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NP & PA Student Blog

Why Didn't You Just Become a Doctor?

Published July 1, 2014 3:02 PM by Johanna Golston

After becoming a nurse practitioner and then deciding to obtain my doctor of nursing practice, I have been asked this question many times by patients, friends, family members, and even strangers. My short answer, which truly sums it up, is, "because I like the nursing aspect."

But what is the ‘nursing aspect'?  In 1860, Florence Nightingale defined nursing as "the act of utilizing the environment of the patient to assist him in his recovery." 106 years later, Virginia Henderson modernized Nightingale's definition and said, "the unique function of the nurse is to assist the individual, sick or well, in the performance of those activities contributing to health or its recovery (or to peaceful death) that he would perform unaided if he had the necessary strength, will, or knowledge, and to do this in such a way as to help him gain independence as rapidly as possible."

Both women describe a profession skilled in the act of caring, not just treating.

McMillan Dictionary defines doctor as "someone whose job is to treat people who are ill or injured; someone who has the highest degree given by a university."  In contrast the term nurse is described as "helping someone to improve or become more successful; to drink slowly over a period of time; the act of feeding a baby."

These definitions illustrate the helping, caring, calm, thorough and nurturing nature of nursing... of a nurse. These are the reasons I don't just become a doctor. As a clinician, I do treat illness, but as a nurse I treat the whole person. I want to improve their health condition. I want to prevent future health conditions. I want to educate, empower, and encourage them. I want to know what health means to them, what they value, what they need in order to achieve their optimum physical, mental, social, and spiritual health.

So tell me, why didn't you just become a doctor?


NP & PA Student Blog : Why Didn't You Just Become a Doctor?

September 6, 2014 6:05 AM

Thank you for sharing your perspective on this Dave.  You are right we are socialized differently.  I too would never want to give up the ability to hug people, kiss babies, and care for the person, not just their disease!

Johanna Golston July 5, 2014 5:14 PM

I am a PA.

I think I would echo your comments. I never wanted to be a physician. I thought differently. I do not frame my thoughts in the context of nursing but they are very close.

I hugged people. I kissed babies. I cared about them as people. I asked if they eat supper?

I grant you some specialists can't do that as much (surgery, anesthesia, etc) and those that do family practice, IM, peeds can do it more, but we PAs and NPs are socialized differently.

If I had to do it over again, I would do it the same way.

Dave Mittman, PA, DFAAPA

Dave Mittman July 1, 2014 5:39 PM

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