Sure! I’d love to give more information! First off, schooling for nurses and physicians is very different and training after schooling is also very different from specialty to specialty, so your question is a bit more complex than you might think.
In broad terms, nursing skills include assessment, planning, implementation, and evaluation. While physician skills are history taking (including past medical history and history of the current problem), advanced physical assessment, diagnostic testing, creating a differential diagnosis, prescribing, and follow up of disease management.
In college, all nurses take anatomy, physiology, and pathophysiology in order to understand the body and disease processes, however, we usually only take each of these courses for one semester. In comparison, physicians will take these courses multiple times, each time going more in depth and learning about more diseases and complex processes. However, in general, both nurses and physicians share similar knowledge about how the human body works and disease principles. This is sometimes referred to as “health literacy” or the ability to understand and consume health literature because we have a solid foundational knowledge.
The real differences begin to appear when we start moving away from theoretical knowledge and talk about applied knowledge. Nurses are taught how to perform total care of a human body: bathing, turning, making a bed, bedside manners, giving medications, starting an IV, inserting a feeding tube or urinary catheter, first aid, etc. Physicians are taught that these things need to be done and how to order those things to be done in the chart, but they don’t actually learn how to do them. For example, I always find it funny when a patient insists that only the doctor is allowed to insert the IV, because 9/10 that doctor hasn’t inserted an IV in over ten years. They have one week of training in med school on how to insert IVs and then never do it again. On the flip side, there are lots of activities that are outside of a nurse’s scope of practice. For example, aligning and casting bones, draining pus for infected wounds, stitches, setting a dislocated shoulder, and performing surgery are all things only doctors (or advanced care providers such as myself) do.
Now here is where things get real tricky: specialization. After finishing college or medical school, nurses and physicians receive a lot of on the job training. Some nurses may know more about a specific field of medicine than some physicians, simply because they work in that field, even if they don’t actually perform those tasks. So, for example, I have worked as a ICU nurse for 6 years. I know all the sedation medications’ names and dosing and indications, because I’ve been putting people into comas for years. However, I cannot “order” those medications to be given, a physician has to do that, because only they can authorize and “decide” which medications to give to a patient. Funny enough, most of my physicians in the hospital don’t know how to operate an IV pump (a nursing task), so they actually don’t know how to give the medications they are prescribing. However, if we compare those hospitalist physicians to someone like my father, who is a pediatrician; he doesn’t even know the names of some of the medications I use on a daily basis. If we were both to be sent back in time, you would much rather have me (an ICU nurse) handling an emergency situation than my father who hasn’t dealt with emergencies since he was in training.
As another example, most physicians are not surgeons and you are not trained how to perform surgery in medical school. Both nurses and physicians observe surgery during school, but most will never perform any major surgeries. Surgery training (called residency) is one of the most brutal specialities of medicine, requiring five years of 12-15 hours work days, 6 day work weeks. And after their training is done, no way in hell would I want a surgeon treating my diabetes. Could they? Sure, but they wouldn’t be very good at it.
This is the problem with most time travel novels involving medical professionals: very few take into account specialization. I suppose this problem is side stepped by saying the MC is a genius, which, sure, if would could remember everything you ever learned in medical school and residency, you probably could be the ultimate Jack of all trades physician, but most brilliant physicians are really only qualified to treat a handful of diseases. The most useful physician, in my opinion, to send back in time, would just be a primary care doctor, but again, they don’t do surgery. Only 30% of physicians specialize in primary care and only 7% specialize in surgery. The most highly trained and Jack of all trades nurses are definitely critical care/ICU nurses, but we only make up 15% of the nursing workforce. Most of my friends who are other kinds of nurses have never performed CPR on a real person before.
So, it’s difficult to really say “what does a physician or nurse do”, because we are all so different. There are definitely clear boundaries of what we can and can’t do, but most of us don’t do everything we could do.