Selecting a primary care physician*
by JONATHAN M. METSCH, DR.P.H., LLC
Apr 01, 2014 | 552 views | 1 1 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
“You can choose from several different types of Primary Care Practitioners:

-Family practitioners -- doctors who have completed a family practice residency and are board certified, or board eligible, for this specialty. The scope of their practice includes children and adults of all ages and may include obstetrics and minor surgery.

-Pediatricians -- doctors who have completed a pediatric residency and are board certified, or board eligible, in this specialty. The scope of their practice includes the care of newborns, infants, children, and adolescents.

-Internists -- doctors who have completed a residency in internal medicine and are board certified, or board eligible, in this specialty. The scope of their practice includes the care of adults of all ages for many different medical problems.

-Obstetricians/gynecologists -- doctors who have completed a residency and are board certified, or board eligible, in this specialty. They often serve as a PCP for women, particularly those of childbearing age.

-Nurse practitioners (NP) and physician assistants (PA) -- practitioners who go through a different training and certification process than doctors. They may be your key contact in some practices.

When choosing a PCP, also consider the following: Is the office staff friendly and helpful? Is the office good about returning calls? ; Are the office hours convenient to your schedule? ; How easy is it to reach the provider? Does the provider use email? ; Do you prefer a provider whose communication style is friendly and warm, or more formal? ; Do you prefer a provider focused on disease treatment, or wellness and prevention? ; Does the provider have a conservative or aggressive approach to treatment? ; Does the provider order a lot of tests? ; Does the provider refer to other specialists frequently or infrequently? ; What do colleagues and patients say about the provider? ; Does the provider invite you to be involved in your care? Does the provider view your patient-doctor relationship as a true partnership?

You can get referrals from: Friends, neighbors, or relatives; State-level medical associations, nursing associations, and associations for physician assistants; Your dentist, pharmacist, optometrist, previous provider, or other health professional; Advocacy groups -- especially to help you find the best provider for a specific chronic condition or disability; Many health plans, such as HMOs or PPOs, have websites, directories, or customer service staff who can help you select a PCP who is right for you.”

* source: Medline Plus U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, Choosing a primary care provider. Highlight and click on open hyperlink http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001939.htm

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jcadams
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April 01, 2014
The KEY difference between the professionals is training and education. Nurse practitioners are qualified physician extenders who provide excellent basic primary care in a physician led team based system. However, they have substantially LESS education and training than physicians. A family nurse practitioner only needs following high school 4 years of undergraduate nursing followed by 1.5 years of mostly online classes to become an NP. A physician must go through 4 years of undergraduate basic science courses, followed by 4 years of rigorous medical school, followed by at least 3 years of residency. Family physician - 11 years of post high school education and training. Family Nurse practitioner 5.5 years of post high school education and training. There lies the difference. There lies the difference in what they are equipped to handle. NPs can provide basic primary care, managing common ailments such as strep throat and the flu, but they are for the most part incapable of managing multiple complex ailments and diagnosing uncommon diseases. They just don't have the education necessary to practice medicine independently.