It’s possible that the next time you go to see the doctor for a routine checkup, you won’t actually see a doctor. Instead, you may see a nurse practitioner who handles much of the patient care once handled by a doctor. In some cases, patients might choose themselves to see a nurse practitioner. Why? Because it usually takes less time to get into see a nurse practitioner in Texas. Also, today’s nurse practitioner handles many of the same issues that used to be the sole province of doctors. Many patients have come to trust nurse practitioners to provide a high level of care. 

Nurse Practitioner Duties 

The term “nurse practitioner” actually covers quite a few different jobs. At Houston Baptist University, students can enter a Master of Science in Nursing degree program that allows them to concentrate on family medicine and pediatrics. While the laws differ by state, nurse practitioners in Texas can work directly with patients, either under a physician’s care or as part of a health team. They can assess, diagnose, treat and prescribe.  

In Texas, nurse practitioners work under a “restricted practice” designation that mandates nurse practitioners are either supervised by physicians, have work delegated to them by a doctor or are part of a medical team, according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.  

It’s a job that is in big demand. In Texas, the number of nurse practitioner jobs is expected to grow 43.8% by 2026. Also, Texas employs the third-highest number of nurse practitioners in the country. Both the Dallas and Houston metro areas are among the top 10 metro areas for employment of nurse practitioners. 

Differences Between Nurse Practitioners and Doctors 

So, what are the differences between a doctor and a nurse practitioner? They tend to fall into the following areas. 

The first obvious difference is in education. Nurse practitioner earns a graduate degree, typically in either family medicine or in working with children. Doctors earn a Ph.D. and often specialize in one area. Doctors are certified by the Medical Board, while nurse practitioners are certified by the nursing board. 

Accessibility is also an issue. Some parts of the country, especially rural areas and smaller towns, are experiencing a shortage of doctors. Nurse practitioners can alleviate this issue by seeing patients in these areas. In some of these areas, walk-in clinics might be staffed by nurse practitioners rather than doctors. Much of the difference on which one you should see is an issue of common sense. For surgeries and special cases, you’ll definitely want to see a doctor. For routine checkups or to treat a common condition such as the flu, a nurse practitioner can handle the job. 

Those who decide to become a nurse practitioner in Texas are becoming part of an area of tremendous growth within the healthcare industry. Those who graduate from a nursing practitioner degree program are putting themselves on the cutting edge of medicine, handling many of the duties once done by doctors.