Many RNs think about becoming MDs. But can a nurse become a doctor?
It will take a lot of schooling, definitely a longer time of learning and training, and undeniably a lot of expense. Are you one of those nurses?
Can you become a doctor with a nurse degree?
Yes, but an RN will need a minimum of a bachelors degree before a nurse can eventually become a doctor. There are following three routes to go from a registered nurse to a doctor:
1. by earning a doctorate in nursing (Ph.D.),
2. by becoming a medical doctor (MD), or
3. by becoming a doctor of osteopathy (DO).
Before discussing each of your possible routes, make an initial evaluation of your educational background. This is important because it will serve as your point of reference on whatever path you choose later on.
Which nursing background do you have?
Nurses have diverse educational backgrounds. How long did nursing school take you? What degree or credentials you have largely determines your potentials for becoming a doctor, or the length of time you need to become one. There are three different routes.
Diploma in nursing from a hospital-based school – this 2- or 3-year program is not a bachelor’s degree, and a nurse will need to have an additional 2-4 years to acquire a BS, which is prerequisite to becoming a doctor.
Associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) – Many who go from CNA to RN take this route. Again, this is a 2-year undergraduate education, and while it is a degree, it is not sufficient as preparatory degree to an MD or DO program, or to a doctorate degree.
Bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) – becoming a doctor through any of the 3 routes requires at least a bachelor’s degree. Hence, only this credential allows a nurse direct entry to an MD or DO program, or an indirect route to a doctorate degree.
Doctorate in Nursing
A nurse with a BSN first pursues a two-year master’s degree in nursing (MSN). There are MSN programs today that are designed for RNs with associate degrees or diplomas in nursing. Naturally, this will be much longer than the 2-year MSN for BSN nurses.
After completing the MSN, a nurse may then proceed to take a doctorate degree program. There are several doctoral paths for nurses with MSN degrees.
For those who wish to become nursing educators, they can pursue a doctorate in nursing education.
For future nursing researchers or clinical nurse consultants, a doctorate in nursing science will be ideal. A Ph.D. in
Nursing Practice prepares a nurse to become an independent Nurse Practitioner (NP).
On the average, it will take a nurse with a BSN between 4 and 6 years to complete the master’s then the doctorate degrees.
Those who have less than the BSN may still work for a Ph.D. It will just take them longer because they will need to complete their BSN first.
Doctor of Medicine
An RN becomes a physician in two ways, and one is by taking the medical school route.
A bachelor’s degree with concentration in the sciences is required for admission to an allopathic or MD program.
If you have a BSN, that will be a good preparatory degree. Remember, however, that screening for admission to MD program is a highly competitive process.
You must have an impressive Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) score, high GPA, and a remarkable essay.
To give you an idea how competitive MD school admission is, more than half of applicants get rejected yearly, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.
Assuming you hurdle the admissions process successfully, it will be 4 years of intensive coursework.
One year of internship follows. You will then obtain a licence as an MD, and proceed to 3- or 4-year residency to specialize in a particular area.
Becoming a fellow may also be a future option. Basically, however, medical school after completing your BSN requires 4-5 years of schooling.
Doctor of Osteopathy
The other path to becoming a physician is via an osteopathic or DO program. It must be noted that the government recognizes DO doctors as professionally and legally equivalent to MD doctors.
Osteopathic doctors are trained to give holistic treatment by healing the body, mind and spirit. MCAT and GPA requirements for DO schools are slightly lower than in MD schools, but a bachelor’s degree as pre-medicine degree is definitely a must. Your BSN will be most welcome.
As you can see, you can become a doctor after being a nurse and you have different routes listed in this article.
Nurses share the same workplace as doctors. It is often said that nurses take medical “care” of patients, while doctors “cure” patients.
Undeniably, doctors enjoy a higher position than nurses in the hierarchy of healthcare professions. It is not surprising, then, if there are registered nurses who want to become doctors.
Apart from the possible routes and lengths of studying, here are some things to think about before you make a decision:
Nurses provide direct and day-to-day medical care to patients, and perform bedside interaction daily.
Doctors, on the other hand, see patients during consultations, make diagnoses, and provide treatment plans.
Doctors don’t spend as much time to attend to each of their patients as nurses do.
The cost of medical school runs roughly between $200,000 and $300,000. Many licensed MDs spend their first 15 years working as primary physicians paying off loans.
They end up paying student loans almost half their salaries, and earning a net income far below what RNs earn. Will you and your family be ready for this trade-off?
Doctors need to specialize and sub-specialize to become competitive in their profession.
If you are the type who never grows tired of learning or pursuing higher education and training, then becoming a physician opens never-ending advancement opportunities.
Nurses have fields of specialization, too. In fact, nurses can pursue specialty areas in pediatrics, obstetrics (or labor and delivery nurse), neonatal, forensic, psychiatric, and many other interesting and rewarding areas, including non clinical nursing jobs or working from home.
They can work as flight nurses or travel nurses, and have an entirely different work environment.
Many factors must be considered before you decide to leave your nursing profession and embark on a new one.
Make sure that you know what your options are, and what sacrifices you will have to make. Nothing beats being prepared financially and emotionally.
I hope this answers your question. Can a nurse become a doctor?