Key Medical Terms: Doctors and Disciplines

Here is a list of general terms that refer to medical experts and various disciplines. If you have any questions about medical terms during the time of your care, be sure to ask your doctor or a member of hospital staff for an explanation.

Advanced Practice Nurses (APNs)
APNs have education and clinical experience beyond the basic training and licensing required of all RNs

Anesthesiology
Anesthesia, either general or spinal block for surgeries and some forms of pain control

Cardiac Surgeon
Special training and skills to perform delicate operations on the heart, blood vessels, and lungs

Cardiology
Special training and skill in finding, treating, and preventing diseases of the heart and blood vessels

Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs)
CNAs perform the most basic needs for patients and work under the supervision of a nurse. CNAs might also be referred to as Home Health Aides, Personal Care Assistants, Nurse's Aides or Patient Care Technicians.

Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs)
RNs with graduate training in women's health care needs, including prenatal, labor and delivery, and postpartum care.

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs)
RNs with graduate training in the field of anesthesia. RNs with graduate training in the field of anesthesia.

Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNSs)
RNs have graduate training in a specialized clinical field such as cardiac, psychiatric, or community health.

Dermatology
Skin disorders

Endocrinology
Hormonal and metabolic disorders, including diabetes

Gastroenterology
Digestive system disorders

General surgery
Common surgeries involving any part of the body

Gynecology/obstetrics
Pregnancy (normal or problematic), women's reproductive tract disorders

Immunology
Disorders of the immune system and allergies

Infectious disease
Infections affecting the tissues of any body system

Medical Doctor
Generalist; family practice, internal medicine

Medical oncologist
Treats cancer with medicine or chemotherapy

Nephrology
Kidney disorders

Neurology
Nervous system disorders

Nurse Practitioner
Registered Nurses (RNs) with graduate training in primary care

Nurse Practitioners (NPs)
RNs with graduate training in primary care. In some states NPs can prescribe medications.

OB/GYN
Specialist in obstetrics and gynecology, including well women's health care and prenatal care. Routine health maintenance and screenings (such as a Pap smear) and family planning

Oncology
Cancer and some other diseases that resist treatment

Ophthalmology
Eye disorders and surgery

Orthopedics
Bone and connective tissue disorders

Osteopathic Medicine
Generalist; family practice, internal medicine- can be a D.O., Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine or a M.D., Doctor of Medicine

Otorhinolaryngology
Ear, nose, and throat (ENT) disorders

Pediatric Cardiologist
Deals with infants, children, and teenagers. In some cases begins diagnosis and treatment in the fetus and continues into adulthood

Periodontist
Periodontists are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of gum disease

Physical and rehabilitative medicine
Coordinate return to optimal functioning in individuals with musculoskeletal and neurological disorders (such as low back injury, spinal cord injuries, and stroke)

Physician Assistant (PA)
Trained in the family practice model for a primary care role.

Plastic surgeon
Cosmetic and reconstructive surgeons

Podiatrist
Foot and ankle specialist

Psychiatry
Emotional or mental disorders

Pulmonary (lung)
Respiratory tract disorders

Radiation oncologist
Specialize in treating cancer with therapeutic radiation.

Radiology
X-rays and related procedures (such as ultrasound, CT, and MRI)

Registered Nurses (RN)
Graduates from nursing program, passed state board examinations, licensed by the state

Surgical oncologist
Specialize in the surgical aspects of cancer including biopsy, staging, and surgical resection of tumors

Urology
Disorders of the male reproductive and urinary tracts and the female urinary tract

The information provided here is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advice. These tips are from doctors, nurses and people who have shared their real life advice; always check with a doctor or other appropriate medical professional you trust before making any healthcare changes.

Updated: 5/2009