OB/GYNs are doctors who specialize in obstetrics and gynecology, including women's health care, wellness, and prenatal care. Many women use an OB/GYN as their primary care provider.
Nurse practitioners (NPs) are nurses with graduate training. They can serve as a primary care provider in family medicine (FNP), pediatrics (PNP), adult care (ANP), or geriatrics (GNP). Others are trained to address women's health care (common concerns and routine screenings) and family planning. NPs can prescribe medications.
A physician assistant (PA) can provide a wide range of services in collaboration with a Doctor of Medicine (MD) or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO).
Registered nurses (RNs) have graduated from a nursing program, have passed a state board examination, and are licensed by the state.
Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) are state-licensed caregivers who have been trained to care for the sick.
Advanced practice nurses have education and experience beyond the basic training and licensing required of all RNs. This includes nurse practitioners (NPs) and the following:
Clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) have training in a field such as cardiac, psychiatric, or community health.
Certified nurse midwives (CNMs) have training in women's health care needs, including prenatal care, labor and delivery, and care of a woman who has given birth.
Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) have training in the field of anesthesia. Anesthesia is the process of putting a patient into a painless sleep, and keeping the patient's body working, so surgeries or special tests can be done.
Licensed pharmacists have graduate training from a college of pharmacy.
Your pharmacist prepares and processes drug prescriptions that were written by your primary or specialty care provider. Pharmacists provide information to patients about medications, while also consulting with health care providers about dosages, interactions, and side effects of medicines.
Your pharmacist may also follow your progress to check the safe and effective use of your medication.
Your primary care provider may refer you to professionals in various specialties when necessary, such as:
Allergy and asthma
Anesthesiology -- general anesthesia or spinal block for surgeries and some forms of pain control
Cardiology -- heart disorders
Dermatology -- skin disorders
Endocrinology -- hormonal and metabolic disorders, including diabetes
Gastroenterology -- digestive system disorders
General surgery -- common surgeries involving any part of the body
Hematology -- blood disorders
Immunology -- disorders of the immune system
Infectious disease -- infections affecting the tissues of any part of the body
Nephrology -- kidney disorders
Neurology -- nervous system disorders
Obstetrics/gynecology -- pregnancy and women's reproductive disorders
Rheumatology -- pain and other symptoms related to joints and other parts of the musculoskeletal system
Urology -- disorders of the male reproductive and urinary tracts and the female urinary tract
Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.