Nurse Practitioner vs. Doctor: What's the Difference?

If you have been to a doctor's office recently, there is a good chance you didn't actually see a doctor. With the rise in healthcare demands in the U.S., many doctors have been looking to nurse practitioners to help them treat patients and ease their overwhelming workloads. Even Odessa Medical Enterprises has a family nurse practitioner to assist patients with acute conditions and internal medicine needs. Having a nurse practitioner at our practice allows us to see more patients, spend more time with each patient and better serve our community.


Now, you may be thinking: What is the difference between a nurse practitioner and a physician? While they can offer similar services, there are a few key differences in the types of healthcare they provide. So let's dive into it!

What is a nurse practitioner?


A nurse practitioner is a licensed clinician who focuses on healing the body. Nurse practitioners treat acute and chronic conditions and provide preventative and holistic care. Some typical responsibilities of a nurse practitioner include:

  • Managing your overall care and acting as your primary care provider (fun fact: our family nurse practitioner is a PCP!)

  • Developing patient treatment plans and monitoring their progress

  • Administering physical exams, such as school and DOT physicals

  • Prescribing medication

  • Ordering and overseeing diagnostic tests

  • Educating patients about healthy living and preventative medicine


Like doctors, nurse practitioners undergo rigorous schooling in order to practice medicine, including a four-year Bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN) and a two-year Master's degree in nursing (MSN). Some nurse practitioners go on to receive their Doctor's in nursing practice (DNP) as well.

What is the benefit of seeing a nurse practitioner?


Although nurse practitioners and doctors are highly trained in their fields, they do provide different levels of healthcare. However, there are many reasons why it may be more beneficial to see a nurse practitioner rather than a doctor. For example:

  • Ease of access: Doctors are always in high demand, so patients can often get an appointment with a nurse practitioner sooner than with a doctor. You'll often find nurse practitioners working in urgent care centers and doctors' offices, so they can be much more accessible than doctors.

  • Cost: Both nurse practitioners and doctors are medical experts, but because doctors go through that extra training, a visit to a doctor is often more expensive than visiting a nurse practitioner.

  • A different approach: If you need treatment for an acute condition (such as the flu, allergies, a urinary tract infection, etc.), a nurse practitioner will help you with treatment, prescribe medication and educate you on how to make healthier lifestyle choices.

When should I see a doctor over a nurse practitioner?


Nurse practitioners are the perfect solution for when you have the flu, need a yearly physical, have a sprain or need treatment for a minor health issues. However, for more serious conditions (such as respiratory issues, chronic coughing, major injuries, etc.), it is best to visit a doctor who can provide a more in-depth diagnosis and treatment plan.


As you can see, there is a lot of overlap in the levels of healthcare that doctors and nurse practitioners provide. That's why you'll often find doctors and NPs working together to treat patients, just like Dr. Dar and FNP Garcia do. They are ultimately working toward the same goal: to provide the best healthcare possible to the members of our community.

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Odessa Medical Enterprises

420 E. 6th St., Suite 201B

Odessa, TX 79761​

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Tel: 432-332-5557

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