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In selecting your Primary Care Physician, or PCP, should you choose an MD or a DO? What do all those initials stand for? Does it matter if your doctor is board certified or not? What’s the difference between a Registered Nurse and a Nurse Practitioner? Can a Physician Assistant be my primary care provider?

Graybill Medical Group employs highly skilled and talented team of Physicians (MDs, DOs) and advanced practitioners (Nurse Practitioners, Physician Assistants) with varying degrees and focus areas. Here is a quick overview of some of the terms that may be used to describe our medical team members.

Board Certified: In addition to being licensed by the state of California, a doctor who is Board Certified has received additional voluntary training in a specific area, such as Family Medicine or Pediatrics. To be designated as Board Certified a doctor must initially pass written and/or oral tests administered by the professional board for his or her focus area. To maintain Board Certified status the doctor must undergo continuing education and be able to demonstrate knowledge of best practices in medicine, patient safety, and ethics.

Doctor of Medicine (MD). An MD is a doctor who has completed medical school and a residency, and is licensed by the state of California to practice medicine. An MD can be a primary care physician or a specialist.

Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO). A DO, or Osteopath, is also a fully licensed physician who incorporates specialized knowledge of the body’s structural, or musculoskeletal system (nerves, muscles and bones) into the practice of primary or specialty care. Some Osteopaths also incorporate other holistic methods such as nutrition and mind-body wellness into their practice.

Nurse Practitioner (NP): NPs are advanced practice Registered Nurses who have completed additional graduate education, holding a Master of Nursing or Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. In California, NPs work side by side with physicians in providing primary or specialty care.

Physician Assistant (PA): A PA is a licensed healthcare professional who works under the direct supervision of a physician. A PA can be focused on primary or specialty care. PAs perform a wide range of medical services including performing physical exams, ordering diagnostic tests such as blood work or x-rays, providing direct care, assisting in surgery, and prescribing medications.

Primary Care Provider (PCP): A primary care physician, or PCP, is a doctor who is trained to address most of your medical care needs and is focused on your overall health and wellness. Your PCP serves as your first point of contact in the healthcare system and can

  • diagnose and treat common conditions
  • educate you about leading a healthy lifestyle and other preventive measures
  • assess urgent problems and direct you to appropriate care
  • make referrals to specialists

A long-term relationship with your PCP will ensure that you have an advocate who is knowledgeable about your health history and needs. A PCP can be a Family Physician (trained to treat patients of all ages), a Pediatrician (specializing in the medical needs of babies, children and adolescents) or an Internist (specializing in adult medicine).

Except in the case of a life-threatening emergency, your PCP will be the first call you make for all of your healthcare needs. Make sure your PCP knows your health history and current lifestyle. And if you have questions, don’t be afraid to ask! Being proactive with your PCP will result in a better health outcome.

As it relates to insurance, a PCP is an MD or DO whom you designate to coordinate your health care needs, including referrals to specialists. Learn more about Primary Care.

Registered Nurse (RN): A registered nurse is a healthcare professional who has completed a Bachelor’s of Science degree in nursing (BSN) or an Associate’s Degree in nursing. RNs provide and coordinate patient care, and can work in a primary or specialty care setting. RNs coordinate with doctors and other health professionals develop patient plans. Typical duties include documenting patients’ medical histories and symptoms, administering medications, operating and monitoring medical equipment, performing diagnostic tests, and teaching patients and family members about at-home care.

Specialist: A specialist is a doctor who focuses his/her practice on a particular area of medicine. If you have a condition that could be best addressed by someone with specialized training your PCP may refer you to one within Graybill or to one who is part of our referral network of nearby specialists. Learn more about Specialty Care.

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