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RN to MD: Everything You Need to Know

RN to MD: Everything You Need to Know

Being a registered nurse (RN) is incredibly rewarding. It’s full of challenges that keep you on your toes, keep you working, and allow you the chance to help others and truly make a difference. But for some, being a nurse is simply a stepping stone, not the end of their career path. Going from RN to MD is within their sights.

For some nurses, the drive to be and do something more with their career and their skills is a must. Transitioning from the role of a nurse to that of a medical doctor (MD) is not as difficult as you might think, but it does take a great deal of dedication, practice, and drive.

Here’s all you need to know about transitioning from RN to MD.

Why Would You Want to Change from an RN to an MD?

Becoming a nurse takes time, effort, drive, and full dedication. The path to a career as a nurse is not simple. Some wrestle with the stigma of being a nurse rather than a medical doctor. Becoming a doctor is something that many nurses dream about and taking that leap of faith can be tricky, if not scary. One obvious reason that many nurses decide to become a medical doctor is the opportunity to help more people, take on more responsibility, and make more money for their hard work.

Pros of Moving from RN to MD

It’s helpful to know the pros and cons of going from registered nurse to medical doctor. As far as pros go, most nurses already have a great deal of responsibility, work many hours, and work in hospital settings. So although being a doctor means having more responsibility, most nurses are already used to the type of workload that they’re likely to have when they become a doctor.

Another pro is that you already have base medical knowledge. This makes it easier to understand complex concepts when you get into medical school. Nurses also already have experience with bedside manner and often experience with the hectic settings and environment that many doctors practice in. In addition, doctors have a higher salary, more control over their hours, and the opportunity to help more people.

Cons of Moving from RN to MD

Though the pros are numerous, there are also plenty of cons to keep in mind. One major con of going from RN to MD is the amount of work it takes to get there. Though nurses have a great deal of medical training, not all of it applies to their future career as a medical doctor which means they still have to do a large amount of work. Nurses also have to invest money and time to go to medical school and complete a residency which could mean sacrificing time with family and friends. The odds are also good that you won’t be able to keep your nursing job during medical school due to the demand.

Differences Between an RN and an MD

There are some distinct differences between being a nurse and being a medical doctor. The first difference is, of course, the chain of command. Doctors are generally at the top of the chain of command and instead of being responsible for the personal care of a group of patients, they are responsible for things like prescribing medication, authorizing treatments and procedures, working to create a diagnosis and more.

The job of a doctor is more than just carrying out orders, but rather creating the orders and detailing the course of treatment for a patient. Another difference that you may notice is that a doctor is often consulted for a new course of treatment if something happens with a patient.

RNs often do not have as much responsibility as a doctor might have. They’re tasked with carrying out the doctor’s orders and working to make sure that the patients’ basic and advanced needs are met. This could mean that nurses sometimes might be on-call for a shift, just in case more help is needed to care for all the patients. Because of this, patients may see several different nurses during their course of treatment while the doctor will stay the same.

Still another difference is that a nurse is not going to be responsible for things like calling for surgery to be done or prescribing potentially dangerous medications. Though an RN does a huge range of tasks and does an absolutely outstanding job, they are likely not going to have the same level of responsibility that a doctor might have.

RN to MD Education Requirements

Being a nurse is a fantastic thing and it does take a great deal of school and effort to become a nurse. That being said, it’s not likely that a nurse’s previous courses and skills will cancel out any courses necessary to become a doctor.

Steps to Becoming an MD—Taking the MCAT

The first step to becoming a doctor is to make sure you have a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN). Most RNs are going to have a four-year degree already but some may not. The next step is to determine what school you want to go to. After you decide what school you want, you will need to take the MCAT. The MCAT is short for the Medical College Admission Test. This is going to determine your skill level when it comes to things like problem-solving, critical thinking, written analysis, and overall knowledge of scientific concepts and principles. This is basically going to help to determine what your strengths are and where your skill level is at.

The MCAT is something that you must take within three years of applying for medical school. This means you have three years from the day that you take the MCAT to apply to a medical school of your choice. Though your prior medical knowledge might prepare you for what is to come, it does not give you any sort of edge when it comes to applying for schools or taking the exam. If you are a nurse and have been practicing for a long time, it’s possible that you may not know all the current medical practices or may have forgotten things that could be on the test. Be sure to take the time to study and be prepared for the test.

The MCAT focuses less on real-world application and more on the book learning that you’ll be buried in during medical school. Your residency will help you with real-world application. The MCAT scores are going to be reported to the medical schools that you have applied to. Be aware that some schools prefer students to have medical working experience and others do not.

What Are Schools Looking For?

Different medical schools look for different things in their applicants. For the most part, schools are going to be looking at your undergraduate grades, the courses that you took, the university where you got your bachelor’s degree from, and your MCAT score. Some schools don’t even look at the applications of students that score below a certain threshold.

Once you’ve applied and been accepted, your next to go from RN to MD is plowing through medical school.

Heading to Medical School

Medical school is no short order. It takes time and effort and will take a great deal of work for everyone, even a nurse that has years of experience in a medical setting. Knowing what to expect can help make the process simpler and help you make a decision of what your next step will be.

Cost of Medical School

There are a few different things to keep in mind when you start paying for medical school. The first thing to consider is that some hospitals or other medical settings may help pay for part or all of medical school in exchange for several years of service. This means that you may be able to sign a contract with a hospital or other facility in which they agree to help pay for your medical school if you agree to work for them for a set amount of time after you have graduated. Hospitals may have other programs or forms of financial aid available that you can look into.

The AAMC, or Association of American Medical Colleges, states that the average cost of one year of medical school at a public university is $34,592 for in-state students and $58,668 for out-of-state students. For a private college, the cost is at the very least $50,000 for both in-state and out-of-state students. The overall cost includes the tuition, books, and other fees that are associated with the school and with any labs that you have to do.

The Basics of Medical School

Medical school is two years of classroom instruction and labs and two years in the clinical or residential setting. This is a requirement for all students regardless of what experience they may have coming into the program. Clinical rotations take you through a range of different settings including different branches of a hospital or different types of clinics. This broad range of experiences will put you in contact with a huge range of patients and their individual problems, professional doctors that can accurately gauge your skills, and the real-world experiences that come with both.

After you complete medical school you are going to be required to complete a residency in the area of your choosing. The residency will range from two to four years depending on where you sign on. If you want to be a specialist, like a doctor that treats only cancer or a heart surgeon, you will need to complete a fellowship. This fellowship is going to be under a specialist in the field you are entering and can last up to five years. The more specialized your field, the longer your fellowship is likely going to be. The entire process can last up to 10 years depending on what you are trying to do.  

Certification

A doctor’s education does not stop after medical school. Doctors must take a series of tests in order to be licensed in the state they want to practice in. They are required to have certified medical education (CME) credits in order to keep up their licensure. They are generally required to have at least 25 hours per year.

Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.s rather than M.D.) must complete their residency, take the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination, and complete 50 hours of continuing education in order to be able to get their license renewed each year. If a doctor wants to be highly specialized they additionally must get certificates in the area that they want to practice in. They can receive further certification to do more or to further specialize their degree.

Career Outlook

If you want to go from RN to MD, keep in mind that there is an always-present need for both. The average RN makes $40,000 per year. An RN can make even more if they pursue further certifications and skills. The average MD makes $294,000 per year, with the opportunity to make more if they work to specialize in a certain field. Salaries can change depending on the state you work in, your medical setting (hospital vs clinic) and how many hours.

There is always a call for nurses and doctors, as both are very demanding, yet essential, jobs. The demand for nurses will continue to grow since their schedules often include difficult and awkward shifts, including nights and weekends. The need for doctors will also continue to grow since the career takes a huge toll on the individual and the human population is growing.

Other Options

For the nurses that want to further their career but might not want to become a doctor, you can always become a nurse practitioner, take part in specialized nursing programs, and pursue more certifications to specialize your career. Nurses that do not want to become a doctor or a nurse practitioner can specialize in certain things like labor and delivery, geriatrics and more. Being a nurse is incredibly rewarding, but if you are looking to become something more and to do more with your skills, becoming a doctor may be worth your consideration.

Contact us today to find out more about what steps you need to take to go from RN to MD and further your career!

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