What is the Healthcare Team?

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.

Let’s start with the basics: What is the Healthcare Team?

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.

What is the role of a Doctor?

Doctors can:

  • Take medical histories
  • Update charts and patient information to show current findings and treatments
  • Order tests for nurses or other healthcare staff to perform
  • Review test results to identify any abnormal findings
  • Recommend and design a plan of treatment
  • Address concerns or answer questions that patients have about their health and well-being
  • Help patients take care of their health by discussing such topics as proper nutrition and hygiene
  • Diagnose and treat injuries or illnesses
  • Some doctors, like surgeons, can operate on patients to treat injuries

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.

What is the role of a Registered Nurse?

Registered Nurses can:

  • Provide and coordinate patient care
  • Record patient’s medical histories and symptoms
  • Administer patients’ medicines and treatments
  • Set up plans for patients’ care or contribute to existing plans
  • Observe patients and record observations
  • Consult and collaborate with doctors and other members of the healthcare team
  • Operate and monitor medical equipment
  • Help perform diagnostic tests and analyze the results
  • Educate patients and the public about health conditions
  • Provide advice and emotional support to patients and their family members

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.

What is the role of an APRN?

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).

Nurse Practitioners:

  • Coordinate patient care
  • Provide primary and specialty healthcare
  • Take and record patients’ medical histories and symptoms
  • Perform physical exams and observe patients
  • Create plans for patients’ care or contribute to existing plans
  • Perform and order diagnostic tests
  • Operate and monitor medical equipment
  • Diagnose various health problems
  • Analyze test results or changes in a patient’s condition, and alter treatment plans as needed
  • Give patients medicines and treatments
  • Evaluate a patient’s response to medicines and treatments
  • Consult with doctors and other healthcare professionals, as needed
  • Counsel and teach patients and their families how to stay healthy or mange their illnesses or injuries
  • Conduct research

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.

What is the difference between these?

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.

What is the role of an Office Manager?

Office Managers are also called Healthcare Executives or Healthcare Administrators, and they:

  • Plan, direct, and coordinate medical and health services
  • Manage an office, facility, department, or clinical area
  • Direct changes that conform to changes in healthcare laws, regulations, and technology
  • Work to improve efficiency and quality in delivering healthcare services
  • Develop departmental goals and objectives
  • Ensure the facility in which they work is up to date on and compliant with new laws and regulations
  • Recruit, train, and supervise staff
  • Manage the finances of the facility
  • Create work schedules
  • Prepare and monitor budgets and spending to ensure departments operate within allocated funds
  • Represent the facility at investor meetings or on governing boards
  • Keep and organize records of the facility’s services, such as the number of inpatient beds used
  • Communicate with members of the medical staff and department heads

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.


Learn more about your healthcare team


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