Portland, Oregon

Portland, Oregon

Friday, February 5, 2016

Medical Titles

I don't know about you but I'm confused about who is treating me these days when I see my doctor.  In days of old it was more simple, there were nurses and there were doctors. I did not know enough to check education, certifications, and exams.

I had read about Physician's Assistants (PA) and thought that was a good move given the predicted shortage of physicians.  I am okay with seeing a PA for my little aches and pains.  They are also good for monitoring chronic conditions, and that is what I see when I go to one of the urgent care clinics.

Then the day came when I was told my appointment would be with a Nurse Practitioner (NP).  Something new, how different was that from a Physician's Assistant (PA)?  Hard to say.

Next I noticed name tags with Medical  Assistant (MA).  Who were they?

I decided it was time for me to do a little investigative work. I can only give a brief amount of information in this space but perhaps it will be enough to assist you in doing your own research.

Physician Assistant (PA)
Must have a master's degree, or a doctorate of some kind. They are qualified by taking a national certification exam and practice under a trained physician.  They only work when a trained physician is on site to supervise.  They're great in clinics and urgent care, one physician can supervise several.

Nurse Practitioner (NP)
Also must have a master's degree, or doctorate of some kind. They also are qualified through national certification exams. Nurse practitioners are generally more focused to a specific population, such as pediatrics or geriatrics.  They can also carry out some tasks of healthcare without supervision. They can work alone in certain settings.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
Have completed a bachelor's degree with training in leadership, management, and administrative roles in addition to courses required to become an RN.  Must pass the national NCLEX test.

Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)
Must have completed a two year associate degree in Nursing from a college or university program or a Diploma of Nursing from a hospital-based nursing program.  Must pass the national NCLEX test.

Licensed Practical/Vocational Nurse (LPN)(LVN)
Most programs are provided by vocational schools or community colleges.  Programs generally require one year of full time study to complete.  Must pass The National Council Licensure Examination. They do not work independently, but are supervised  by a Registered Nurse (RN).  Physicians and RNs determine courses of patient care.  The LPN/LVN assists in carrying out these instructions.

Medical Assistant (MA)
This one confuses me.  There appears to be two tracks for this one.  The two year associate degree program opens up the widest path to future advancement but there is also a one year program. Must pass the Registered Medical Assistant Exam(RMA).  Most clinics are moving to fewer RNs and more MAs.  The salary for an MA is much lower than for an RN.

Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA)
Training lasts approximately eight weeks.  Programs usually offered through vocational schools and community colleges.  Upon completion of program must register as a nurse assistant with their state health department and pass a written competency examination.  These are the people we are familiar with in the hospitals that we refer to as nurses aides.

I have only listed a few, perhaps the more common ones you see around clinics, hospitals, and labs but the list goes on and on.


  1. Forgive me if I don't even try to keep all of this in my head. I have received medical attention from a PA, NP, RN and, of course, an MD.

    1. I have to admit politics and medicine fascinate me.

  2. I cannot give a pleasant review of most of these and wouldn't want anyone to have a meltdown from my opinion.

    1. Unfortunately few of us will make it out of this life without needing the services of these people.

  3. Think I need to bookmark this for future reference. I do use a NP for the minor stuff and maintenance like INR testing. She Works with my primary and is easier to see and seems to care more. She seems more in tune to female problems.

    1. It seems to me people are very pleased when they have the opportunity to see an NP or PA. Perhaps their career track has not allowed them to build massive egos like happens with some MDs.

  4. thanks for taking the time to enlighten us with this information. I truly haven't given it much thought, but it is a relief to know that there is a high level of education within the medical community.

  5. Interesting. Took the Grandson to the doctor for stomach bug and saw a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. I liked her and felt good with her treatment. He liked her as well. I'll be glad to use her again as long as it's the usual childhood problems.