A list detailing the advantages RNs may have when they choose to pursue medical school
There’s no doubt about it. Nursing is an extremely rewarding career that combines a passion of caring for patients with the medical skills and clinical knowledge necessary to work in an in-demand profession.
Registered Nurses (RNs) provide direct medical care to their patients, help educate patients and their families, and assist doctors during patient visits and procedures. As an RN, you’re on the front lines of patient healthcare.
There are several paths you can take to become a nurse. One option is to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). This preferred route can provide more opportunities for promotion, including nursing management and administration positions. Sometimes a BSN degree is required for certain nursing specializations or to earn an advanced degree, like a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN).
In this article, we’ll focus on the many unique qualities of a nurse and why hospitals and clinics are looking for physicians who possess these same qualities.
Can a Nurse Become a Doctor?
The answer—absolutely! Many nurses choose to make the transition from RN to MD. As an RN, you may be able to accelerate your medical school admission process. To become a Doctor of Medicine (MD), you’ll need to complete medical school, attend a residency program, and pass all the required certifications.
Now for the next question: Do RNs make better doctors? The numerous qualities and skills RNs possess help make a strong case of why nurses make the best doctors.
Below are the 10 qualities and skills you’ll acquire as a nurse that can serve as an excellent foundation for becoming a doctor.
1. Patient Care Experience
We’ll start with perhaps the most important, your experience caring for patients.
Nurses enjoy countless opportunities to work with patients in a variety of settings. As an RN, you may be the first friendly face a patient sees when they enter a clinic or hospital. You will often perform tasks like taking a patient’s vitals, documenting their concerns and symptoms, educating them on what to expect before a procedure, or helping them recover and heal after surgery.
The experience nurses gain through patient care and addressing their individual concerns is invaluable. Nurses who are considering becoming doctors can leverage their vast experience with patients as they train to become medical doctors and play an even greater role in the diagnosis and treatment of patients.
2. Hands-On Clinical Experience
Most nursing students have the opportunity to work on the floor with patients before deciding on their specialty. During their nursing programs, they can participate in hands-on clinical procedures. That experience continues as they begin working as RNs in doctor’s offices, clinics, and hospitals. There is no substitute for clinical experience outside of the classroom.
When making the decision to transition from RN to doctor, nurses bring thousands of hours of clinical work with them before they even begin medical school. This clinical experience can put them ahead of their peers who may not have worked extensively in a clinical position before starting on their MD.
Nurse Edleda James had this to say about transitioning to medical school: “Being a bedside nurse instilled a steady confidence that I rely on even now. I can speak to patients well as I have practiced it for several years,” she explained. “I can perform clinical procedures safely, such as putting in NG tubes and IVs.”
3. Interpersonal Skills
As an RN, you’ll work with doctors daily. Understanding this relationship in the workplace is critical to successful patient care. However, that’s just one of many hospital personnel you’ll work with regularly.
Nurses also interact with dozens of ancillary roles to provide healthcare to patients. Working with and understanding these various roles—like pharmacists, phlebotomists, CNAs, occupational therapists, and others—gives nurses a greater understanding of all aspects of patient care.
Knowing when and how to interact with each of these roles is a skill that can help you better understand patent care before you start medical school. As a doctor, those skills of learning to work with others will only expand.
4. Educational Background
Another key advantage is the experience you’ll already have gained by completing schooling requirements, like earning your BSN or preparing for and passing required certification exams like the NCLEX-RN. Your prior education can serve as a solid foundation as you continue your schooling.
Much of the knowledge you’ve gained during your program will help prepare you for future areas of study. Courses you‘ve already completed may also fill some of the prerequisites required for medical school acceptance.
5. Problem-Solving Skills
One of the most critical qualities of a doctor is the ability to problem solve, which is also a skill that nurses use daily in hospitals and clinics. As a nurse, you’ll be honing your problem-solving skills every day, from answering challenging questions from patients, dealing with medical supply shortages, or having to track down a patient’s medical records.
Real-world experience solving these issues for patients and doctors makes you more valuable. It also prepares you with a problem-solving mindset that can aid you in your medical school program. As a better problem solver, you can be a better doctor. Your instructors, colleagues, and future patients will highly value that trait.
6. Communication Skills
We’ve already mentioned the incredible value that patient care experience provides for nurses who decide to become doctors. One of the most valuable aspects of that experience is developing superior communication skills. You’ll also need them as a doctor—and hospitals and clinics look for good communicators when hiring doctors and nurses.
Nurses who become doctors are often better at communicating with their nursing staff, having worked on a team of nurses themselves. If you’re a nurse who can communicate personally and effectively with patients, as well as the other roles you’ll encounter as a medical doctor, you’re on the right track to success.
7. Teamwork Skills
Nursing is built on teamwork. Because of the nature of the position, nurses are always ready to step in where they are needed most—and they always have each other’s backs. According to Indeed’s Career Guide, some of the other benefits of teamwork in nursing include greater job satisfaction, improved patient care, and more efficient processes.
Teamwork helps nurses build stronger working relationships with other members of the nursing staff, as well as doctors. That’s one reason why good teamwork practices can be a great asset for nurses who want to become doctors. For example, a primary care physician must coordinate well with other doctors who will provide more specialized care to give their patients the best possible outcomes.
8. Similar Work Schedules
RNs in hospitals or surgery centers may work 12-hour, day, or night shifts. That’s because most hospitals provide 24-hour patient care. On the other hand, nurses who work in doctor’s offices, such as a dermatologist’s office, might work schedules that are more of a 9-to-5 routine, with weekends and holidays off. As a doctor, you’ll most likely work similar work schedules as nurses, depending on your specialty area and the type of facility you work in.
Putting in long, challenging shifts may come as a shock to many new medical students but not to nurses who have already logged experience in a variety of work environments. As such, when moving from nurse to doctor, you’ll already have a good understanding of the work schedules required for the type of physician you plan to become.
According to a recent article in U.S. News, since nurses spend more time with patients than other healthcare providers, they develop a deeper connection with their patients. The same article notes that “nurses use that extra time with patients to optimize care in a way that other providers can’t always manage.” What’s most interesting is that there isn’t much training for compassion and connection. Instead, it’s a skill nurses learn on the job.
Doctors must also learn how to show compassion and understanding to patients. That’s why nurses who become doctors may already have a head start in that area. Although patients usually want their doctors to be competent and educated, they also want them to be compassionate and understand what they may be going through.
Being a nurse often means you’ll work long hours, have a demanding schedule, and face difficult circumstances. During the Covid-19 pandemic, nurses were some of the front-line workers who cared for patients despite possible exposure to a virus for which there was not yet a vaccination or preferred treatment. For nurses to get up daily with the resolve and determination to show up for those patients is admirable.
To make the transition from RN to MD, you’ll need that kind of resilience and drive. It’s a quality that will serve you well in your next role as a medical doctor. It’s just one of the many qualities on our list that helps explain why nurses make the best doctors.
We Help Nurses Go Further
If you’re ready to start your nursing program, Eagle Gate College is here to help. Whether it’s our blended (online & in-person) BSN program, our RN to BSN program, or our Master’s Entry Program in Nursing, we’re here to help you succeed.
Remember, you don’t need to be an MD to positively impact your patients or have a rewarding healthcare professional career. However, should you decide to move beyond nursing and pursue medical school, you’ll already have many qualities that will make you a more successful physician.