Hepatitis C: A Glossary of Terms. Who Are The Medical Personnel?

Who are the Medical Personnel?

Doctor and nurse talking in hospital hallway
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Medicine truly is a foreign language and many providers forget that patients may not be as familiar with this as their physician.  There are actually courses given in medical terminology for administrative personnel, but hopefully you shouldn’t need that degree of expertise to visit your doctor.  If you do, you probably need to find a new provider!  The purpose of this article is to provide you with the definition of a few of the most common terms.

We will start with the medical personnel you may encounter along your journey.

The Medical Personnel

There will be numerous people you will likely encounter during your visit.  They are all part of a team of providers to usher you through the system.  These include:

  • A clerk/secretary who will check you in and will likely give you some forms to complete about your health history and insurance status;
  • A nurse or medical technician who will take you to the examination/consultation room and take your vital signs and give you an exam gown to wear;
  • A nurse, NP or PA who will assist your physician and will most often be the person who will be most directly involved in your care after the office visit is over. He/she will typically call you back with your test results, explain their meaning, answer any questions, and review your doctor’s management plan. They are clearly the doctor’s right arm.
    • Nurse: a registered nurse (RN) has completed Nursing School and most now have a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Many have had prior experience in a hospital setting before moving to an office or clinic and work closely with your doctor.
    • Nurse Practitioner (NP): are advanced practice registered nurses (APRN) who have acquired the expert knowledge base, complex decision-making skills and clinical competencies for expanded practice, the characteristics of which are shaped by the context and/or country in which s/he is credentialed to practice. A master's degree is recommended for entry level. ( Wikipedia NP )
    • Physician’s Assistant (PA): a person who has a bachelor’s degree and completed 2-3 years of additional training to allow them to “obtain medical histories, perform examinations and procedures, order treatments, diagnose diseases, prescribe medication, order and interpret diagnostic tests, refer patients to specialists as required, and first or second-assist in surgery.” ( Wikipedia PA )
  • A medical student, resident or fellow may also assist your physician
    • Medical student: usually a student in the 3rd or 4th year of medical school who will shadow your physician but is not licensed and cannot prescribe medication. They may perform a physical examination and take a medical history.
    • Medical resident: a licensed physician who has completed a medical degree (MD) or a Doctor of Osteopathy (DO) and is in training, usually in Internal Medicine.  They may prescribe medication and perform some surgical or diagnostic procedures under supervision.
    • Fellow: a licensed physician who is certified (or eligible) in Internal Medicine and undergoing additional training (fellowship) in Gastroenterology (or Hepatology).  These gastroenterology programs are typically three years in duration and include hepatology experience.  However, in order to be certified as a Hepatologist, they may need an additional year of Transplant Hepatology fellowship training.
  • Pharmacist or PharmD: a pharmacist or a doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) may be part of the team concerned with medical treatment. “The current Pharm.D. degree curriculum is considerably different from that of the prior BS in pharmacy. It now includes extensive didactic clinical preparation, hands-on clinical practice experience in a wider array of healthcare settings, and a greater emphasis on clinical pharmacy practice pertaining to pharmacotherapy optimization.” ( Wikipedia: PharmD: )  The PharmD will help obtain prior authorization for your hepatitis medications, review any potential drug-drug interactions with your current medicines, and advise you on the proper way to take your medicines. In some circumstances, they will recommend a monitoring program.
  • Social worker:  a registered social worker may be assigned. “Social workers in this field have a graduate (post graduate) degree or a bachelor's degree with graduate/post graduate diploma in healthcare specialization, and work with patients and their families who face certain psychosocial barriers. Medical social workers assess the psychosocial functioning, environmental and support needs of patients and families and intervene as necessary. Interventions may include connecting patients and families to necessary resources and supports in the community; providing psychotherapy, supportive counseling, or grief counseling; or helping a patient to expand and strengthen their network of social supports.” (LINK: Wikipedia Social worker:)
  • Phlebotomist: a medical technician who is trained to draw blood for testing.
  • Billing secretary: before you leave the office or clinic, you may be directed to a billing secretary who will go over your medical bill and clarify your insurance coverage as well as  your deductible obligations.  They are a resource, along with the medical social worker, to help you through the maze of medical insurance and billing procedures.

“You can’t know the players without a scorecard” is just as apt in the medical field as it is on the ball field. I hope this helps.

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