Types of Primary Care Providers: Breaking Down the Letters

Types of Primary Care Providers: Breaking Down the Letters

Your primary care provider (PCP) is your go-to and first stop for all things healthcare. They act as the quarterback of your health, overseeing and coordinating with other providers and specialists. They can diagnose and treat most health-related conditions, from everyday aches and pains to complex diseases. Their goal is to help you achieve Better Health through prevention and maintenance. However, there are different types of primary care providers. And with that being said, how do you know which one you should see? Continue reading to learn more…

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Types of Primary Care Doctors

When it comes to primary care providers, there are a few different types. Some have the letters MD after their name, while others may have DO. Today, you even see NP and PA more frequently following a PCPs name.

The four main types of primary care providers include:

  • Medical Doctor (MD)
  • Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO)
  • Nurse Practitioner (NP)
  • Physician Assistant (PA)

Medical Doctor

Most people are familiar with the letters MD after a physician’s name. Often referred to as MDs, medical doctors are medical professionals who have completed four years of medical school and at least three years of residency. Residencies are periods of training for medical school graduates in a field of their choice. It is designed to provide practical and supervised hands-on experience.

Primary care MDs are typically specialists in family medicine or internal medicine. Family medicine specialists are trained in providing care and treatment to patients of all ages – from babies to older adults. On the other hand, internal medicine specialists are specifically trained in treating adults.

Medical doctors, both family medicine and internal medicine physicians, can provide complete primary care services, including:

Primary care provider tending to a senior patient

Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine

A primary care provider with the letters DO after their name is a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine. They, like MDs, are fully trained and licensed doctors. The only difference is the type of medical school training they had.

Osteopathic Medicine focuses on treating the patient as a whole rather than just treating symptoms. Most DOs tend to take a more holistic approach to medicine and incorporate some level of alternative medical approach, such as focusing on prevention using lifestyle changes.

An MD and DO receive basically the same medical training, which includes four years of medical school followed by a residency of their choosing. Most primary care providers who become Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine specialize in general practice (equivalent to family medicine) or internal medicine.

Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants

When visiting your primary care provider, you may occasionally be seen by a nurse practitioner (NP) or physician assistant (PA). Nurse practitioners provide services that go beyond what a regular nurse can do. Nevertheless, they are able to provide most of the same services other types of primary care providers can. However, many NPs tend to focus on delivering patient primary care as opposed to providing care for complex conditions.

Physician assistants, like other types of primary care providers, are trained medical professionals skilled to diagnose and treat patients for a wide array of health conditions. For the most part, they can do everything a medical doctor and osteopathic doctor can do. The one main difference is that PAs cannot practice medicine independently. Instead, they must work in partnership and under the supervision of a doctor.

What Type of Primary Care Provider Should I See?

When it comes down to which type of primary care provider you should see, it matters most on the chemistry and relationship you have with the provider. All of the above-mentioned primary care providers can provide you with the necessary medical care to get healthy and stay healthy. But you need to feel comfortable with whomever you see, regardless of the letters after their name.

At VIPcare, we offer 5-star primary care to patients 65+. Our team of providers are all skilled and trained to care for the special needs of patients like yourself. If you’re looking for a new primary care provider near you, call 866-926-3831 to start receiving the personalized care you deserve.

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