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Nurses are about 100 times more likely to attend graduate nursing school than medical school

The media commonly suggests that nurses achieve by going to graduate school in medicine. But data show that nurses are about 100 times more likely to achieve graduate health care degrees by going to nursing school, not medical school. Such shows that have indicated this include ER, House, Private Practice, Mercy and The Glades, among many others.

In 2002, there were 10,885 nurses who earned graduate degrees in nursing.

Also in 2002, there were 231 out of 33,625 applicants to medical schools who indicated that their undergraduate major was nursing. About half of these applicants or 16,488 matriculated that year. If nurses were accepted to medical school in the same proportion as everyone else, there would be 113 nurses that year entering medical school.

10885 graduates from graduate nursing programs
   113 nurses matriculating into medical schools  =  96

According to these calculations, nurses are 96 times more likely to get a graduate degree in nursing than to enter into a medical program.

Percentage calculation:

10885 nursing students + 113 medical students = 10998 students

   10885 nursing students            
10998 nursing and medical students = 99% are nursing students

Because it is uncertain that we have fully captured all of the nurses who go to medical school, to hedge our estimates--if we double the number of nurses who are medical students (from 113 to 226) we would get this calculation:

10885 nursing students + 226 medical students = 11111 students

   10885 nursing students            
11111 nursing and medical students = 98% are nursing students

It is not an exact comparison to equate graduating students with matriculating students, because some of those who matriculate eventually drop out. This would mean that even fewer than 113 nurses would become physicians. But it is also possible that nurses would be more likely than the average applicant to be accepted into medical school.

In addition, the figures on matriculating medical students do not necessarily mean that all those who were educated in nursing indicated as such on the application form (which is the source of this data). Some applicants may have held two bachelor's degrees and failed to mention the nursing education, or had education in an associate degree or diploma program to become a nurse in addition to a bachelor's degree in something else and this education may not have been reflected on these applications.

So nurses are 96, or for rounding purposes we will say that they are 100 times more likely to go to graduate nursing school than medical school.

Raw data courtesy of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing and the American Association of Medical Colleges.


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