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What are the differences between a Medical Doctor, Nurse Practitioner, and Physician Assistant?

Colorado Mountain Medical provides a variety of professional medical personnel to support individuals and families of all ages, so selecting your family's medical care provider can seem hard at first. Here is a hint, no choice is wrong. More specifically, you can choose between a Medical Doctor (MD), Nurse Practitioner (NP), and Physician Assistant (PA). 

There are many questions to answer, and it is important to understand the differences. The main question remains, which care provider is most qualified to take care of me and my family? The short answer is, any of them! For more information on education and qualifications, check out the comparisons below.

MEDICAL DOCTOR (MD)

Medical doctors train and graduate from classical medical schools and must go through 3 to 8 years of residency training. MD’s practice an allopathic (conventional or biomedicine) form of medicine and are licensed to treat symptoms and diseases, as well as perform specialty surgeries. Doctors of Osteopathic medicine (DO's) focus more on treating the body as a whole instead of treating specific conditions. Medical doctors are trained experts for youth, adult and geriatric care across the spectrum. MD’s practice independently.

What an MD does:

  • Diagnoses and manages acute and chronic illnesses
  • Orders, performs and interprets diagnostic tests such as lab work and X-rays. Refers to other specialists and healthcare providers as needed.
  • Prescribes medications and other treatments
  • Manages a patient's care
  • Surgeons perform operations

 

NURSE PRACTITIONER (NP)

Nurse practitioners are Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN) who have completed advanced education and extensive training. Nurse practitioners treat the whole person and guide each patient to make smart health and lifestyle choices. NP’s have a nursing type training that is based on diagnosis and treatment of patients, as well as a focus on psychosocial support and counseling. NP’s practice independently.

What an NP does:

  • Diagnoses and manages acute and chronic illnesses
  • Orders, performs and interprets diagnostic tests such as lab work and X-rays. Refers to specialists or other healthcare providers as needed.
  • Prescribes medications and other treatments
  • Manages a patient's care
  • Focuses on health promotion, disease prevention, health education and counseling
  • Practices under the rules and regulations of the state in which they're licensed and are nationally certified in the specialty areas

*NPs do not need physician supervision to make clinical decisions.

 

PHYSICIAN ASSISTANT (PA)

Physician assistants work in primary and specialty care under the direction and supervision of a licensed physician. Physician assistants have extensive medical training to diagnose illness, develop and manage treatment plans, prescribe medications, and serve as a patient’s primary healthcare provider. PA’s must work under the supervision of a doctor.

What a PA does:

  • Diagnose and treat common/minor illnesses and injuries
  • Perform certain procedures and minor surgeries
  • Prescribe medication
  • Order and interpret diagnostic and lab tests
  • Offer guidance about preventative healthcare and nutrition
  • Refer patients to a specialist and other healthcare providers

Ready to choose your Colorado Mountain Medical health care provider? You can view and reach out to our medical team on our FIND A PROVIDER page.