A DNP (doctor of nursing practice) and an MD (doctor of medicine) are vastly different. One is a highly-trained nurse, and the other is a physician, with all the scope of practice allowances that come with that title. A "DNP" is an advanced-practice registered nurse who may specialize in the following roles:

The DNP nurse has achieved one of the highest degrees awarded in the field of nursing (next to the Ph.D. in Nursing, which is just as prestigious but has more of an academic focus compared to the clinical focus of the DNP). It demonstrates that the nurse exemplifies clinical expertise and knowledge in the field and that the nurse is skilled in identifying healthcare-related issues and can propose evidenced-based solutions in the ever-changing world of healthcare.

An MD is a medical doctor, also known as a physician. While it may be evident that a DNP is a nurse and an MD is a doctor, the explanation of the differences goes a little deeper than the title. It's important to realize that nurses and doctors are trained differently:

  • Nurse Approach - The nurse's approach to healthcare is holistic. Nurses view the patient as a whole - which means they assess the physical, mental, and even spiritual well-being of patients. They also look at, and involve, a patient's support system in relation to disease processes. Patient education and teaching are paramount in that it helps to both heal and prevent disease.
  • Physician Approach - The physician's approach to healthcare is disease-based. They are presented with a healthcare disorder and find ways to fix it. They order imaging tests and blood work to diagnose and order a treatment plan. However, in recent years, preventive medicine is becoming a huge part of a physician's job.


Both the DNP and MD are highly trained - it's just under different scopes of practice. Nurse practitioner DNPs may practice very similarly to an MD, but again, one is trained as a physician under a medical doctor's scope of practice, and one as a very high-level nurse. Therefore, the approach may be somewhat different. However, both are patient-centered and work to achieve the best possible outcomes for patients.

Amanda Bucceri Androus, RN, BSN
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