What does it mean when “seeing the doctor” doesn’t involve seeing an actual doctor?
THE LAST TIME you visited your primary care provider’s office, you may have seen someone with the credentials N.P. or P.A., rather than M.D. Chances are good, though, that you didn’t notice any difference in the level of care you received.
These mid-level or advanced practice providers, as they’re often called, are filling valuable roles in primary care, allowing clinics to fit more patients into their daily schedules while still offering high-quality, personalized care.
Nurse practitioners are nurses who have completed a master’s or doctorate degree in nursing. In Arizona, they have full practice authority, which means that in addition to diagnosing and treating patients, they can order tests and prescribe medications without a physician’s supervision.
Frequently, nurse practitioners focus on a specific patient population, such as family medicine or women’s health, or on a specific field of medicine, such as oncology.
Physician assistants receive master’s degrees after earning a bachelor’s degree and completing an additional accredited three-year graduate program.
These nationally certified state-licensed professionals provide care on healthcare teams that include physicians and other providers who maintain continuous communication. Physicians have access to patient records and can provide more in-depth care as needed. Physician assistants can also prescribe medications.
Like nurse practitioners, physician assistants may also specialize. During their education, they complete 2,000 hours of on-the-job training and have the opportunity to learn about many fields. Physician assistants are more likely than nurse practitioners to focus on a practice area, such as primary care or emergency medicine, rather than on a patient population.
Why Do I Need Primary Care?
As long as you schedule annual wellness visits, you’re going to get exemplary care from a nurse practitioner, physician assistant, or doctor at Summit Healthcare.
If you’re wondering why you should schedule an annual check-up when you aren’t sick, keep in mind that these visits are less about treating illness and more about maintaining wellness. Establishing a relationship with a primary care provider helps you stay on top of markers such as blood pressure and cholesterol that could lead to long-term conditions if they get too high.
If you do happen to develop a chronic disease, your primary care provider can work with you to implement a treatment plan and lifestyle changes that will help you live a healthier, happier life.
A primary care provider can also save you money. According to the advocacy group Primary Care Progress, patients with an established primary care provider spend 33 percent less on healthcare than those who see only specialists.
Are you looking for a new provider? Find one through the Summit Healthcare Find a Doctor tool.