We are never “prepared” on how to care for a loved one whose ill… and we should never have to do it alone.

No one is ever taught how to care for a sick loved one.

It doesn’t matter if your a doctor, a nurse, a mother, a grandparent, a child, a brother, a sister, or a friend; NO schooling or experience ever teach or prepares you for how to care for a sick loved one. Whether it’s the first time you are dealing with an experience like this or the 20th time… it’s a terrible, overwhelming, dreaded, all-consuming experience. You shouldn’t have to do it alone.

Knowledge

You may have a wealth of medical knowledge or experience researching. You may be a healthcare professional, and experienced with caring for the exact illness your loved one is dealing with.  Or perhaps you are proficient at organizing and coordinating care.  These are all EXCELLENT skills that can be extremely useful in assisting your loved one.  However, when the patient is someone you have a close emotional relationship with, emotions take precedence.   When a loved one is sick, emotion and grief take the wheel, and even if you are skilled in the knowledge of what steps need to be taken, the energy and straight thinking are often overwhelming and too much to handle.  This is one of the reasons that healthcare professionals are recommended to not treat family members. 

Emotion

When a loved one is ill, an overflow of emotions surfaces for not just the patient, but also the family member or friend.  Some emotions experienced include helplessness, confusion, defeat, guilt for not being able to help enough, exhaustion, sadness, depression, and anger.  What is often best for the loved one is that family and friends are there to emotionally support them throughout their journey, spend time with them, and show support for their desires.  Patients do not want to see people they care about exhausted and overwhelmed, especially on their behalf.  It is too big of a role for a family member or friend to fill both the emotional and healthcare navigation needs of the patient.

Time

In healthcare, time is almost always of the essence. The quicker care is coordinated, and symptoms are addressed, diagnoses are made, the sooner and better the management plan can be created. Despite your desire to give 100% of your time to your sick loved one, you also have to care for your own wellbeing and your work/life duties.  It seems like there is not enough time to fit it all in, leaving many people wondering what could have changed if they had more time or done things differently; often leading to feelings of guilt. 

Choosing what to pack during this journey

Overcoming an illness and achieving the best possible quality of life is the goal. Achieving this goal requires a team of people. What have you decided to bring with you on this journey?   This team will include trusted healthcare providers, however, healthcare providers have a specific job to focus on their specific tasks they specialized in. The healthcare system is not created in a way where healthcare professionals can be available to address all your needs 24/7, even if they wanted to. Doctors and other professionals have multiple patients and roles to address.  What’s more is that currently, healthcare worker burnout rate is at an all-time high.  

Adding a Private Patient Advocate to your team provides you support and direction during your loved ones’ healthcare journey. You can decide whether you want your patient advocate to assist with just a small hurdle care, or if you prefer for her to go through the entire journey with you and your loved one. A private patient advocate works independently, is not associated with any hospital or healthcare system, and is not associated with any insurance company. A private patient advocate provides unbiased support, with YOU or YOUR loved one as the key focus. Additionally, a private patient advocate is experienced with situations just like yours and are readily equipt to address issues such as obtaining second opinions, assisting in reducing medical errors, researching alternative treatments, addressing insurance issues and billing, and much more; all in a timely manner, giving you and your loved one back more time.  More time to focus on spending time together and focusing on the best possible quality of life.  At pathway Patient Advocates, Elena and Kristie are available to help you through whatever health journey you or your loved one may be struggling with.  We look forward to helping you navigate the path to better health. 

(947) 517-8395

Pathway Patient Advocates advocate@pathwaypa.com

What is a Board Certified Patient Advocate?

And why do you need one?…

Many people are not yet familiar with a patient advocate, let alone a board-certified patient advocate. In addition, you may have heard of hospitals or insurance companies offering a patient advocate. So what’s the difference?  And why do you need one?

What is a Patient Advocate?

A patient advocate helps navigate and support you through your health situations.  There are a variety of ways a patient advocate can help, and advocates specialize in different areas of healthcare. One common goal is that a private patient advocate focuses on YOUR best interest.

Some areas that a patient advocate can assist in include, increasing communication between healthcare providers and patient/family, coordinating care, finding second opinions, placement to different facilities, chronic disease and cancer navigation, assistance with insurance issues and medical billing, and much more. 

What’s the Difference between a Private Patient Advocate and an Advocate Provided by your Hospital or Healthcare Insurance?

While they are often confused as the same position, there is in fact a BIG difference!  Many hospitals do now offer a patient advocate, however they practice more like customer service representatives.  The patient advocate may refer you to the billing department or other areas in the hospital.  While their services may at times be useful, they typically do not themselves have a medical or billing background. More importantly they are employed for the healthcare system or insurance company, therefore your (the patient/family’s interest) is not the first priority.  

A private patient advocate is an unbiased individual, who focuses on YOU.  A patient advocate helps navigate your path to the best possible care for YOU.

What is a Board Certified Patient Advocate?

When you are seeking medical care, you search for a board certified healthcare provider (board certified physician, surgeon, psychiatrist, physician assistant, etc).  Board certification is reassuring because you as the patient know that that individual has passed strict credentialing requirements and upholds certain expectations and regulations. 

A Board Certified Patient Advocate is a patient advocate who has achieved and maintains certification by the Patient Advocate Certification Board (PACB).  A Certified Patient Advocate upholds the PACB’s Ethical Standards, Competencies, and Best Practice.  Certification also requires successfully passing the  PACB examination, which evaluates broad areas of competencies within the profession.

When you find yourself or a loved one dealing with a health issue, your emotions take drive and it is difficult to navigate the healthcare system to the best possible care. Even if you have a medical education, self-navigation becomes challenging.  It is not uncommon for healthcare professionals to hire private patient advocates when a personal concern arises.  A patient advocate can help navigate your care to assist in preventing medical errors, obtain appropriate care in a timely manner, help find second opinions, research different options, clinical trials, assist with medical billing issues, improve communication between health care providers, staff, and much more. We are here for YOU, especially when you need us most. 

Call Pathway Patient Advocates today to speak to a Board Certified Patient Advocate.  

COVID Vaccine? Help!

What to do? Is it Right for you?

Yes, Please!

The emergence of the COVID-19 vaccine comes with a lot of mixed emotions. Some view it as a cure to this long pandemic-driven quarantine and the first step toward some sense of normality, with hopes to once again hug grandchildren and dine with friends without worry.  The goal of the vaccine is that if enough people are immunized, then herd immunity would be achieved.  

No Thank You!

Others are skeptical about the vaccine, as it was rushed through quality control in efforts to speed FDA approval.  Its unknown territory leaves wonder about potential side effects among other concerns. 

So what is the correct choice? And HOW do you choose what’s best for you?

Consider Your Specific Situation

Well, the ultimate decision should be yours.  Social media posts will try to sway you one way or another.  There are strong opinions circling throughout, and it is difficult to know which information is best to review.

Deciding if the COVID-19 vaccine is appropriate is a personal decision.  Some things to consider:

  • Are you in a high-risk environment?  The vaccine was made available initially to healthcare workers followed by nursing home residents because of the elevated risk of contracting the COVID-19 vaccine. Think about your environment. How likely are you to contract COVID-19? 
  • Do you have a potential allergic reaction risk for the vaccine? Are you allergic to other vaccines? If so, you may want to discuss this risk with your healthcare provider. 
  • Do you have a decreased immune system?  Perhaps you are undergoing cancer therapy,  immunocompromised, asthma, or other health issues? Then it is important to speak to your healthcare provider and discuss the pros and cons of the vaccine.  Your healthcare provider may explain that he or she feels you are high-risk for COVID-19 complications and should receive the vaccine immediately. Or they may recommend the opposite. 
  • How old are you?  The vaccine is typically being made available to individuals 65 years and older.  This is often the highest age population at risk of experiencing severe complications once COVID is contracted. 
  • Lifestyle: You may be feeling stuck at home, and scared to go out because of fear of contracting COVID19. The vaccine may offer some sense of safety comfort to you.

There is a lot to think about when deciding whether or not the COVID vaccine is currently right for you.  Talk to your healthcare provider.  

How and Where Do You Get the Vaccine?

If you have made the decision to receive the COVID-19 Vaccine, how do you physically obtain it?  Different cities and states are disbursing the vaccine in different ways. Some have clinics available throughout the city and some are being offered through healthcare systems or hospital systems. Many require online registration and portal registration to be eligible for the vaccine.  Individuals who are not very familiar with computers or do not have access to a computer may find this especially challenging. If you need assistance locating or registering for the vaccine, we can help. Call Pathway Patient Advocates today! (248) 247-8552. 

Health For The Holidays

The holiday season has officially begun and people all over the world have started preparing for Christmas. It is a magical time of year, filled with holiday get-togethers, hot cocoa, baking, Hallmark Movies, tree-lightings, shopping, and other festivities. While many will describe it as their “favorite time of year,” if you or a loved one are sick during this time, it doesn’t seem so great at all.    

Sick for Christmas

No one wants to spend Christmas in a hospital or with the diagnosis of a critical disease.  In fact, it can feel as if it is the most depressing time of year.  The problem of how to finish shopping in time for Christmas, does not anywhere near compare to the problem of: how am I going to survive through this holiday season? It may seem that the world is focused on preparing for the holidays, and you may feel left alone to deal with your medical issues. I have personally experienced this feeling, and it feels as if the entire world is continuing on around you. You miss out on enjoying this special time of year with your loved ones because you are too focused on your health.  

Your Current State of Health is Holding You Back

Perhaps you are fortunate to be spending the holidays at home, but your chronic condition, such as diabetes is leaving you fatigued and without the energy to really enjoy yourself.  You may be trying to participate in the holiday season, but it doesn’t seem too enjoyable. Your health seems to be holding you back.  The extra bustle of the holiday season, sweets, and weather changes can negatively impact your overall health.

Get The Help You Need

A private patient advocate can help make this time of year more enjoyable for you. Regardless if you or a loved one are battling cancer, a chronic disease, or an acute illness; we can help you get the care you need to best achieve your goals. We help create and navigate a plan personalized just for you, taking care of the tasks you don’t want to so that you have more time to spend with the people and things that you care about. In addition, we are experienced in dealing with your condition, so we can get things arranged and completed quickly and accurately while offering resources that you may not be aware of.  Our goal is to help you achieve the best quality of life possible.  We want to give you time and energy so that you can worry more about what Christmas festivities you will participate in, instead of how you are going to manage your health.

Contact Pathway Patient Advocates today, we are ready to help with your health for the holidays. 

Pathway Patient Advocates 

(248) 247-8552

Are You Where You Want To Be With Your Diabetes?

November is Diabetes Awareness Month.  In America today, almost everyone knows at least one person who has Diabetes.  The Center for Disease Control informs us that 34.2 million Americans have diabetes and 88 million adult Americans have pre-diabetes. Diabetes is a well-known disorder, however, often the complexity of the disease is not well understood.  While some people are able to manage their diabetes well with minimal effort, several others struggle to keep their glucose levels controlled.  Adequate diabetes management requires a team approach.  With adequate control, patients can live a long healthy life.  

COVID-19 Interference

The current COVID-19 pandemic has caused chaos and interruption to routine medical care. Diabetic patients are having difficulty with routine blood sugar checks, HA1c levels, and getting appointments with their healthcare providers. Delays are also being seen in medications and supplies. Issues regarding billing and insurance coverage are often associated with additional headaches.

Overcoming Barriers

Fortunately, there are several ways to overcome these barriers. New technology offers the ability to sync your blood sugar measurements remotely to healthcare providers.  Some people decide to use fingerprick-free (no poke) blood sugar monitoring.  There are also options to remotely connect with a healthcare provider or make arrangements for a prompt in-person appointment.  Medications can also be delivered and arrangements can be quickly made if supplies run out. 

Lifestyle Management

A huge component of good diabetes management is a healthy diet and good lifestyle habits, which involve a lot of details and commitment.  This can be difficult for anyone to achieve, but it becomes even more challenging for someone who lives alone or who is required to take care of other family members on a daily basis. Blood sugar measurements and adequate medication administration will not have a positive impact if good lifestyle measures are not being followed.

Time-consuming

Good diabetic management can be time-consuming, exhausting, and frustrating, especially when you are not achieving the results you expect.  Having an advocate who is very knowledgeable about diabetes and your specific needs, makes a world of a difference.

Private Patient Advocate

A private patient advocate can help you stay on top of your diabetes management and help create a plan that best suits your lifestyle so that you can achieve your health and lifestyle goals.  In addition, a patient advocate can work with your insurance coverage to help obtain the best coverage for your diabetic care. 

At Pathway Patient Advocates, we are here to help you get your diabetes under control so that you can enjoy life and spend your time with the people and things that you love best.

Cholangiocarcinoma

Hopefully, you have been fortunate enough to never have heard the word “cholangiocarcinoma” come from the lips of a doctor or a loved one. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same… 

What in the world is Cholangiocarcinoma?

Cholangiocarcinoma is a rare cancer, which is also known as cancer of the bile duct. The ducts of the liver and duct of the gallbladder come together to form the common bile duct.  The gallbladder is connected to the liver.  Cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer)  is not only rare, it has a terrible prognosis, rapidly progresses, and is often caught in advanced stages.

The American Cancer Society reports that approximately 8,000 people are diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma each year in the United States. To put that into perspective; breast cancer, which is one of the most common types of cancer is expected to have over 325,000 new cases diagnosed this year in the United States.  Many studies report the median survival rate of cholangiocarcinoma to be about 6 months depending on the location and extension.  So in summary, it’s a pretty awful, horrible, horrible, horrible diagnosis.

The Challenge of Rare Disorders

One challenge with rare disorders, such as cholangiocarcinoma is that there is typically less data on different treatment options and there are few providers who are experienced with treating the disorder. It is so rare that several doctors have not heard of this form of cancer.

A True Story…

Always Ask Your Questions

If there is one thing I recommend, it is to ALWAYS ask your questions!  My previously healthy brother who is also my very best friend was diagnosed on MRI with cholangiocarcinoma at the young age of 41 years old (the average age of diagnosis is 71 y.o.). 

On the day of diagnosis, I entered his hospital room and saw tears streaming down his face, as a medical intern informed him of the diagnosis, telling him that the prognosis was poor and nothing could be done and she anticipated a few months left. I was shocked at the delivery of this news by the intern. I asked for a surgical consult to evaluate if surgery would be an option, and my brother agreed he would like to have a surgeon’s input. The intern again informed us that surgery would not be an option, so there was no point. I continued to insist that we would like to hear that opinion from the surgery team themselves. 

My brother (like most people) had no idea what the difference between an intern, attending physician, or specialist was. (To learn more about these titles, read our blog: PA, NP, MD, DO, Resident, Fellow…How Are These Titles Different? ) Knowing that the doctor was an intern and it was the end of July, I knew that the intern had just started her training at the hospital (typically interns start their internship on July 1st). I found this to be out of her scope of practice, to share such news to a patient without asking for a surgeon’s input, especially after the patient/family’s request. The intern may have not realized so early in her career the negative impact her briskness on the situation may have caused in, this case, my brother’s life. Finally, I asked if she would bring our request for a surgical evaluation to her attending physician. The intern agreed to this, and that day my brother was evaluated by a surgeon, who stated that based on the imaging, he was confident he could remove the entire tumor surgically.  One week later my brother underwent a successful 13-hour surgery.   Fast forward to 3 years later…I just finished having dinner with my brother, sister-in-law, and their 4 children. My brother is healthy and living his life to his fullest with a great quality of life.  That one question made a world of difference!

The Moral of The Story

The moral of the story is NEVER hesitate to ask your questions. Regardless of whether it is an intern, attending, or even an oncology specialist; ask your questions. If what you hear does not seem right, ask again, and get more information and opinions. It may very well be that you will get the same answer from 2 or 3 healthcare providers, but that will just help confirm that you are making the right decision. Healthcare providers each have their own way of practicing and one doctor may have a different medication or surgical technique that the other doesn’t practice.  This is important when looking at any medical issue, but ESPECIALLY important when it comes to cancer. Nonetheless, a RARE CANCER

Private Patient Advocate

As private patient advocates, Pathway Patient Advocates can help you navigate and support you through this challenging journey.  Thankfully, more recently, there have been wonderful advances in cholangiocarcinoma and great resources available. I have found the Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation to be an excellent resource for patients.  

Call Pathway Patient Advocates today (248) 247-8552.  We want to help you!   

HOW TO PREPARE FOR MANAGING YOUR HEALTH DURING ANOTHER LOCKDOWN

It is no secret that coronavirus cases are on the rise again. In a time of such uncertainty, how can you be best prepared to ensure your health does not suffer during this time? How can you ensure that you have all the tools you need to manage your needs if the country goes back on lockdown? Preparation and proactivity are key. Here are some things you can do now to be prepared so that you can continue the path to your best health.

Telemedicine

Almost all healthcare providers are utilizing telemedicine during this pandemic. Many organizations have transitioned strictly to virtual visits to protect themselves and their patients. If the country goes on lockdown, telemedicine will likely be the only option for routine care. It is important to speak to your physicians about their telemedicine options. Contact your healthcare providers to find out which platforms they use for telemedicine visits. If you need to download any applications or software, create usernames for portals, or receive education on how to connect with your providers virtually, get it done now.

Prescriptions

Can you imagine running out of medication that you take daily for a chronic condition and not being able to reach your provider for a refill? With the potential for closures and staffing shortages, it is important to have all the prescriptions you need ahead of time. Connect with your providers to ensure that your prescriptions have an adequate number of refills in the event you are unable to reach your providers for any period of time. Don’t wait until the last minute or until it is too late.

Appointments

Be proactive and make your appointments for routine care ahead of time. Do you see your nephrologist monthly? Do you see your cardiologist quarterly? Are you due for your annual physical with your primary care physician soon? If you already know that these appointments are upcoming, get them scheduled now! Do not let your health suffer by waiting and not being able to see or speak with your providers. If your appointments are already made, you can always move them or change them to virtual visits if that becomes necessary.   

Pathway Patient Advocates can help manage all your medical needs and coordinate your care. Call today 248-247-8552!

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

The American Cancer Association reports that aside from skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women. In 2020, over 325,000 new cases of breast cancer in the US are expected to be diagnosed in women.   In the U.S.,1 of every 8 women are diagnosed with breast cancer.  Breast cancer does not only affect women. Unfortunately, men can also develop breast cancer. 

Despite breast cancer being so common, and its widespread awareness, the diagnosis hits just as hard when it occurs.  A  cancer diagnosis is an unexpected brick for the patient and their loved ones.  Some have described it as, “suddenly throwing your entire life into unorganized chaos.”

First Steps

Fortunately, because breast cancer is well known, there are a variety of healthcare providers that specialize in breast cancer, as well as various treatment options available. Each case is unique, and different management options are available for each person. It is important to choose a specialist that is experienced with your type of breast cancer. 

Finding the Best Care

Your cancer management checklist should include finding a specialist that you are confident and comfortable with.  This patient-provider relationship might not occur with the first provider you meet and that is okay.  It is a great idea to get a second (or third or 4th opinion) if you feel like you just don’t feel comfortable with your provider or agree with the recommendations.  This is true at the start of your journey and any point during the process.  

How Do You Know That You Have Found The Best Provider For You?

  • You trust your healthcare provider
  • You feel like your healthcare provider has your best intention always
  • You are able to contact your healthcare provider or team anytime with questions or concerns
  • You can discuss a detailed plan together and you comfortable proceeding
  • You can ask all your questions and get them addressed
  • You do not feel as if you are being blown-off or ever feel inadequate or nervous to ask questions
  • Your overall quality of life is a top priority
  • You are provided with supporting resources and tools to assist you

The above are important considerations when searching for a breast cancer specialist.  Several centers have an entire breast cancer team that is available to help.

My Breast Cancer Centers Has A Team Which Includes A Patient Advocate, So Why Would I Benefit From a Private Patient Advocate?

This is an excellent question and one frequently asked.  Breast cancer center teams, including nurse navigators or patient advocates can be an excellent asset to a patient diagnosed with cancer.  However, there are additional benefits that a private patient advocate can offer.

Benefits of a Private Patient Advocate

Non-bias

A private patient advocate is not affiliated with a specific hospital or insurance system, therefore they provide biased assistance with just one focus: You, the patient.  If you are not happy with your care or considering alternative treatment or second opinions, a private patient advocate can research and help navigate the best additional opinions.

Experienced Personalized Care

A private patient advocate who is experienced with cancer patients is aware of what struggles that often occur and can assist you. A private patient advocate offers more personalized focus on you and assisting with resources, appointments, and more. A private patient advocate will keep your care organized and help ensure things don’t fall through the cracks and avoid medical errors.

Insurance and Billing

Insurance and billing issues can often lead to frustration and can be very time consuming, which is the last thing that someone dealing with cancer needs. A Private Patient Advocate takes that frustration and worries away from you. She can obtain insurance approval, follow-up on denials, submit appeals, organizes, and manage bills.

When Is The Best Time To Hire A Private Patient Advocate?

Honestly, anytime during the journey, a private patient advocate can organize and help navigate the path and help remove worry and frustration.  Cancer is difficult enough, let a private patient advocate help you along the way; so that you have more time to relax and carry out the things in life that you enjoy.

Contact Pathway Patient Advocates today. (248) 247-8552

We are here for YOU!

Rare Disorder or Misdiagnosed?How a Private Patient Advocate Can Help

Perhaps you are given a diagnosis that just doesn’t seem right for you. Perhaps your symptoms don’t add up to what your healthcare provider told you. Or…perhaps you were diagnosed with a rare disease and not offered much treatment or management plan.  If this sounds like you or someone you know, then continue reading…

Sadly, this happens all too often.  Why? Well, there are many reasons that can be guilty of the cause. For one, science is an art, and doctors and other healthcare providers use examination and tests to lead to a diagnosis that best fits the puzzle. Sometimes the answer is not exactly black and white. Every human is unique and many times so are their symptoms. “Textbook presentation” is not always the case. 

Secondly, the demands of today’s fast-paced healthcare system leave little time for healthcare providers to spend hours investigating each patient’s unique case to figure out the best outcome.  Unfortunately, office visits are often crunched into 15 minutes or fewer timeframes, patients are squeezed in last-minute, perhaps double-booked, and then to top it off, the COVID-19 global pandemic occurs. Even when healthcare providers want to dedicate the extra time to dig deep into your specific case, the healthcare system logistics makes it nearly impossible.  While some hospitals do have scheduled meetings where challenging cases are discussed among specialists, this does not happen in all hospitals, and especially rare in primary care offices. While patients may be referred when necessary to the appropriate specialists in the area of need, this does not always happen.

The complexity of medicine is another reason that misdiagnosis occurs or rare disorders go inadequately managed. There are constant ongoing advances in technology and research and new diagnosis being discovered.  It is impossible for every healthcare provider to keep up with each and every advancement.

How it affects you, the patient

Despite the many reasons why people get misdiagnosed or undermanaged, the end results are essentially the same.  The patient is often left with feelings of defeat, exasperation, exhaustion, abandonment, anhedonia, and depression.  Any one of these alone is a horrible feeling.

So what do you do?? This is where a private patient advocate can help.

What is a Private Patient Advocate?

A private patient advocate is an experienced healthcare professional that provides unbiased assistance to help navigate your path to better health and achieve your personal goals. A private patient advocate does not work for an insurance company or hospital; therefore their first priority is you.    

How can a Private Patient Advocate help in a situation of misdiagnosis or rare diagnosis?

A private patient advocate can help in several ways.  To highlight just a few:

Finding the right care

At Pathway Patient Advocates you have access to not 1 but 2 patient advocates; therefore your advocates are experienced not only in the medical aspect of healthcare but also the administrative side including insurance and billing.  The experienced patient advocates can help you locate providers and resources that can help address your specific situation best as well in the most cost-efficient way for you.

Experienced

It is important to find a private patient advocate that has experience in advocating for patients who have been misdiagnosed or have a rare disorder.  Advocates with this experience, may have already had clients similar to you and have increased knowledge of the situation.  

Saving time and money

With an atypical diagnosis, time is of the essence. Often the sooner you can find a proper diagnosis and good management plan, the better chance you will have in managing symptoms, treatment, and quality of life.  A private patient advocate can efficiently help you find the resources that you need, as they have the process and tools required to do so. This, in the end, will save you both money and more importantly time. 

Personal Support

With a private patient advocate, you are not going through this challenge alone.  A private patient advocate is here for you to walk side-by-side and assist you through your path. Even if you are fortunate enough to have family or friends by your side, it is comforting to know that you have your very own private patient advocate with you looking out for your best interest.

Call Pathway Patient Advocates today, you won’t be disappointed. We are here for you: (248) 247-8552

PA, NP, MD, DO, Resident, Fellow…how are these titles different?

Years ago a person wearing a white coat in a hospital or medical office was a doctor…plain and simple.  Well…this is no longer the case.  As if the healthcare system isn’t confusing enough, providers with various acronyms all wear white coats. So how do you know who is who, and what exactly do they all do?  

Lets first start with the commonly known title: doctor:

A doctor, also known as a physician, is a person that holds a medical degree after completing medical school. After medical school, most doctors also complete various amount of years of residency, where they continue to train under a seasoned doctor. The number of years of residency varies based on the specialty that they choose. In addition, they may also complete a fellowship.

MD versus DO

In many ways, MD and DO are the same. 

The MD title is given to a doctor who has completed allopathic medical school.  DO is given to a doctor who has completed an osteopathic medical school.  The main difference in the training is while MD focuses on treating specific conditions with medications;  DO training focus on whole-body healing.  In practice, these doctors work together in the same facilities, and both hold the qualifications for practicing medicine.

Resident Physician

A resident is an aspiring doctor (MD or DO) that has completed medical school and currently practicing under supervised training to gain experience in the field. The residency program varies based on the specialty. 

Intern

You may have heard a medical professional being referred to as an intern.  An intern is typically a first-year resident. An intern has successfully completed medical school and now practicing under the supervision of a physician. After the internship, the provider enters residency.

Fellow

A fellowship training program is required for a physician to practice as a specialist. For example, surgical oncology. During fellowship, the “Fellow Physician” closely trains under the specialty physician.  The length of fellowship varies based on specialty. 

Physician Assistant (PA)

A Physician Assistant, sometimes also called a Physician Extender or Advanced Practice Provider. A Physician Assistant is a medical professional who has successfully graduated from a Physician Assistant Studies Program and completed board certification.  Physician Assistants hold at a minimum a masters of science degree and some also have a Doctorate or Ph.D. degree. A Physician Assistant can diagnose illnesses, develop and manage treatment plans, and prescribe medications.  They can also perform procedures and work in specialty practice areas such as surgery, emergency medicine, pediatrics, critical care medicine, and psychiatry. Physician Assistants can be a person’s primary healthcare provider.

Nurse Practitioner (NP)

A Nurse Practitioner, also known as an Advanced Practice Nurses, or APN.  A nurse practitioner is a registered nurse who has gained additional training in a specialty area.  Nurse Practitioners hold a master’s degree in nursing and board certification in their specific specialty.  Nurse practitioners can diagnose, treat, and prescribe medications.  They can be a person’s primary healthcare provider. Nurse practitioners can also hold a Doctorate of Nursing degrees. 

A Common Mission

Whether you see a healthcare provider whose badge reads MD, DO, PA, NP, fellow, intern, or resident…they all share one common goal.  The goal of these professions is to provide patients with the best possible care and quality of life.