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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a "physician provider" and "non-physician provider"?

Health care services are provided by a variety of highly-trained, licensed medical professionals. The most recognizable type are known as "physician providers"; these providers include:
• Medical Doctors (MD)
• Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine (DO)
Many health care services are carried out by "non-physician providers" as well. These are typically supervised by, or in collaboration, with a physician. Non-physician providers include:
• Audiologists
• Certified Nurse Midwifes (CNM)
• Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA)
• Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS)
• Doctors of Optometry (OD)
• Doctors of Philosophy (PhD)
• Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW)
• Marriage & Family Therapists (MFT)
• Occupational Therapists (OT or OTR)
• Nurse Practitioners (NP), including Family Nurse Practitioners (FNP), Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (PNP), and Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (CPNP)
• Physician Assistants (PA or PA-C)
• Physical Therapists (PT or PTA)
• Registered Nurses (RN or RNC)
• Registered Nutritionists (RD)
Physicians are usually better-equipped to manage more complicated cases, while non-physician providers are frequently excellent sources of routine care. The quality of care you receive always meets the same high standards, regardless of whether you are being treated by a physician provider or a non-physician provider. While physicians alone are responsible for certain activities such as prescribing controlled drugs and performing surgeries, other of their responsibilities may be shared with non-physician providers. For instance, Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants can also make medical referrals, and most states (including California) authorize Physician Assistants to write prescriptions.

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