Many terms are often used interchangeably when it comes to the medical world. But what is the actual difference between a doctor and a physician? For one, a doctor has completed a doctorate and has, therefore, earned the title of being a doctor.
On the other hand, a physician is a doctor who has earned a medical doctorate and specializes in a particular area of medicine. So now that you know the distinction, which one do you need for your specific medical needs?
How do you become a doctor?
A doctor is someone who has received a doctorate in certain areas of study, including medicine. The specific degree needed to become a doctor varies depending on the area of medicine that you want to practice. For example, an OB/GYN doctor would need to complete medical school and receive a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree.
Or a podiatrist would need to complete medical school and receive a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) degree. But you have to remember that not all doctors practice medicine – some take on legal and creative paths. For instance, some earned a Juris Doctor degree. Others have even earned a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) or Education degree.
In what situations would you need a doctor?
Given that doctors are well-educated professionals who have completed lengthy studies, they are in high demand for employment. Therefore, it is not uncommon for doctors to open up their private practices. But it is important to remember that, while doctors are well-educated, they are not required to have completed residency programs.
So, you can require the assistance of a Juris Doctor, for instance, in legal matters. You can also seek the help of a Doctor of Psychology in both your personal and professional life. But you cannot seek the help of a medical doctor in legal matters.
How do you become a physician?
A person who has earned a medical doctorate and specializes in a particular area of medicine is called a physician. There are several medical specialties such as surgery, psychiatry, family medicine, and more. A doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO), on the other hand, is a doctor who has completed a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree.
Physicians are those who can practice medicine independently. They are at the top of the medical hierarchy because they can prescribe medications, treat patients, and perform surgery. So, when you need a doctor who can prescribe medication for you, perform surgery on you, or treat your condition, it is best to call a physician.
In what situations would you need a physician?
In some situations, you may need a physician from the beginning. For example, your primary care doctor would be a physician if they recommended that you see a cardiologist. It would be the cardiologist who performed surgery on you, not the primary care doctor. Or, if your general practitioner believes that your low blood pressure might result from a thyroid disorder, they would refer you to a physician.
However, in other situations, a doctor may work with a physician. The doctor would send you to a specialist for further diagnosis and treatment in such cases. For instance, an OB/GYN doctor could send you to an OB/GYN specialist for treatment.
Why is it important to know the distinction?
The distinction between a doctor and a physician is critical to know because it will help you determine which type of doctor you need for your specific medical needs. Knowing the difference between the two will help you make an informed decision when choosing a doctor and allow you to ask the right questions so that you can get the most appropriate care.
Of course, if you’re in a medical setting, such as an urgent care center, it would be easy to find a doctor for your specific needs. But if you’re in a non-medical environment, such as a restaurant or at a party, and you suddenly need medical assistance, it would be best to call a physician who can answer your questions.
If you’re looking for a doctor due to health reasons, it’s best to talk to your primary care physician first because of the personal relationship that you have with them. That way, your doctor can refer you to a specialist if needed.
It’s important to note that there are also particular distinctions within the field of medicine. For instance, a surgeon is a physician who has completed an additional residency program and is thus qualified to perform surgery. On the other hand, a surgeon-in-training must still complete years of training and education to perform surgery.
So remember: not all doctors are physicians, but all physicians are doctors. It’s all a matter of knowing the differences between the two titles. Don’t feel bad if you don’t see the difference; it can be confusing, after all. Most people don’t realize a distinction between the two terms. But now that you have all the information you need make sure to use the appropriate terms.