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Physicians and Nurse Practitioners: Their Role and Socialization Process


In the medical field, there are physicians (MD) and nurse practitioners (NP). The nurse practitioner’s position was initially created to fill up the gap left by the shortage of physicians. The nurse practitioners had to function under the guidance of physicians. The nurse practitioners bring medical aid to people living in disadvantaged societies and thus extend medical services to a wider population. On the other hand, MDs are trained to diagnose patients and prescribe treatment. The focus of this paper will be to discuss the roles and the socialization process of physicians and advanced practice nurse practitioners and how society responds to these statuses.

Role of MDs and NPs

The MDs are also called allopathic physicians. They may work in one specialty or several. The specialties include surgery, anesthesiology, and psychiatry among others. They do this by examining the patients and then making decisions on what kind of treatment to give them. They also give their patients information about the prevention of diseases.

Nurse practitioners have advanced education in comparison with nurses who have two to four years of training. Therefore, their roles have extended over the years. Today nurse practitioners have the role of providing care to hospitalized patients (DeNicola, Kleid & Brink, 1994). The expansion of their roles is greatly attributed to inadequate physicians in health institutions in some communities. The healthcare industry has a shortage of qualified MDs for to lack of funds due to the high cost of running the health institutions. The government also allocates fewer funds to assist students in graduate medical schools. Thus, few can attend medical graduate schools.

Some states allow NPs to practice independently. They diagnose patients and can prescribe treatment. Conversely, in other states NPs must practice under a physician and as articulated in the state’s statute. The NP’s function in various fields. For instance, some practice in the pediatric unit. This requires them to have additional training besides the advanced education they possess to be able to serve the children well. The NPs work under the physician in charge. It is also important for the primary physician to be available when needed by the NPs. The NPs are required to make decisions regarding the patient together with the primary caregiver. These decisions include admission or discharge of patients.

Their roles also include, getting medical histories from patients, performing physical examinations and diagnoses. They also provide treatment in case of ordinary infections or injuries. In addition, they provide care in management of chronic illnesses such as diabetes; they can also order X-rays or lab tests and give an interpretation of the same. The NPs also provide services such as counseling and family planning, immunizations, screening and childcare.

Process of socialization of NPs and MDs

The society socializes men and women differently. Women are socialized as caretakers in most societies and men as providers. In the medical profession, most of the NPs are women who are already socialized as caregivers. Thus, they take what the society has taught them into their profession. They take care of the people under them by helping them do what they are unable to do for themselves due to sickness. They do this to ensure the well-being of the patients.

The socialization process of NPs starts with formal education and students are taught all the basics of medicine in nursing. Afterward the students are allowed to work in a real environment to socialize them into their role of care provision and support. Later those who desire to advance their education can get training in an area of their liking.

The medical field is predominantly masculine. Society encourages boys to take courses in medicine while girls are encouraged to take nursing which fits their socialized roles. It is also interesting to note that physicians are not socialized enough when they join medical organizations. They come out of medical schools with high expectations about their new jobs only to be disappointed when they encounter unexpected challenges in their practice. This may lead to dissatisfaction and hence the physician is not able to serve his or her patients at the optimal level and both are dissatisfied with the results. It is important to have a good relationship between the stakeholders in health institutions to have meaningful relationships and healthy working conditions to make everyone happy (Koehler, Fottler & Swan, 1992).

Society’s perception of MDs and NPs

The NPs are primary caregivers and society appreciates the role they play. These NPs offer care to the sick in the society in a humanistic manner because that is the primary role of nursing which is their core foundation Thus, they can cater to their patients in a caring manner. On the other hand, MDs are seen as just as scientists who diagnose diseases (Mezey & McGivern, 2003).

The society has a mixed perception about NPs some view them as very useful especially because they provide care in disadvantaged areas. They offer their services to populations that are disadvantaged such as schoolchildren and the elderly in poor neighborhoods. The people in such areas regard the NPs highly because they are the closest they get to a physician in their situations. On the other hand, in advantaged areas, people view them differently. They are not comfortable with the NPs providing all the services they require because they feel that the NPs are not as qualified as MDs. They feel scared about their safety because the NPs do not have as much training as the MDs. However, not many patients ask to see physicians instead of NPs but those who do, are allowed to see them. Thus, the level of appreciation in these areas is lower than in the disadvantaged areas. Conversely, society perceives the MDs as being of a higher status than the NPs and thus feels more secure in the hands of MDs and has fewer worries about medical safety as they are confident the MDs have more knowledge in their various specialties.


Finally, the NPs and MDs will continue to work hand in hand to provide much-needed care to society. The Role of NPs will increase especially due to the high number of patients who seek medical care. The NPs will have to step in and fill the gap created by the shortage of MDs to provide medical care to as many citizens as possible. The two professions have conflicted MDs feel that the NPs are taking over their roles. However, a better way of satisfying both parties should be found so that they can continue to serve the society that badly needs them.

Reference List

  1. DeNicola, L., Kleid, D. & Brink, L. (1994). Use of pediatric physician extenders in pediatric and neonatal intensive care units. Critical Care Medicine 22, 1856-1864.
  2. Koehler, W.F., Fottler, M.D & Swan, J.E. (1992).Physician–patient satisfaction: equity in the health services encounter. Medical Care Review 49 (4), 455–484.
  3. Mezey, D. M. & McGivern, O. D., (2003). Nurse practitioners: evolution of advanced practice. New York: Springer Publishing Company.

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