What Are Some Descriptions of Common Medical Careers?


Quick Answer

Doctors diagnose and prescribe treatments for illnesses and injuries; nurses provide daily patient care in hospitals and assist physicians. Physical therapists assess patients for functional abilties and provide rehabilitation activities and treatments. Paramedics provide emergency medical care and transport to hospitals.

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Full Answer

Physicians perform medical examinations as part of their assessment of a patient's condition. They review the patient's medical history, interview patients or caretakers to obtain information about symptoms and other factors, and order diagnostic procedures and lab tests in order to reach a diagnosis. They also prescribe medications, therapy and surgery to treat a condition.

The traditional hospital floor nurse takes vital signs, changes surgical dressings, helps patients with bathing and walking, administers medications and carries out doctors' orders. Nurses assist doctors in clinics and perform some clinical examinations themselves. Nurses assist surgeons in the operating room, but nurse anesthetists are responsible for managing a patient's anesthesia during surgery. Nurse-midwives deliver babies and monitor the mother's health during pregnancy and childbirth. Nurse practitioners are taking on roles similar to those of family doctors: performing exams, ordering tests and prescribing medicines and treatments.

Physical therapists treat people with mobility problems. They help people to walk again after a stroke or injury, to use assistive devices such as walkers or prostheses, and to carry out activities of daily living such as dressing, bathing and feeding themselves. Physical therapy treatments include exercises to build strength, flexibility, coordination and stamina; the application of heat and cold; traction; massage; and hydrotherapy.

Paramedics or emergency medical technicians respond to emergency calls in an ambulance. They provide life support to patients during transport to a hospital or other medical facility. Life support treatments include giving cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, performing stomach suction, splinting broken bones, and administering oxygen and intravenous fluids.

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