Is Becoming a Nurse or Doctor Right for You? 7 Important Considerations

Entering the medical field is a grand undertaking. However, it’s also a rewarding one. Nevertheless, many people become intimidated once they realize all the potential paths and credentials associated with entering the field. Luckily, proper preparation enables many medical students to not only survive but thrive as healthcare professionals. The first step to entering the healthcare field is choosing your career path. Generally, many potential medical students struggle to decide between becoming a doctor or a nurse. With that in mind, here are 7 questions to help you decide whether to become a doctor or nurse.

Do I Prefer to be on the Frontlines or Behind the Scenes?

One of the first questions to decide when deciding whether to become a doctor or nurse is whether you enjoy being on the frontlines or working behind the scenes. As we learned during the pandemic, nurses are very much on the first line of defense when it comes to treating patients in hospital settings.

This is because nurses are the ones who see the patients first, help keep them calm and comfortable, take their vitals, determine the severity of their prognoses, and make recommendations to the doctors. On the other hand, doctors come out once the preliminary information has been collected and often after some level of care has been initiated. They are not as hands-on with patients as nurses, to make the final determination in terms of diagnosis and are more so there to oversee the treatment process and step in when the situation becomes too dire or complex for nurses to handle.

Therefore, while each of them is valuable and important, you have to decide if you’re more interested in administering hands-on care to patients or if you’re more interested in diagnosing them and overseeing their care.

How Eager Am I to Begin My Career?

The next question to ask is whether you want to start your career ASAP or if you are more comfortable waiting until the future. This is because nurses can begin working in just a couple of years, while doctors must typically complete 10-14 years of school and training before they are able to officially become doctors.

Some people don’t care how much schooling will be required, and they simply want to reach their potential. In that case, this is a question you can ignore. However, if you’re truly passionate about becoming a doctor, this schooling is essential to receive your credentials. Therefore, you should take the time to consider whether you are looking for a job you can start in the near future or if you’re in it for the long haul.

What are my Financial Restraints?

Another major question to ask yourself when deciding whether to become a doctor or nurse is how much you can afford to spend and how much time you can potentially go without a full-time job. For instance, if you have a spouse who is gainfully employed, is already financially well-off, still lives with your parents, does not have children, lives with a roommate, etc., you may be in the position to pursue an advanced degree without worrying about income. However, if you can’t relate to any of these conditions, you may want to pursue nursing—keep in mind that nurses can always become doctors later. So, if that’s your true career goal, but you are too strapped to make such a commitment, you can work and save up for a while before applying for medical school.

Moreover, medical and nursing school are both very academically demanding and unless you choose a part-time or otherwise unconventional program, maintaining a full-time job with a full-time course load can be overwhelming, to say the least. Moreover, there is a substantial cost difference between the two programs. The cost of a nursing program starts at around $6,000, while a doctorate program costs an average of $235,827 to complete. So, if you are strapped for cash, against student loans, or otherwise don’t have the means to finance an advanced degree, you may want to give nursing a try.

Do I Want to Focus on One Specialization or Work in a Wide Array of Departments?

Another great question to ask is whether you wish to work in various departments or choose one specialization. On the one hand, when working as a nurse, you can pick and choose from various departments and healthcare settings. This is because nurses use virtually the same skill sets no matter where they work. Therefore, they can often easily transfer between departments as needed or desired.

On the other hand, being a doctor requires the ability to assess, diagnose, and treat particular types of ailments and diseases. Therefore, they have to study their chosen specialization extensively. For instance, if you choose to be an ear, nose, and throat doctor, you will spend years learning about every aspect of those areas, such as how they interact with one another, how to diagnose and treat issues affecting those areas, etc.

Therefore, if you enjoy a more varied workload, you may want to choose nursing. However, if you prefer to focus on one or just a few areas of the body, you may want to become a doctor.

What are my Financial Goals?

Another major thing to consider when deciding whether to become a doctor or nurse is your financial goals. Although each of these career paths can be lucrative, doctors typically earn substantially more than nurses. This is especially true when it comes to entry-level positions and starting pay.

LPNs have an annual mean wage of $55,860, while the average base salary of a doctor is around $188,890. Therefore, if income is your top priority or you have certain financial goals that you may not reach with a lower salary, you may want to consider becoming a doctor rather than a nurse. Also, keep in mind that certain nursing specializations will enable you to earn far more than others.

How Important is Patient Advocacy?

Another question to ask yourself is how you feel about patient advocacy. This is because while doctors assess and treat patients, nurses are responsible for ensuring that the patient is comfortable, safe, and that all pressing medical matters are addressed. Since they spend the most time with patients, they are often the ones responsible for advocating for patient care. So, if you’re the type who enjoys caring for and advocating for your patients, you may want to take the nursing route. On the other hand, if you prefer to oversee the entire treatment process, you may want to head to medical school instead.

How Important is a Regular Schedule and Free Time?

Lastly, you should consider how you feel about your schedule and free time. Although both careers can be very demanding, nurses are more likely to have regular, set schedules, though they can vary based on which department or practice they choose to work in. On the other hand, many doctors are on call 24/7 and often work unpredictable hours.