Who’s right for you? What do all those initials mean?
Here are descriptions of some of the types of providers at Gifford:
Nurse Practitioners (DNP, FNP-BC, APRN)
The letters after a nurse practitioner’s name indicates their area of specialized training: i.e. APRN (Advance Practice Registered Nurse), FNP-BC (Family Nurse Practitioner – Board Certified) or ANP-BC (Adult Nurse Practitioner – Board Certified). Family nurse practitioners see patients of all ages. Pediatric nurse practitioners see children. Adult nurse practitioners focus on adults, often called internal medicine.
Nurse practitioners train to specialize in a specific area (including primary care). The core philosophy of the nurse practitioner field is individualized care, preventing illness, promoting wellness, and patient education.
Education: Nurse practitioners are registered nurses who have completed a minimum of a master’s degree and received training in the diagnosis and management of common medical conditions, including chronic illnesses. Providers with a Doctor Nursing Practice (DNP) have obtained the highest level of training in nursing practices.
Certification: Nurse practitioners are certified through the American Nurses Credentialing Center or American Academy of Nurse Practitioners in specialized areas and are licensed by the state and overseen by the Vermont State Board of Nursing.
Physician Assistants-Certified (PA-C)
Physician assistants, under the supervision of a physician, are primary health care professionals who are trained to diagnose and treat acute illness and injury, assist in surgery, and manage chronic disease. Following a medical model, they use preventive medicine to promote healthy lifestyles and provide a broad range of healthcare services.
Education: Physician assistants graduate from a Master of Physician Assistant Studies program.
Certification: Physician assistants are certified by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants and, like physicians, licensed by the state Board of Medical Practice.
Certified Nurse-Midwives (CNM)
Certified Nurse-Midwives (CNMs) are health care providers educated in nursing and midwifery who have graduated from college, passed a national examination, and have a license to practice midwifery. CNMs provide health care to women throughout their lives including prenatal care, birth, care after birth, care for the new baby, annual exams, birth control planning, women’s health issues, menopause, and health counseling.
Midwife means “with woman.” CNMs recognize that each pregnancy and birth is unique believe you deserve time and individualized attention during pregnancy so that you can be healthy and feel empowered to birth and take care of your baby. They specialize in providing support, regular health care, and information throughout your pregnancy and birth. CNMs can prescribe medications or treatments for common illness that you might get during pregnancy and work with doctors who specialize in illness and complications during pregnancy. If you have a medical problem during pregnancy or a complication during labor, your midwife will work with a doctor to make sure you get the best and safest care for your baby.
Education: CNM programs are graduate level programs that are only open to licensed RNs who already hold a bachelor’s degree (preferably in nursing). CNM programs grant a master’s or graduate degree. They take a minimum of 24 months to complete.
Certification: CNM’s are certified by the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB).
You are probably familiar with the letters MD (Doctor of Medicine) after a doctor’s name, but there are other types of doctors at Gifford, including Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine (DO), Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM), Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) and Naturopathic Doctors (ND).
Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine
Like an MD, DOs typically have earned a four-year undergraduate degree, have spent four years in medical school, chose a practice specialty and completed an internship and residency program. They must pass licensing exams to become doctors, but they are licensed differently. In Vermont, DOs are licensed through the Secretary of State’s Office of Professional Regulation. MDs are licensed through the Vermont Board of Medical Practice.
DOs perform surgery, deliver babies, treat patients, prescribe medications, and work in the same settings as MDs, using the same tools, treatments and technologies. DOs, however, receive extra training in the musculoskeletal system (your muscles and bones) and have been specially trained to perform hands-on manual osteopathic manipulations on patients.
Osteopathic medicine is also dedicated to treating and healing the patient as a whole, centers on the belief that the body’s systems are interconnected, and focuses on preventative care. The goal of the DO is often not just to treat problems as they arise, but to prevent problems by evaluating your overall health, including what might be going on at home or work and your stress level.
Doctors of Podiatric Medicine
A Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM), also called a podiatrist or podiatric surgeon is specially trained in the medical treatment of disorders of the foot, ankle and lower leg. A DPM typically has a four-year undergraduate degree, has attended one of the nation’s accredited podiatric medical schools, and has completed a surgical residency program as well as rigorous board certification exams. Like MDs, DPMs are licensed through the Vermont Board of Medical Practice.
Doctor of Chiropractic
A Doctor of Chiropractic (DC), chiropractor, or chiropractic physician is a medical professional who is trained to diagnose and treat disorders of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems. Chiropractors treat patients of all ages—infants, children, and adults. They believe in a conservative (non-surgical) hands-on approach to treating these disorders. They must earn a DC degree, pass national board exams and obtain a state license. Chiropractors are licensed by the VT Office of Professional Regulation, similar to DOs. DC programs are 4 years to complete and require at least 3 years of undergraduate education for admission.
A Naturopathic Doctor (ND) treats all medical conditions and can provide both individual and family health care. A licensed ND has attended a four-year naturopathic medical school focusing on basic sciences as well as holistic and nontoxic approaches to disease prevention and wellness. This training includes clinical nutrition, acupuncture, homeopathic medicine, botanical medicine, psychology and counseling to encourage people to make lifestyle changes in support of their personal health. NDs are trained to utilize prescription drugs, although the emphasis of naturopathic medicine is the use of natural healing agents.
A naturopathic physician takes board exams so that he or she may be licensed by a state or jurisdiction. In Vermont, that licensing body is Secretary of State’s Office of Professional Regulation.