Choosing a doctor or another type of health professional to help with your health care is very important. Never before have people had so many kinds of doctors and other health professionals to choose from. The relationship you have with your health professional greatly influences the health decisions you make and, ultimately, your health.
Talk with your health professional about being a partner in your health decisions. He or she will most likely support your desire to take an active role in your health care.
Think about these important things when you are choosing a health professional:
- Is the health professional well-trained and experienced?
- Is the health professional board-certified?
- Will the health professional be available when needed?
- Will the health professional work in partnership with you?
- Does your health plan provide coverage for this service?
This topic lists many of the specialties and subspecialties of medical doctors (MDs) and osteopathic doctors (DOs). It also provides listings for other types of health professionals you may see for your health needs. Each listing includes a description of the specialty and information about why you might choose that type of health professional.
Types of Specialists
Medical specialists are doctors who have completed advanced education and clinical training in a specific area of medicine (their specialty area). Examples of medical specialists include the following:
- Addiction psychiatrist
- Adolescent medicine specialist
- Allergist (immunologist)
- Cardiac electrophysiologist
- Cardiovascular surgeon
- Colon and rectal surgeon
- Critical care medicine specialist
- Developmental pediatrician
- Emergency medicine specialist
- Family medicine physician
- Forensic pathologist
- Geriatric medicine specialist
- Gynecologic oncologist
- Hand surgeon
- Hospice and palliative medicine specialist
- Hyperbaric physician
- Infectious disease specialist
- Interventional cardiologist
- Medical examiner
- Medical geneticist
- Neurological surgeon
- Nuclear medicine specialist
- Occupational medicine specialist
- Oral surgeon (maxillofacial surgeon)
- Orthopedic surgeon
- Otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat specialist)
- Pain management specialist
- Plastic surgeon
- Radiation oncologist
- Reproductive endocrinologist
- Sleep disorders specialist
- Spinal cord injury specialist
- Sports medicine specialist
- Thoracic surgeon
- Vascular surgeon
Other Health Professionals
Other health professionals include the following:
- Certified diabetes educator (CDE)
- Certified nurse-midwife
- Certified nursing assistant (CNA)
- Certified professional midwife
- Certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA)
- Chiropractor (doctor of chiropractic medicine)
- Dental hygienist
- General practitioner
- Genetic counselor
- Lay midwife
- Licensed mental health counselor
- Licensed nurse (LPN or LVN)
- Naturopathic doctor (ND)
- Nurse practitioner (NP)
- Occupational therapist (OT)
- Physical therapist (PT)
- Physician assistant (PA)
- Psychiatric nurse
- Radiologic technologist
- Recreational therapist
- Registered dietitian (RD)
- Registered nurse (RN)
- Respiratory therapist (RT)
- Social worker
- Speech-language pathologist (speech therapist)
Preparing for Your Appointment
Before the visit
Collect the following information before your visit. Take it with you to your appointment.
- Gather any medical records for previous treatment for the same or a similar problem.
- Make a list of all prescription and nonprescription medicines you are taking.
During the visit
- State your main problem or reason for your visit.
- Describe your symptoms.
- Describe your past experiences with this problem.
- State how this problem is affecting your life.
After the visit
- What your health professional thinks the problem might be.
- What you might expect to happen next.
- What you can do to manage your problem at home.
Questions to ask about medicines, tests, and treatments
- What is the name of the medicine, test, or treatment?
- Why is it needed?
- What are the risks?
- What are potential side effects?
- Are there alternatives?
- How much does it cost?
- Is the cost of the medicine covered by my insurance?
- What will happen if I decide not to have treatment?
- How do I take this medicine?
- How will this medicine react with other medicines I am taking?
- How do I prepare for each test or treatment?
Questions to ask at the end of your visit
- When should I return for another visit?
- When will test results be available?
- Should I contact you or will you contact me?
- Be sure to ask for copies of any test results.
- Are there any danger signs that I need to look for?
- What else do I need to know?
For more information, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
Other Places To Get Help
- Anesthesia Specialists
- Cardiac Rehabilitation Team
- Choosing a Health Care Provider
- Coronary Artery Disease: Roles of Different Doctors
- Diabetes: Roles on Your Care Team
- Doctors Who Treat Cleft Lip and Palate
- Eye Care Specialists
- Pregnancy: Choosing a Health Professional
- Smart Decisions: Know Your Options
- Spinal Cord Injury: Your Rehabilitation Team
- Work Closely With Your Doctor
Other Works Consulted
- Anspaugh DJ, et al. (2011). Becoming a responsible health care consumer. In Wellness: Concepts and Applications, 8th ed., pp. 453–484. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Current as ofJanuary 17, 2014
To learn more, visit Healthwise.org