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Understanding the roles of each member of your healthcare team is important, especially when managing a chronic condition. Knowing what each professional does, and the differences between roles, will help you, the patient at the center of everyone’s job.
The healthcare team, regardless of whether you’re treated at a large academic institution or a small, rural private practice, is the group of professionals who contribute to your care and treatment as a patient. Typical members of a healthcare team are a doctor and a registered nurse. In some cases, there might be a Nurse Practitioner instead of or as well as a doctor. In others, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and social workers may be part of the team. Office managers also play an important role in the healthcare team.
Go to a doctor for an initial examination, a diagnosis, and prescribed treatment plan. A doctor will gather a full understanding of your condition and prescribe the treatment options he or she thinks will be most effective in managing your disease. A doctor will monitor you throughout your treatment to make sure your condition improves. A doctor may perform treatment, or he or she may delegate that to a registered nurse. It is a doctor’s responsibility to make sure you are receiving the treatment and care that is most effective for you.
It is likely that the majority of your time accessing healthcare from a professional will be spent with a registered nurse. Go to an RN for any questions or concerns you have about your treatment, symptoms, side effects, or anything else. A nurse will work with you to ensure that you can access the necessary care. Registered nurses communicate all information they gather with the rest of the healthcare team and act as your voice. It is their job to not only be responsible for the delivery of your care, but to ensure you are well informed, able to access your treatment, and emotionally equipped to deal with your disease.
An APRN is an advanced practice registered nurse. This can include Nurse Midwives and Nurse Anesthetists, but it is likely you will encounter APRNs in the form of Nurse Practitioners (NP’s).
There is a chance that a Nurse Practitioner instead of or in addition to a doctor treats you. Depending on which state you live in, NPs can practice medicine independently or under the guidance of a doctor. The scope of practice, or what they are legally qualified to do, varies state by state, though all NPs receive the education necessary to prepare them for direct patient care. A nurse practitioner can assess, diagnose, and prescribe treatment for you, as well as implement care.
There are some important differences, which of course vary considerably depending on where you live and the type of care you receive. There are some commonalities, regardless of whether you go to an academic institution such as University of Pennsylvania Medical Center or a rural private practice.
Doctors are qualified to give you your medical diagnosis, as well as your prescription to treatments. It is your doctor who will review and analyze the results of your medical history, physical examination, lab tests, and other diagnostic testing to put together the puzzle of your condition. Your doctor is also the one who prescribes a treatment plan, whether it be medication, physical therapy, or another option.
Your Registered Nurse is responsible for collecting much of the information the doctor uses to make a diagnosis. Your nurse also consults with the doctor, and uses his or her professional opinion to work with the doctor to make decisions about your care. It is the nurse who is responsible for implementing much of your treatment plan. Your nurse will also make an effort to educate you about what your diagnosis means, what your treatment will entail, and how you can work together to make sure your care is effective for you.
A Nurse Practitioner may be qualified to give you your medical diagnosis, as well as your prescription to treatments. Depending on where you live your NP can operate with as much independence as a doctor, but in some places may work under a doctor’s supervision.
Office Managers are also called Healthcare Executives or Healthcare Administrators, and they:
Your office manager is there to ensure that the facilities you use are safe, up to date, and able to provide the best quality care to you. They are there to coordinate the goals of the medical staff, ensuring that each has you at its center. You can go to your office manager with questions about insurance or other accessibility issues. If you have any concerns about how another member of the healthcare team practices, you can bring them up to your office manager and trust he or she will address your concerns.