To be or not to be… a doctor? That is a question many registered nurses (RN) might ask themselves at some point in their career. While being a nurse is a rewarding and fulfilling career choice for many, for others, it’s a stepping stone to becoming a doctor. For those who are seriously considering the switch, navigating the process can be daunting. Many nurses may not be aware of how long the process takes, or even where to start. Going from being a nurse to becoming a doctor may be a difficult task, but not impossible. With many nursing (RN) to doctor (MD) programs available nowadays, nurses can now achieve their dream of becoming a doctor.

Here’s what you need to know if you want to switch from RN to MD:

How Will Your Job as a Doctor Be Different From Your Job as a Nurse?

Nurses and doctors both have equally important roles in the healthcare industry. Both work together with the common goal of giving quality patient care and saving lives. But the similarities end there. 

The differences in the job descriptions of nurses and doctors are vast. A nurse’s job is to care for the patient, apply or remove bandages, administer injections and IV drips, and anything else the doctor asks for. In contrast, doctors are at the top of the hierarchy and are responsible for diagnosing illnesses, prescribing medicines, deciding the course of treatment, and sometimes even performing surgeries. Registered nurses do not have as much responsibility, and authority as medical doctors have. A nurse only provides assistance to the patient and/or doctor and has no authority to decide a patient’s treatment plan.

From Registered Nurse to Doctor: How to Make the Career Switch

The first step in going from an RN to an MD is attending medical school and earning a medical degree. This means that you need to meet the medical school admission requirements, including scoring high in the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) exam, strong letters of recommendation, good GPA, premed course prerequisites, and other admission requirements for the college of your choice. Check if your nursing degree includes the prerequisite courses required for admission into medical school because if not, it is recommended to take premed courses to qualify for admission into medical school. Some medical schools do not require an MCAT score, but if you’re applying to the ones that do, you have to do so within three years of attempting the MCAT.

As a nurse, you may have prior medical knowledge, but it still may not be enough when applying for RN to MD programs or taking the MCAT. So brush up on your medical knowledge and prepare thoroughly.

What to Expect After Getting into Medical School?

Once you get into a medical school, you’re on the path to becoming a doctor. The first two years involve classroom learning and gaining theoretical knowledge in medicine. The third and fourth years are based on clinical rotations and gaining hands-on, practical experience.

After completing medical school, you will then need to complete a two to four-year residency in the area you choose. If you want to further specialise in a medical field, such as gynaecology or nephrology, you will need to complete a fellowship under a specialist in the respective field, which can take five more years.

What Next?

The road to becoming a doctor does not end after medical school. As a doctor, you will have to constantly study to stay updated on the latest developments in the field, and regularly take tests to retain your license to practice.

Nursing jobs are rewarding and always in demand, but the salaries of a doctor are much higher. Therefore, if you are looking to upskill, becoming a doctor will be worth the effort and time.