Types of Primary Care Physicians

The medical field is broad and can be filled with titles and names that are confusing and difficult to understand. As an example, there are primary care practitioners (PCPs), family doctors, and internists. These medical professionals much of the same care to their patients, however, understanding the differences between each of the providers can help you make the right selection for you and your family.

Primary Care Practitioner (PCP)

The term primary care practitioner (PCP) is used to describe the following types of medical professionals:

  • family medicine practitioner
  • nurse practitioner
  • physician’s assistant
  • internist
  • pediatrician
  • geriatrician

These health care professionals treat a wide range of health issues and can also aid in coordinating your medical treatment along with the necessary specialists.

Position and Treatments

When you are sick, whether it is a simple cold or something more complex, you can visit your PCP. They are trained to treating patients of all ages for various medical issues, including the prevention of diseases and routine maintenance. If a condition is outside their scope, they are able to refer patients to a specialist.

For many, their healthcare needs can be addressed directly by a PCP. If the needs go beyond the scope of the PCP, they may assist you in seeing a specialist or another doctor. A PCP is able to help coordinate the medical treatments across many different specialties. As an example, if find that you have an infected gallbladder, your PCP may refer you to a gastroenterologist for a consultation and a surgeon for the gallbladder removal. These different specialists will be responsible for your treatment, but your PCP will oversee the entire treatment.

When to See a PCP?

Whether you are battling the common flu, COVID-19/Corona Virus or showing signs of hormone imbalance or blood sugar issues, your PCP will often be the first doctor you visit.


Most insurance plans will cover PCP visits. There are some services offered by PCPs which are not covered by insurance. It is important to review your plan to understand what is covered prior to your visit.

Family Doctor

A family doctor, primary care physician assistants and nurse practitioners can provide care for everyone in your family, regardless of age. A family doctor is trained to provide care for patients from infancy to advanced age. They are often the doctor you will see who can treat minor problems such as bronchitis and more advanced problems such as COVID-19/Corona Virus, Diabetes or high blood pressure. Family doctors, physician assistants and nurse practitioners often act as an advocate for their patients and encourage healthy lifestyle choices.

Because the family doctor, physician assistants and nurse practitioners often treats other family members, they can often help with the prevention and early detection of potential genetic issues, such as thyroid disorder, obesity, heart disease, and high cholesterol.

For many people, having a doctor who is familiar with your individual and family history can be beneficial. In the event that your condition goes beyond their scope of, they are able to refer you to the right specialist.


Family doctors complete four years of medical school and three additional years of residency. They are able to treat people of all ages. Their residency training typically includes various specialties, which can range from gynecology to mental health. Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners typically complete an average of 3 years of advanced practice training.

A visit to the family doctor is often the first step a patient will take in the treatment plan. As an example, a patient may visit their family doctor because they have been exposed to poison ivy and need a prescription. A patient may also visit the family doctor because they have been experiencing symptoms of COVID-19/Corona Virus or other acute illness.

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