Doctors Vs. Nurses

Hi friends!!!


I made a new youtube video about the difference between doctors and nurses.  I’ve received lots of emails asking about pre-med vs. pre-nursing, what the difference between doctors and nurses is, etc.  I’ve also noticed some people stating some of the stereotypical things like, “Doctors are bossy” and “nurses take orders” which I find highly untrue.  So I thought I would make a vlog about it!!  Enjoy!!





  1. Anonymous says

    I have to say I disagree with some of this. I am a nurse in an ICU at a major teaching hospital and I think our nurses take a lot more direct role in making decisions about treatment than you are explaining. The part that nurses don’t have to know anything about what antibiotics or fluids are being used or why could not be more incorrect. Because as you said, nurses are at the bedside all day especially in a 1:1 ICU environment, we are 100% aware of the plan of care and are double checking orders that get put in. Not knowing anything about the treatment plan and just carrying out orders can be very dangerous, as a huge role of nurses is being sure that the appropriate orders are being put in for your patient. Even though we are not the ones making the decisions about these things, we still have to understand WHY this is being done for our patient. I think as you go through your rotations you will realize that nurses are a lot more in touch with the MD team than it may seem now, because we often direct our questions towards the fellows or attendings as they are more familiar with the patient population and able to teach and explain things better.

    • aawenzel says

      Hi Anonymous, Thank you for your comment. I absolutely agree that nurses are 100% aware of the plan and always double checking- they are the first and last line of defense for patients and and are amazing assets to the healthcare team. The only thing I meant, was that there are parts of the treatment plan that the nurses aren’t expected to know- like which trial showed that LR was better than NS in settings of x,y, and z. The nurses are able to learn as much as they want, like I said… but they aren’t expected to know everything the doctor is thinking- that’s what makes the jobs different! If the nurses were expected to know all the science behind certain decisions, they wouldn’t be able to perform their job as nurses! We all work together and add different things to the team. I am certainly much less experienced than you and I’m sure you know way more about this dynamic than I do, so please understand this is just what I’ve seen and learned so far.

      • Grace says

        I had to post a comment about this because I agree with Annonymous’ point in how dangerous it would be if the nurse didn’t know the science behind the plan of care being carried out.
        Nurses are the first and last line defense like you mentioned in your comment Andrea; it’s incredibly unsafe and dangerous for our patients when nurses don’t know the science behind why a specific fluid is chosen over another or antibiotic etc–nurses need to know what to question and what to expect from the science perspective too. And unless you’re in an ICU the nurse patient ratio is almost never 1:1, a huge majority of our day is spent in paperwork/communicating with the other health care team members. Andrea, I commend you for approaching this topic because it’s a very sensitive one and needs to be discussed more often to continue facilitating teamwork than the hierarchy stigma that still exists some places…to ultimately improve patient care.

    • Katie says

      Hey anonymous! I’m learning a lot about the different roles of doctors and nurses and I was hoping you could expand on your point of view more- what exactly makes doctors different than nurses in your opinion as an experienced nurse? Thanks so much!

      • says

        Sorry, had to chime in! First great job making this video and thank you, Andrea! Anonymous, I’m sure in your state/ hospital it is different because being a Minnesota nursing student I’ve heard the nurses here are very much only allowed to perform x and y tasks. So never going out of their scope of practice which in my opinion is often smaller than some states. I can think of one hospital in the minneapolis metro that is not unionized do nurses, so I can imagine that plays a large role too. Not complaining about it but I’d imagine the nurses role varies widely across hospitals and even states.

  2. Katie says

    Andrea, thank you so much for posting this video. I was worried about this questions coming up in my med school interviews. I appreciate your insight :)

  3. Anonymous says

    I didn’t mean for my comment to sound so contradictory to andrea’s comments which I now realize it does sound a little like that. Nurses absolutely only practice within their scope of practice no matter which state you are, so obviously putting in fluid, meds, or other orders is not part of the nursing role. The point I was trying to make is that a nurse does not simply see the order and carry it out without thinking about WHY that order is or is not appropriate for the patient and understanding the reasoning behind it. I do also work in pediatrics which I have heard is very different from adults, so I definitely have a different perspective.

    I think Andrea’s video does a great job of explaining the differences between doctors and nurses. As a nurse you definitely are dealing with less technical science such as the chemistry and specifics behind health care decisions and more applied science. You spend much more direct time with the patient, literally twelve hours a day/night and therefore are familiar with ALL of the nitty gritty of this person, be it good or bad. To me it has its perks, you are the FIRST to see when a patient finally turns a corner and gets better and also the biggest advocate for the patient when things go south, and it can be your subtle observations and interventions that make a patient crashing more of a controlled situation rather than a chaotic one. On the other had, you do end up dealing with more BS working that closely with people. If you prefer to have a more direct role in the care of a patient on a more personal level, then nursing might be for you where as if you are more interested in the specific science and technicalities of medicine, then med school might be a better fit.

  4. Jen says

    Great video, Andrea! I love that you are always so enthusiastic (at the end of a long day nonetheless!) about medicine. As a fellow first-year resident I’d agree that it’s exciting to have more responsibility on the team. Each transition point evokes a bit of am-I-competent-enough-for-this anxiety, but in the end each stage in medical training turns out to be more enjoyable the last. As resident I realize that among other things, nurses have much more practical experience than we do, so whenever I have the opportunity I’ll ask them to walk me through how they’re putting in an iv, cathether, etc. — it’s a great way to promote collegiality, while learning something at the same time!

    • aawenzel says

      Hi Jen! Love this comment! I always have the feeling, “how did they let me in here? I hope no one finds out how little I really know!!” But you’re right- it’s so exciting to have more responsibility! And yes- we can learn soooooo much from the nurses- they are really really (and always get me out of trouble!)

  5. Ally says

    Hi Andrea!
    Great video!
    I am currently in a BSN program at a top University, and am already planning to pursue a DNP and MPH degree. I had originally intended go the pre-med route, but was discouraged by my desire to be a stay at home mom (or at least more than part time). Raising a family is something that I value greatly, and did not feel as compelled to medicine as I do towards raising my own kids. (I am aware it is 100% doable to have kids/a family when you are a physician, but did not see myself in that position)
    I am so happy you are at Mayo! My brother is just starting his first year of medical school there and is beyond impressed with their program.
    Best of luck Andrea!

  6. Kelly says

    Hi Andrea,

    I love your blog! I was just wondering if you might be able to explain the scope of practice of the physicians assistant and how it differs from that of a doctor or nurse.I would love to hear about any experiences you have had with them as this is a career path I am considering.


  7. Sara says

    Hi Andrea! Thanks for elaborating the difference between the roles of doctors and nurses! I am a registered nurse myself although I haven’t practiced because I’m planning to go into medical school next school year I’m really excited! Your videos help me a ton. I’m from another country so it’s nice to know stuff about medicine in the US (for instance I found out from one of your videos that doctors have to take the boards every 10 years to stay being “board certified”)
    I hope someday you post a vlog for IMGs interested to apply for residency in the US.

  8. Lizzie says

    Hi Andrea!

    First off, I love your blog/vlogs! I have been studying over the summer for the MCAT and am so grateful to have stumbled across such a motivating site!

    Are you willing to also expand on the roles of PA vs physician? I have shadowed physicians in many different specialties and have worked with both PAs and physicians and I feel their roles are SO similar (aside from being “supervised” by a physician and not having as through education). Why would YOU choose medical school over PA school?

    Thanks and I look forward to hearing from you!

    • aawenzel says

      Hi! Thanks so much for your comment!! Good luck with the MCAT!! I hated studying for it so much and was SOOOO relieved when it was over! I agree that PAs and physicians have very similar roles. I’ve gotten this question a ton recently and so I’m going to do a video with one of my girlfriends who is a PA! I think we’re planning to do it this Monday!

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