Primary care providers: What do those letters mean?

Primary care providers: What do those letters mean?

A quick guide to some common credentials among primary-care medical providers:

M.D. — Medical Doctor — Requires a college degree plus four years of medical school and a residency, typically three or four more years, in a medical speciality such as primary care. Has full care rights, including diagnosing illnesses, performing medical procedures and prescribing medications.

D.O. — Doctor of Osteopathy — Same educational, licensing requirements and range of care as medical doctors. They receive extra training on the musculoskeletal system so they can better understand how injury or illness to one part of the body may affect another.

P.A. — Physician Assistant — Requirements vary by state, but typically P.A.s have a college degree plus an advanced degree in a medical specialty. They’re licensed to perform many of the same diagnostic and treatment regimens as M.D.s and D.O.s, but must work under the supervision of a doctor in most states. They take many of the same classes as doctors, allowing them to practice in a variety of specialties.

N.P. — Nurse Practitioner — Requirements vary by state, but typically an N.P. has a college degree in nursing plus an advanced degree in a nursing speciality, such as primary care. Some nurse practitioners work in clinics without direct doctor supervision. Others work together with doctors as a joint health care team. Their scope of practice and authority depends on state laws.

 

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Comments

Maggie

Subject:

I once inquired to a nurse what the difference was between a DO and MD, her response: a DO may be more likely to use 'manipulation' during treatment. This left me a little puzzled since this is how chiropractors treat. Any comment?

Dave Lomax

Subject:

Am a Registered Paramedic, have worked with both DO & MD. A great deal depends on which school you go to as to what attitude is displayed. The DO's are pretty even-keeled, focused on the whole patient. The MD's, especially ones from 'prestigious' schools, are much more full of themselves. If I could go back 30 years, I'd take the MCAT and go to a DO school.

AmaTerp

Subject:

M.D. & D.O are both physicians or "Medical Doctors." M.D. is the Doctor of Medicine degree awarded to allopathic medical school graduates. D.O. is the Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree award to graduates of osteopathic medical schools.

Gman

Subject:

Whether MD or DO, the person who graduates last in his/her class is still called "doctor." So do the research on any potential physician.

Dr. T

Subject:

@Paul: As an MD who has worked in two different specialties and a lot of settings, I would have to agree you're a little off-base. Data trends are important, and anecdotes have their limits, but one of the best diagnosticians I've worked with went to med school in Grenada. There is a spectrum of abilities in all student bodies. Some choose osteopathy because of a different philosophy/approach to the patient. The two professions are quite similar at this point in history. Admittedly, I do believe the average test scores for entering students do differ a little, but it is the quality of practice that comes out that really is the issue.
@ vera trolf: Your best bet for a quick view of who is in practice in that area would be to go to the American Academy of Ophthalmology website and search by location. You can then compare to see if any are rated on Angie's list by name. The website is: http://www.aao.org/

Cheryl

Subject:

I'm an MD and I don't agree with the DO comment. I work with plenty of DO's and can't tell the difference. I think there are regional and institutional biases. My medical school definitely had the mindset that DO's were substandard. I regretably believed that too until I actually worked with a mix of DO's and MD's in residency.

vera trolf

Subject:

need an ophthalmologist in/near Long Beach NY

Pam RN

Subject:

Paul,
I have heard this lame "reasoning" that some MD's use against DO's for many, many years. It appears as though you may be trying to invoke strong reactions from others for a "kick"??
Frankly,in my opinion some of the best Docs I've worked with and have been to as a patient have been DO's. As Charlene said there are the good and bad in every field.
And I thought it was just nurses who ate their young.

John DO

Subject:

Paul
As others have said you should be careful what you say. I am a DO --- I took the same state exams as MD's to get my license; I am residency trained, and am currently chief of staff at the local hospital (staff of DO's and MD's). We have all of the same specialists. Primary Care DO's care for the majority of the rural population in the US. Most of the students attend osteopathic school because they want to, not because they cannot get into allopathic school. Sorry for being so brash but some of us don't consider ourselves second class doctors.

MARY JANE

Subject:

Paul, you're an MD, right? Be careful what you say about DOs. Your statement has no basis whatever in fact. If it does, show me your sources. DOs were the first to get recovering patients on their feet after surgery, while MDs were losing patients who died wasting away in bed. And this was after the Civil War! MDs took a hundred years to catch up. Your "information" is hogwash.

George Appleton

Subject:

I have a Nurse Practioner as my PCP at the VA clinic and find that she is excellent and thorough

Angie's List staff

Subject:

Thanks for your comment, Willia!
To view a list of doctors rated by others in your area, go to AngiesList.com and log in. After you are logged in to your account, select "Search the List," which will take you to a screen where you can select what kind of health care professional you're looking for.
If you're not yet a member of Angie's List, visit this link to learn more about our service.
https://www.angieslist.com/angieslist/visitor/quicktour.aspx?u=1

willia

Subject:

I can't find a list of doctors on your site. I only see comments from others using your site. Please help

Jilly Shaw

Subject:

Paul--what do you mean specifically by the "best and the brightest?" Those with highest test scores & grades? Or the most proficient doctors?

Charlene

Subject:

Paul, I think it is inappropriate to say that the best & brightest are usually MDs, as there are some that aren't so good. As with any profession, there are good and bad in the field of MDs and DOs.

Paul

Subject:

While DOs and MDs receive similar training; the public should kknow that they are not the same. It is generally known in the medical profession that if one can't get admitted to a domestic MD (allopathic) program, then one applies to a DO (osteopathic) program. If one can't get into an osteopathic program, one goes to an overseas medical school. There are plenty of excellent DOs around, but the best and brightest are usually MDs.

Sue

Subject: DO/MD

I find this to be 100 percent incorrect. As a nurse practitioner with over 35 years experience in health care I have worked with many MD's and DO's who were excellent. It is not about the title, it is all about how that individual practices. You see many more MDs as there are more programs for them.

Jill Short

Subject:

I'd like a list of health insurers that people recommend.

Angie's List staff

Subject:

Thanks for your comment, H. Pierre! We're sorry you're disappointed about the number of PCPs in your area. The List only grows when Angie's List members submit their ratings and reviews on the providers they've used. We're actively looking for more feedback from our members to ensure we have the best and most up-to-date information on healthcare providers (and contractors!) in your area.
Please visit https://www.angieslist.com to submit a report on a care experience you've had.

H. Pierre Salle

Subject:

joined Angie's list, disappointed about number of recommended PCP's in geographic area...how can we discover more PCPs to add to the list?

AmaTerp

Subject:

@Maggie: Physicians with a D.O. degree, in contrast to those with an M.D. degree, have additional training in OMM which stands for osteopathic manipulative medicine. It is a hands-on treatment modality so this particular aspect of their training is similar to that of a chiropractor. Not all physicians with a D.O. degree use this treatment method, but it seems to be useful especially in areas such as sports medicine, physical medicine & rehabilitation, and orthopedics. There isn't a whole lot of research in OMM that I could find but some researchers think it's effective mainly with primary care sports medicine injuries, while others believe it is a placebo effect to some degree.

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