The type of care a doctor gives their patient versus the care a nurse gives the patient may seem like two very different things, but they’re not.

The medical model of care and the nursing model of care can seem, at first glance, that they only have a fleeting similarity. The doctor makes a diagnosis, does a procedure or surgery, proscribes a medication, etc. A nurse provides care, usually in a hospital setting, administering medication, giving assessments, helping them move, etc.

The medical model of care seems like cold, clinical care. The nurse’s care seems softer – in fact, it’s even been called a type of “soft care”. But that’s not entirely true. Nurse Practitioners can do most of the same duties as physicians and vice versa further blurring the line.

So what makes these two models of care different and how do they work together?

We’re going to dive a little bit deeper into the medical model of care and the nursing model of care to define what they are and show you that the two types of care, together, are essential to a patient’s recovery and wellbeing.

Two Models Of Healthcare:


What Is The Nursing Model?


What is the nursing model of care? The nursing model still includes many of the same aspects of the medical model of care, but it takes a more holistic approach.

The nurse, when providing care for their patient, still does assessments, diagnosis, and treatment of disease and illness, but also considers how it affects their lives.

Some examples include:

  • How their daily activities are impacted
  • Emotional and mental health
  • Lifestyle changes
  • Family impact
  • Health education
  • Disease prevention
  • Counseling

For example, a patient has a back injury that resulted in a herniated disk. The patient is recovering from surgery, has been prescribed pain killers, and has a recommendation for physical therapy after recovery.

The nurse checks the patient’s bandage, their mobility and gives them their pain medication. The nurse then educates them on the best way to lay so their back can recover without causing more pain. They also tell him that he will have restricted movement for a while and says he will need to use a walker.

Knowing that inability to do regular activities can sometimes cause depression or anxiety, they tell their patient about it and educates him about counseling services.

It is in this way that the nursing method of care goes beyond the acute treatment of a disease or illness to take the entire patient as a person into consideration of their care.


What Is The Medical Model?


The medical model of care as practiced by physicians uses observation, deductive reasoning, and learned knowledge to identify a disease or ailment and then prescribe the best treatment solution.

doctor auscultating patient

This means the care is more disease or condition-centric, focused on the biologic/pathologic aspects of health. These include assessment, diagnosis, and treatment and work very much in a problem-solving mode.

The medical model as outlined in the 1970s by Ronald Lansing included:

  • Complaint
  • History
  • Physical Examination
  • Ancillary Testing
  • Diagnosis
  • Treatment
  • Prognosis (with and without treatment)

While it can seem cold, reducing a patient to a biological machine to be fixed or repaired, it’s not.
Doctors aren’t cold-hearted automatons that care nothing for the emotional, mental, and overall well-being of their patients. In fact, many doctors are very friendly and open with their patients.

A medical model of care is just the most logical way to approach the problem of disease and illness.


Nursing Model Vs Medical Model Care


So we can see that the medical model of care and the nursing model of care are very similar.

Both assess, diagnose and treat disease and injury. Both take the wellbeing of the patient as their primary concern. Where they do differ slightly is in their angle of attack.

The medical model of care approaches the patient like a detective solving a case. What is wrong? What are the symptoms? How long has it been going on? What is the patient’s history? What is the most likely cause? What is the best way to solve it?

The disease or the illness is the primary focus.

The nursing model of care also assesses the patient, diagnosing the problem and finding the best solution. However, the nursing model takes a step back from the disease-focused to see the problem in a wider view.

Getting the big picture. To see how this will affect the patient’s life, family, daily routine, mental health, and future health decisions.

A doctor is like a watchmaker replacing a broken cog in a watch. The nurse is the one who winds the watch after the repair, getting it ticking and setting it to the right time.

It is a whole health approach, holistic in its nature.


Frequently Asked Questions


What Is The Difference Between The Nursing Model And Medical Model?


The medical model of care has a more logical, disease-focused approach to care.

The nursing model takes a more holistic view, accounting for the entirety of the disease or illness and how it affects the patient’s life.


What Are The Nursing Models Of Care?


The nursing model of care includes (in addition to assessing, diagnosing, and treating): Counseling, Health Education, Disease Prevention, Health Promotion, and Healthy Lifestyle Recommendations.


What’s The Difference Between A PA (Physician’s Assistant) And A NP(Nurse Practitioner)?


There are three main differences between a PA and a NP:



Nurse Practitioners need an MSN (Master of Science in Nursing) – to attain this a three-year graduate program on Physician Assistant Studies must be completed.



While many NPs can practice alone, in 28 U.S. states NPs require a doctor’s supervision. Physician Assistants need to works with the supervision of physicians.


Scope Of Practice

Both NPs and PAs have similar responsibilities and scopes of practice depending on their chosen specialty. However, NPs often have more autonomy than PAs.

Nurse Practitioners can do many of the same things like doctors, including providing primary and emergency care, prescribing medication, ordering tests, performing physical exams, providing counseling, and more.




In summary, the two models of care both assess, diagnose and treat. They both share the goal of getting the patient well and healthy again.

However, they approach a disease or illness from two different angles, one focusing on the details and the other concerned with the big picture. But these different attack vectors ensure that every angle of the patient’s health problem is covered.

Working together, the medical models of care and the nursing model of care constitute a whole – holistic – model of care that ensures each patient gets competent, wholesome care that not only treats the disease; it treats the whole person.

Share This