The different types of primary care providers

Your primary care provider is more than someone you visit once a year for a checkup – they’re your trusted partner in health care and help navigate your well-being through life. of the different stages of life.

“Primary care providers are like the quarterback of the medical team,” said Patrick Courtney, MDfamily medicine provider MercyOne North Iowa Family Medicine Residency. “We collaborate with the specialists while keeping in mind all of your care.”

There are three main primary care specialties: pediatrics, family medicine, and internal medicine.


The main factor that distinguishes pediatrics from family medicine and internal medicine is the age of the patients. While family medicine and internal medicine providers see adults, pediatrics focuses on children.

“Paediatricians train more in-depth for different diseases and conditions that affect children and adolescents,” said Sara Schutte-Schenck, DOwho sees children MercyOne Pediatric Care Ankeny. “We focus more on an age group and spend a lot of our training learning about the development of the human mind and the human body.”

Pediatricians take care of:

  • Children from birth to 21 years old
  • Growth disorders
  • Genetic disorders like Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorders
  • ADD and ADHD
  • Learning and behavior challenges
  • Management of chronic conditions such as chronic lung disease or congenital heart disease
  • And more

“Primary care providers are like the quarterback of the medical team.” – Patrick Courtney, MD

the The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends you see a pediatrician until age 21, although many people switch anytime after they turn 18.

“Often there is a natural progression for our patients from seeing a pediatrician to an adult care provider,” Dr. Schutte-Schenck said. “After graduating from high school, there may be a gray area during the college years, but we are doing everything we can to maintain continuity of care.”

Family medicine

Family practice providers are usually the ones you think of when you talk about a primary care provider. They receive patients of all ages: from newborns to the elderly, they treat the whole family!

“Family practice providers are proud generalists,” said Dr. Courtney. “I imagine it like this: all three have the same volume of water in their cup, but family medicine has a wider, shallower cup. Internal medicine and pediatricians are deeper but narrower.

Using a holistic approach, family medicine providers address the span of life.

“I can go straight from a 97-year-old patient to a 12-month-old child,” Dr. Courtney said. “We are sort of the specialists in common medical conditions.”

Care provided by family practice providers:

    • Acute care visits
    • Annual wellness exams
    • Geriatric care
    • Management of chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, heart disease
    • Mental/behavioral health care
    • Musculoskeletal care
    • Urgent care visits
    • And more

“I know my patients very well. I know their current medical issues, past medical issues, family medical history, what is important in their life. – Lazaro Rabang, MD

Internal Medicine

While pediatricians no longer see patients once they are adults, internal medicine providers or internists only see patients 18 years of age and older.

“Internists care for patients 18 and older, especially if you have multiple chronic illnesses or complicated conditions,” said Lazaro Rabang, MDinternal doctor at MercyOne Urbandale Internal Medicine and MercyOne Des Moines Medical Center. “We are also able to work either in an inpatient setting as hospital workers or in an outpatient setting, such as a clinic.”

Most medical subspecialty providers, such as cardiologists or pulmonologists, must first train in internal medicine.

Internal medicine providers specialize in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease in their adult patients. Care by internists includes:

  • Complicated or numerous chronic illnesses
  • Endocrine disorders
  • Heart and vascular disease
  • Geriatric care
  • Rheumatic conditions like autoimmune diseases, musculoskeletal diseases, and connective tissue disorders
  • And more

“I know my patients very well,” said Dr. Rabang. “I know their current medical issues, their previous medical issues, their family medical history, what is important in their life. Primary care providers take care of the whole person.

Continuity of care

Your primary care provider not only gets to know you well, but also your family.

“I have my second generation of families coming to see me,” Dr. Schutte-Schenck said. “The babies I took care of have grown up and now I take care of their babies! It’s so rewarding.

Your primary care provider is also your trusted health expert for preventative care.

“I really like the continuity of care,” said Dr. Courtney. “With primary care, we can help keep people out of hospital.”

If you don’t have a primary care provider, MercyOne makes it easy to find a healthcare expert just for you!

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