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Types of Doctors You May See

To stay healthy, most of us see doctors on a regular basis. Once diagnosed with a chronic disease like heart failure, we are often exposed to various different types of doctors. Here are some of the doctors we might meet.

Primary Care Physicians (PCP)

These are people who practice medicine. They are capable of diagnosing and treating a wide range of medical conditions. These are the people who you will see for your general healthcare needs. Their job is to help keep you healthy and manage a wide range of medical conditions. There are various different types of PCPs.1

Family practice

They care for patients of any age. They manage your health when you are healthy. And they manage your health when you are diagnosed with diseases. They are able to care for a broad spectrum of medical conditions. They can certainly manage patients with heart diseases or heart failure. Although, when the care you need and deserve extends beyond their scope of practice, they may refer you to a specialist.2

Internist

They may also be called doctors of Internal Medicine. These are physicians who only take care of adults. They specialize in all the diseases of your internal body, otherwise referred to as internal diseases. This would include diagnosing and managing heart failure. When you tell them your symptoms, it’s their job to hunt for clues and solve the mystery of what is causing them. Sometimes they are even consulted by other physicians to help them solve the patient’s problem. Although, as with family practice physicians, when the care you need exceeds their scope of practice they may refer you to a specialist.3

Nurse practitioner (NP)

They are nurses who go through additional or advanced training. This training involves strategies for assessing patients, ordering diagnostic tests, diagnosing, and treating the various medical conditions. NPs may take care of patients of any age. Although, some choose to specialize in one area. For instance, some specialize in cardiovascular diseases and become Cardiac NPs.4-5

Physician’s assistant (PA)

They practice medicine under the supervision of a physician. Like other PCPs, they are able to assess patients, order diagnostic tests, diagnose, and treat various medical conditions. Like NP’s, they may also specialize in a particular area of medicine. For instance, they may specialize in internal medicine or family practice. They may specialize in surgery, critical care medicine, emergency medicine, etc.6

Specialists

These are physicians who specialize in one area of medicine. There are two types of physicians who specialize in taking care of the heart.7

Cardiologist

These are doctors who specialize in diseases of the cardiovascular system, or the heart and blood vessels. They can diagnose and treat the various diseases of the heart. They can diagnose and treat abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias). They can diagnose and treat coronary artery disease, heart defects, or any medical condition associated with the heart. They treat heart diseases with medicine. They may also perform non-surgical procedures such as coronary stents, ablations, and insertion of pacemakers and defibrillators. This is probably the most common specialist for members of our community.  They do not perform surgeries. That is the job of another heart specialist called the Cardiovascular Surgeon.8-9

Cardiovascular surgeons

These are your heart or cardiac surgeons They specialize in performing surgeries of the heart and blood vessels. Usually, another doctor diagnoses you with heart disease. And you are then referred to this specialist who will determine if surgery is the appropriate treatment for you. If so, this is the doctor who performs the surgery. They may also continue to monitor you after the surgery. They may fix heart defects, do coronary artery bypass surgeries, fix broken heart valves, or replace them if needed. They may also perform operations on blood vessels if needed.9

Emergency Room physician

These are doctors who specialize in emergency medicine. If you are experiencing symptoms of heart failure right now, this is the doctor you will come to see. They can quickly diagnose and treat you in emergency situations.

Hospitalist

These are doctors who work in the hospital setting. They take care of you when you are admitted to the hospital.

There are many other types of specialists. For instance, if you have COPD you may be referred to a pulmonologist. If you have asthma you may be referred to a pulmonologist, allergist, or Ear-Nose-And-Throat (ENT) physician. Yet, noted above are some of the types of specialists you may see as you manage life with heart diseases such as heart failure.

How about you? What kinds of doctors do you see? Let us know in the comments below!

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