As a college student who is majoring in physical therapy, I’ve become more aware of the various healthcare professions. As a teenager, you have probably only seen a primary care physician or pediatrician, but this doctor may not be able to fully address all of your body’s needs. There are many other professionals who are part of the healthcare team and who can help keep you healthy. Here are some of the different healthcare providers who can help take care of your mind and body:
Pediatrician: You’ve probably been seeing a pediatrician and will continue to do so until you reach the age of 18 or 21. Pediatricians provide a wide range of care for infections, injuries, genetic defects, behavioral difficulties, developmental disorders, and more. If necessary, pediatricians can also refer you to another healthcare provider or medical specialist.
Nurse Practitioner: When your doctor wasn’t available, you probably saw a nurse practitioner. This is a registered nurse (RN) who has an advanced degree and works very closely with physicians to provide care for patients, but they are not doctors themselves. A nurse practitioner can still prescribe medicine and deal with many of your issues.
Obstetrician/Gynecologist (OB/GYN): It’s recommended that girls see an OB/GYN between the ages of 13 and 15. An obstetrician is a doctor who specializes in pregnancy and labor; a gynecologist is a doctor who specializes in the female reproductive system. An OB/GYN can help you with detection and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), Pap test (cancer) screening, and family planning.
Nutritionist/Registered Dietician: A nutritionist or registered dietician can help you make sure that you’re eating right. They both specialize in the study of nutrition and can counsel you on food and eating issues, including eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia. Registered dieticians differ from nutritionists, as they require a higher education and a license.
Physical Therapist: If you have a physical injury or disability, such as a sports injury, a physical therapist can help you strengthen and regain control of that particular part of your body. They do so through the use of exercise and other physical treatments.
Psychologist/Social Worker/Family Therapist/Mental Health Counselor: Whether you’re having a hard time with your school, friends, relationship, family, or job, any of these therapists are available to help you sort out your problems. Psychologists, social workers and mental health counselors specialize in working with individuals, while family therapists work with both individuals and families. A school counselor is a great place to start if you’re having an issue, as they can help to find a therapist that is right for you.
Psychiatrist: A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who diagnoses and treats mental, addictive, and emotional disorders. In most states, a psychiatrist is the only mental health professional who can prescribe medicine, such as anti-depressants. If you are seeing a psychologist who feels you need medication to help stabilize your emotions, he might refer you to a psychiatrist.
Dermatologist: Are you having a problem with acne or something unusual on your skin? A dermatologist can help. Dermatologists also specialize in hair and nail care, a fact that a lot of people are not aware of.
Allergist: You probably know someone who is allergic to bees, nuts, pollen, or shellfish. These are a few examples of common allergies. Technically, an allergist specializes in the body’s immune response. When a person has an allergy, their body experiences an immune response to the foreign matter.
Oral/Maxillofacial Surgeon: It is very common for teens to see an oral or maxillofacial surgeon for removal of wisdom teeth. But these surgeons can also diagnose and perform surgery to treat injuries, defects, or diseases of the head, face, and neck.
Urologist: You may go to an urologist if you are experiencing an issue with your urinary tract such as urinary tract infections, which are common in woman, or bladder control, etc. An urologist also specializes in the male reproductive organs, similar to how an OB/GYN specializes in the female reproductive organs.
Podiatrist: If you are having trouble with your feet or ankles, you may see a podiatrist. They specialize in the foot and ankle region, and can treat injuries such as sprains, fractures, or infections. They also treat disorders like bunions, calluses, warts, ingrown toenails, and corns.
Pediatric Endocrinologist: Pediatric endocrinologists specialize in hormones, which are chemicals produced by glands that affect how certain parts of your body can work. Hormones affect puberty � how your body grows � as well as your weight, your blood sugar (diabetes), and much more. Endocrinologists can help regulate hormones and the glands that produce and secrete them.
This information is just general guidelines to the various healthcare providers that are available to you. In order for you to receive the best treatment, be sure to talk to your primary care doctor or pediatrician, who will be able to point you in the right direction. But most importantly, make sure you get regular check-ups.