner thoroughly checked them when appropriate, and 62% were convinced they were aware of their medical history and condition. More than half of respondents said nurses provided them with more information about their sickness or illness than any other healthcare provider, and more than two-thirds thought nurses discussed their diagnosis and any tests that might be necessary. On questioning whom they want to visit next time, patients were more inclined to see a doctor than a nurse because they believed that if both can provide quality healthcare, doctors are better options than the other ones.  

Final Thoughts:

To sum up, in the case of common aliments you can visit a doctor or a nurse practitioner, as both have the skills and education to treat you. Sometimes you may find it difficult to book an appointment with your physician, so visit a nurse practitioner as they too can provide quality treatment. However, in case of emergency and complex issues, it is advisable to consult a doctor as they have more expertise to treat those issues. Also, just visit whomever you are comfortable with, a nurse practitioner or your physician, because having a relationship of trust is vital for your successful treatment.