Nursing and medicine are two of the most essential and respected professions in the healthcare sector. Nurses and doctors work together to provide care and treatment to patients, and to improve the health and well-being of individuals and communities. However, despite their shared goals and values, nurses and doctors do not always receive the same prestige and attention from society, the media, and even the health system itself. In this article, we will explore the reasons and consequences of this disparity and the ways to overcome it.
Why do nurses and doctors receive different prestige and attention?
Many factors contribute to the different levels of prestige and attention that nurses and doctors receive, such as:
- Education and training: Doctors undergo longer and more rigorous education and training than nurses, which can create a perception of higher status and authority. Doctors typically spend four years in medical school, followed by three to seven years of residency and fellowship, depending on their specialty. Nurses, on the other hand, can enter the profession with a diploma, an associate degree, or a bachelor’s degree, which takes two to four years to complete. Nurses can also pursue advanced degrees, such as master’s or doctoral degrees, to become nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, nurse educators, or nurse researchers, but these are not mandatory for most nursing roles.
- Roles and responsibilities: Doctors have more autonomy and decision-making power than nurses, which can create a perception of higher influence and impact. Doctors are responsible for diagnosing, prescribing, and performing procedures, while nurses are responsible for implementing, monitoring, and evaluating the care plan. Doctors are also seen as the leaders of the health care team, while nurses are seen as the followers or supporters. Doctors are also more likely to specialize in a specific field or organ system, while nurses are more likely to provide holistic and comprehensive care to patients.
- Compensation and recognition: Doctors earn more money and receive more awards and honors than nurses, which can create a perception of higher value and merit. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for physicians and surgeons was $208,000 in 2019, while the median annual wage for registered nurses was $73,300. According to the Nobel Prize website, 219 Nobel Prizes in Physiology or Medicine have been awarded since 1901, but none of them have gone to nurses. According to the U.S. News and World Report, the job of a physician is ranked #5 on the 2021 Best Jobs list, while the job of a registered nurse is ranked #13.
What are the consequences of this disparity?
The different levels of prestige and attention that nurses and doctors receive can have negative consequences for both the professions and the patients, such as:
- Disrespect and discrimination: Nurses may face disrespect and discrimination from doctors, patients, or the public, who may underestimate, undervalue, or undermine their knowledge, skills, and contributions. Nurses may also face harassment, abuse, or violence in the workplace, especially from patients or their families, who may not appreciate or respect their care. Nurses may also face gender bias, as nursing is still a predominantly female profession, while medicine is still a predominantly male profession.
- Burnout and turnover: Nurses may experience burnout and turnover due to the high demands and low rewards of their work, which can affect their physical, mental, and emotional health. Nurses may also feel frustrated, dissatisfied, or demoralized by the lack of recognition, support, or advancement opportunities in their career. Nurses may also face ethical dilemmas or conflicts with doctors, who may not listen to or collaborate with them, or who may override their judgments or decisions.
- Quality and safety of care: The disparity between nurses and doctors may also affect the quality and safety of care for patients, who may not receive the best possible outcomes or experiences. Patients may not trust or follow the advice or instructions of nurses, who may have more contact and rapport with them, or who may have more insight and expertise on their needs and preferences. Patients may also suffer from errors, complications, or infections, due to poor communication, coordination, or cooperation between nurses and doctors, or due to insufficient staffing, resources, or equipment for nurses.
How can this disparity be overcome?
There are many ways to overcome the disparity between nurses and doctors and to promote a culture of respect, collaboration, and appreciation for both professions, such as:
- Education and training: Nurses and doctors should receive more education and training on the roles and responsibilities, the strengths and challenges, and the perspectives and experiences of each other, to foster mutual understanding and respect. Nurses and doctors should also receive more education and training on the principles and practices of interprofessional education and collaboration, to enhance their teamwork and partnership skills. Nurses and doctors should also receive more education and training on the issues and solutions of diversity, equity, and inclusion, to address and prevent the discrimination and bias that may exist in the healthcare sector.
- Roles and responsibilities: Nurses and doctors should have more autonomy and decision-making power in their respective domains, to recognize and utilize their full potential and expertise. Nurses and doctors should also have more opportunities and incentives to expand and advance their roles and responsibilities, to meet the changing and growing needs and expectations of the patients and the health system. Nurses and doctors should also have more involvement and influence in the leadership and governance of the health care organizations and institutions, to ensure and improve the quality and equity of care and services.
- Compensation and recognition: Nurses and doctors should receive fair and adequate compensation for their work, to reflect and reward their value and merit. Nurses and doctors should also receive more awards and honors for their achievements and contributions, to celebrate and inspire their excellence and innovation. Nurses and doctors should also receive more feedback and appreciation from their colleagues, patients, and the public, to acknowledge and support their efforts and impacts.