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The public might not be aware of this, but not all doctors are physicians and not all health care providers have a full medical license.
A fully licensed physician is either an M.D. or a D.O.
Generally speaking, these physicians have a full license and are able to care for patients in the office, unsupervised by others and provide medical and surgical care in the hospital setting. This includes having privileges to admit and take care of patients.
Over the years, things have changed that have necessitated doctors having helpers or assistants to provide care to patients.
This might include a situation where a doctor is practicing in a rural area and is unable to attract another fully licensed physician, but might use a physician’s assistant or a nurse practitioner to help care for his patients and make sure their treatment is not delayed.
This is becoming quite common and, realistically, will continue, as there is a large increase in the U.S. population.
There are a number of people approaching retirement age, and as they are getting older, they are more likely to have more complex medical problems.
Unfortunately, there are not enough doctors to go around. Physician extenders, as they are commonly called, provide helpful relief for doctors.
You may be surprised to find out that when you went to a walk-in clinic, emergency room or even your primary care doctor’s office, there was an individual who interviewed, examined and treated you who might have had the initials P.A. or N.P. behind their name, which designates physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner.
Both physicians and physician extenders do their best to provide care in the burgeoning health care situation, and physician extenders help in all aspects of health care delivery, including examination, decision-making, delivery of care and even in the operating suite, assisting surgeons in procedures.
So, if you see somebody who has some unusual letters after their name, do not be afraid to ask what type of health care provider they are. Most of us are doing our best to provide quality health care for everyone.
Denis Grillo, D.O., FOCOO, is an ear, nose and throat specialist in Crystal River. Call him at 352-795-0011 or visit CrystalCommunityENT.com.