Hospital care is provided by teams of doctors, nurses, social workers, and others.
Understanding who is on your health care team and what their credentials mean will help you understand the aspects of your care that different health care professionals are responsible for.
Here are five of the most common acronyms you’ll find in a hospital setting.
Certified nursing assistant (CNA)
A CNA helps patients under the supervision of a registered nurse (RN) or a licensed practical nurse (LPN). According to Nurse Journal, CNAs are typically responsible for:
- Helping patients with basic living needs, including cleaning, bathing, eating, and getting dressed
- Listening to patients’ health concerns
- Measuring vital signs, such as temperature and blood pressure
- Housekeeping duties
- Tending to patient issues and problems
Doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO)
A DO is a fully licensed physician who can practice in every medical specialty, according to the American Osteopathic Association. DOs are similar to MDs, but fewer than 10 percent of physicians have a DO.
DOs specialize in:
- Educating patients about healthy lifestyles to prevent injury and illness
- Helping a patient’s body to heal itself
- Understanding how all body parts work together and influence one another
Licensed practical nurse (LPN)
An LPN is responsible for more basic nursing care and usually works under the direct supervision of an RN, according to Practical Nursing. LPNs are often responsible for:
- Administering medication and changing dressings
- Monitoring and assessing patients
- Creating and evaluating patient care plans
- Supporting and supplying information to patients
- Supervising nursing assistants and managing co-workers as needed
Doctor of medicine (MD)
In the United States, physicians who practice medicine may hold either the Doctor of Medicine degree (MD) or the Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree (DO). MD and DO physicians complete similar residency programs in hospitals, can be licensed in all 50 states, and have rights and responsibilities common to physicians.
Both DO and MD degrees mean your doctor is a licensed physician. Like DOs, MDs are responsible for:
- Examining patients
- Ordering, performing, and interpreting diagnostic tests
- Prescribing and administering treatment for patients suffering from injury or disease
- Counseling patients about illness, injuries, preventive health care, and more
Registered nurse (RN)
RNs practice in all health care settings, including hospitals and nursing homes, according to the American Nurses Association. These nurses are responsible for:
- Performing physical exams
- Administering medications, treating wounds, and handling other personalized interventions
- Interpreting patient information to make care decisions
- Coordinating care with other health care professionals
- Directing and supervising LPNs and other nurse aides