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Who's Who in Health Care

When you have a health problem, a doctor, nurse, or other health care provider may care for you, depending on your condition. The following list of health care professionals can help you understand the wide array of people called upon to render care:

Chiropractors practice a drug-free, hands-on approach to health care that includes patient examination, diagnosis, and treatment. According to the American Chiropractic Association, chiropractors have broad diagnostic skills and are also trained to recommend therapeutic and rehabilitative exercises, as well as to provide nutritional, dietary, and lifestyle counseling.

Doctors of Medicine (MDs) have graduated from an accredited medical school and are licensed to practice medicine after successfully completing a state licensing examination. These doctors may also be referred to as physicians.

Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) are licensed to provide immediate care in emergency situations within offices, hospitals, emergency rooms, and emergency response teams.

Home health aides provide personal-care services and some nursing to the home-bound sick and disabled.

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) provide hands-on nursing care under the supervision of doctors or registered nurses. In some states, these nurses are known as licensed vocational nurses, or LVNs.

Medical assistants work in a doctor's office and do scheduling, prepare patients for exams, do some office procedures or tests, handle phone calls, and serve as a liaison between the health care provider and others.

Medical records personnel keep patients' records complete, accurate, up-to-date, and confidential.

Medical technologists perform laboratory tests to help doctors diagnose diseases, and determine their extent and possible causes.

Nurse practitioners (NPs) are registered nurses with advanced degrees and training in diagnosis and treatment of illness. NPs may prescribe medications, administer physical exams, and counsel patients on how to stay healthy.

Nurse midwives, certified nurse-midwives, and certified midwives provide obstetrical and gynecological care. They offer prenatal and post-pregnancy care, attend births and care for women's gynecological needs throughout their lives.

Nurses' aides, orderlies and attendants assist nurses in hospitals, nursing homes, and other settings.

Occupational therapists work with disabled patients to help them adapt to their disabilities -- perhaps by relearning skills needed for daily activities or modifying the physical environment.

Opticians are specialists in filling prescriptions for eyeglasses and contact lenses. Many states require opticians to be licensed.

Optometrists (ODs) are doctors of optometry. According to the American Optometric Association, they are the primary healthcare professionals for the eye. Optometrists are licensed by the states, and may prescribe medications, low vision rehabilitation, vision therapy, spectacle lenses, contact lenses, and perform certain surgical procedures.

Orthotists and prosthetists prepare and fit braces and artificial limbs.

Osteopaths (DOs) are doctors of osteopathy, a standard system of medical and surgical care.

Paramedics provide care in emergency situations. They're more highly trained than EMTs.

Physical therapists provide services that help prevent loss of function and help restore function for those with certain medical conditions or restrictions.

Physician assistants perform physical examinations, counsel patients and prescribe certain medications under a doctor's supervision.

Psychologists are trained in the study of human behavior. They provide mental health counseling and testing and do individual and group therapy. Psychologists are not medical doctors (MDs), and may not prescribe medications.

Radiologic technicians prepare patients for X-rays and take and develop these diagnostic photographs.

Registered dietitians are licensed to apply dietary principles to help people maintain their health or treat diseases.

Registered pharmacists are licensed to ensure that patients are given the correct medications at the time they are needed.

Respiratory therapists treat breathing disorders, perform diagnostic breathing tests, and assist in postoperative rehabilitation.

Social workers help patients with finances, insurance, discharge plans, housing and other social and family problems arising out of illness or disability.

Speech pathologists and audiologists measure hearing ability and treat verbal-communication disorders.

Surgical technicians are members of the surgical team who work closely with surgeons, anesthesiologists, registered nurses and other surgical personnel during and after surgery.