Learn about different types of health professionals


Primary care includes regular check-ups, overall health management, exams and tests that diagnose health issues, care for common conditions, and referrals to specialists as needed.

Primary health professionals can be:

  • Physicians (medical doctors or doctors of osteopathic medicine), who can specialize in internal medicine, family practice and geriatrics, and may work with physician assistants

  • Nurse practitioners, who can specialize in family medicine, adult care or older adult care (geriatrics)

Drug therapy includes filling prescriptions, explaining medications and reviewing medications.

Pharmacists provide drug therapy and can be:

  • Clinical pharmacists, who can monitor patient health and adjust medications

  • Dispensing pharmacists, who can fill prescriptions and provide information about drug interactions and side effects

Nursing care involves treating illness and injury, reducing pain, supporting healing, promoting health and abilities, preventing illness and injury, coordinating care, educating patients and families, and advocating for those receiving care. There are licensed practical nurses, registered nurses and advanced practice nurses, who have different levels of training.


Specialty care includes different professionals who focus on particular health needs or parts of the body, such as:

  • Cardiologists, for heart conditions

  • Geriatricians, physicians who focus on older adults' health needs

  • Geropsychiatrists, for older adults' mental and emotional health

  • Nephrologists, for kidney conditions

  • Neurologists, for conditions affecting the brain, spinal cord or nerves

  • Nurse case managers, for coordinating care and accessing resources, especially for people with chronic conditions or complex needs

  • Oncologists, for cancer treatment

  • Ophthalmologists, for eye conditions or eye surgery

  • Orthopedic specialists, for conditions affecting bones, joints, ligaments, tendons or muscles

  • Physical therapists, for issues that make it difficult to move

  • Urologists, for conditions affecting the bladder or urinary tract

Other professionals who often work with older adults include:

  • Nutritionists, for special diets and healthy eating

  • Occupational therapists, for strengthening daily life skills like dressing or writing, after injury or other changes

  • Social workers, for community resources, older adult well-being and family dynamics