All team members at Intermountain Healthcare are focused on delivering the highest quality patient care. We have developed a vast network of professionals who provide hands-on services to elevate your wellbeing, no matter the stage of your healthcare journey.
That process doesn’t come without some confusion, however. Many patients hear the term “advanced practice provider” or “mid-level provider” and aren’t sure what to expect. Everyone knows what it means to be a “doctor” or “nurse.” But what about nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and midwives? Who are these other team members who play a vital part in healthcare delivery?
As it turns out, these qualified, dedicated professionals are ill-served by the term “mid-level provider.” In fact, the industry is beginning to move away from the term and now references these professionals as advanced practice providers. In all cases, they are highly educated, licensed individuals who share the same commitment to patient care as their doctor and nurse colleagues.
Why it’s Done and who Needs it
It’s a bit misleading to refer to classes of professionals as “mid-level,” because it can imply they are somehow less important on a healthcare team. In fact, depending on the state and clinical context, mid-level providers like nurse practitioners can in fact lead the practice.
A report by the World Health Organization noted these professionals diagnose, manage, and treat disease and ailments. They often work autonomously — meaning without the need of a “stamp of approval” from a doctor or administrator — in preventive care and in ongoing treatment.
The phrase “mid-level” likely came about as this new class of trained, skilled professionals entered healthcare settings, and they didn’t fit into any older models of what a medical team can and should be.
How They Fit Into Your Healthcare Team
So, how do they fit in? It may help to know a little bit more about three specific groups of healthcare providers: nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and midwives.
These professionals are sometimes called Advanced Practice Registered Nurses or Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioners. They must obtain an advanced degree, at the Master’s or doctorate level, in this area. Training is unique in that it follows a nursing-based philosophy focused caring for patients with a holistic approach, meaning physical, mental, social and emotional wellbeing. Nurse practitioners are the primary care provider (PCP) of choice for millions of patients. A Nurse Practitioner may take your history, diagnose or treat conditions, as well as perform some medical procedures. Nurse practitioners can also write prescriptions.
Physician Assistants (PAs) work with a supervising physician yet can be quite autonomous. In fact, these providers also serve millions of patients as primary care provider (PCP). To become a PA, one must typically have an undergraduate degree although most have a Master’s or doctorate. Their education can be compared to a condensed version of medical school and includes academic teaching settings as well as clinical rotations led by a staff attending physician. PAs take patient histories, provide diagnoses, and develop treatment plans. They can also write prescriptions. Some studies have found that PAs can do the same work as doctors in up to 80% of conditions in primary healthcare settings.
Certified nurse-midwives are important partners in maternal health. They typically graduate at a Master’s degree level from a program accredited by the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM). Most midwives begin the program already registered as nurses and usually already possess 1 to 2 years of clinical nursing experience before they enter the midwifery educational program. Midwives focus on all aspects of the healthcare of mothers and newborns and are unique in that they often provide a holistic approach to delivery free from additional medications. They can also treat patients for gynecological issues and monitor women during pregnancy. They take patient histories, order laboratory tests, and work towards reducing health risks among this population.
Advanced practice providers, are clearly highly qualified individuals. They play an important role in healthcare teams, offering specialized services in areas such as women’s health, pediatrics, oncology, cardiology, endocrinology, urgent care and primary care. Importantly, these providers give patients the individualized attention and treatment they deserve including the ability to diagnose, treat and prescribe medications.
Committed to Your Healthcare
Advanced Practice Providers share a commitment to positive health outcomes. As part of your medical team, they ensure continuity of care and individualized treatment. At Intermountain Healthcare, we are proud to count nurse practitioners, midwives and physician assistants among our network of professionals. They give you the best healthcare possible.