Health News
Health News
December 9, 2020
Who’s Who at Your Doctor’s Office

Have you ever wondered who all the other people are at your doctor’s office when you go in for an appointment?  Most physicians have an integrated team of healthcare and administrative professionals in their offices who work together to provide patients with care. 

“Whether we are in primary care or another specialty area, no physician could run his or her practice without the support of a dedicated team around us,” says Dr. Larry Tatum, President and CEO of Privia Medical Group North Texas.  At Privia Medical Group North Texas, we are fortunate to have a great staff of professionals who are all working hard for our patients every single day.”

Every office is different, of course, and some will have staff members that others will not have.  Let’s take a look at some of the folks you may meet in your physician’s office:

Physician Assistants

Physician Assistants (PAs), according to the American Academy of PAs, “are medical professionals who diagnose illness, develop and manage treatment plans, prescribe medications, and often serve as a patient’s principal healthcare provider.”

There are more than 140,000 PAs in the United States and they collectively have more than 400 million patient interactions annually.  That’s a lot! Privia Medical Group North Texas includes several PAs working throughout the Metroplex. 

A PA can do much of what a physician does insofar as diagnosing and treating illness and prescribing medication.  PAs have extensive education: they must have the equivalent of a master’s degree, graduate from an accredited PA program and pass a certification exam.  They must also complete 100 hours of continuing medical education (CME) every two years. 

PAs are often found serving patients in outpatient offices or clinics but may also work in a hospital setting.  They can work in a variety of specialty areas, including primary care, internal medicine and pediatrics.

Nurse Practitioners

Advanced Practice Nurse Practitioners (APRNs), or Nurse Practitioners (NPs), have a similar level of advanced education and training as do PAs and may also serve as patient’s primary care provider.  NPs may also diagnose, treat and prescribe medication.  They are also often found in a primary care or hospital setting. 

Certified Nurse Midwife

A Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) works in the field of women’s health care services including pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum care and family planning.  A CNM can be a woman’s primary care provider, as they too have the ability to diagnose and treat illness and prescribe medications.  

In Texas, PAs, NPs and CNMs are required by law to work under the direction of a supervising licensed physician.  This means the physician reviews patient charts regularly and is available to discuss patient care with the PA, NP or CNM.

Registered Nurses

Registered nurses (RNs) are integral to patient care and assist the primary care provider with a variety of tasks.  In a physician’s office, an RN will likely be responsible for documenting your symptoms and taking your vitals, such as blood pressure and temperature readings.  They may dispense medication, provide patient instructions and administer injections or other treatment.  RNs typically have two to four years of specialized nursing education. 

Speech Language Pathologists

Speech Language Pathologists (SLPs) are trained professionals and communication experts who help patients with their speech.  They work with young children, older adults and everyone in between.  SLPs may be called on to help someone who has trouble speaking, perhaps due to a lisp, stutter or physical condition.  They also work with people who have had a traumatic medical event that affected their speech, such as a stroke. 

Physical Therapists

Physical therapists are trained experts in helping people regain their ability to move, reduce pain or restore function.  Physical therapists are often found in an orthopedic setting, helping patients recover from an injury to a joint.  They also work with stroke patients, helping them regain mobility and balance, as well as with people who are recovering from certain surgeries.

Occupational Therapists

Occupational therapists help with daily activities, such as eating, drinking and bathing.  They work with children and adults with disabilities who need help to better participate in school and other functions.  Occupational therapists also work with people who have suffered stroke or other conditions that have adversely affected cognitive ability and require specialized help to complete certain tasks. 

Lab Technicians

Lab technicians are an important part of your health care experience.  A lab technician is the person who draws your blood for your cholesterol screening or collects other fluid or tissue samples for the laboratory to analyze.  They are responsible for maintaining completely sterile equipment and making sure the sample gets to the lab safely. 

Administrative Support Staff

No medical office would be able to function without the support of administrative staff.  They handle everything from making appointments, checking patients in, helping new patients with their paperwork, verifying insurance coverage and more.  They will often be the first and last people you interact with at your doctor’s office. 

Healthcare Requires Teamwork!

As you can see, your doctor’s office is a busy place!  Your healthcare experience involves more than just your physician.  It takes an entire ecosystem of healthcare professionals, working together as a team to provide patients the care they need.  The next time you are at your doctor’s office, remember that each and every person who works there is playing a vital role in your patient care. 

This article contains information sourced from:

American Academy of PAs

American Association of Nurse Practitioners

Texas Medical Board

American Physical Therapy Association

American College of Nurse Midwives