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Who's Who in Your Doctor's Office?

How to tell your MD from your NP, RN and PA

  • Doctor's coat, Health Care Providers Unmasked
    Photograph by Sue Tallon, styling by Thea Chalmers

    Behind the Coat

    En español l Back in the day, there were doctors and nurses. Now a plethora of health care professionals may be caring for you. Here’s how to keep them straight.

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  • Your Health Care Providers Unmasked
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    Physician (MD)

    PAs can diagnose, and prescribe lab tests, treatment and medication. They typically have a master’s degree plus 2,000 hours of training with patients while in PA school. A PA’s white coat is a little shorter than a physician’s.

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    Physician assistant (PA)

    An NP has a master’s degree, which includes 500 to 700 hours of direct patient care during nursing school. NPs can do much of what doctors do, including diagnose you and prescribe medications.

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    Certified and licensed by the state, RNs administer meds, provide care and otherwise manage patient care. The iconic nurse’s cap all but disappeared by the 1980s, as more men became nurses and there was a switch to unisex scrubs.

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  • Your Health Care Providers Unmasked
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    Medical student

    En español l Back in the day, there were doctors and nurses. Now a plethora of health care professionals may be caring for you. Here’s how to keep them straight.

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    Registered nurse (RN)

    En español l Back in the day, there were doctors and nurses. Now a plethora of health care professionals may be caring for you. Here’s how to keep them straight.

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    Technician

    En español l Back in the day, there were doctors and nurses. Now a plethora of health care professionals may be caring for you. Here’s how to keep them straight.

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    En español l Back in the day, there were doctors and nurses. Now a plethora of health care professionals may be caring for you. Here’s how to keep them straight.

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