M.D., D.O., N.P., P.A. …

Deciphering the alphabet soup of medical professions.

Looking at the identification badges at your hospital or urgent care, do you sometimes get confused by the alphabet soup of titles? Here’s a guide to decoding the abbreviations so you know who is who and who does what. 

  •  M.D.  A Doctor of Medicine has completed four years of medical school and another three years of training through residency. After residency, they often pursue further training in specialty fields like neurology, orthopedics, or pediatrics.
  •  D.O.  Doctors of osteopathy also complete four years of medical school, followed by three-year residencies and specialty training. Once in the field, they tend to focus on primary care and a whole-person approach to medicine. 
  •  P.A.  A physician assistant practices medicine with physician supervision. After three years of training, PAs perform physical exams, write prescriptions, and even assist in surgery. You’ll often see them at urgent care.
  •  R.N.  A registered nurse is not limited to working in hospital settings but is licensed to work in clinics, schools, assisted living facilities, homes, schools, and more. A two- or four-year degree in nursing is required.
  •  N.P.  A nurse practitioner is a registered nurse with enhanced training and education. They have a master’s degree in nursing and a certification to practice as a nurse practitioner.
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