A primary care physician practices general medicine and is your first stop for medical care. If you've got a cough, sniffle, or you're short of breath, your primary care specialist can tell if it's an infection, like a cold — or if it's or something else, like asthma or allergies. If it's not something your doc can treat, he or she will refer you to a specialist.
Several different types of primary care doctors treat teens. What's right for you all depends on your needs. Primary care doctors often work closely with other experts, like nurse practitioners, who also might be qualified in specialties like adolescent medicine.
Pediatricians care for babies, kids, and teens. These docs can be great listeners and are often good at explaining medical concepts in a way that's easy to understand. Lots of teens continue to work with the pediatrician who has treated them since they were babies — after all, no one knows you and your medical history as well. Pediatricians stop treating patients as they reach different ages, so check with yours to see what the situation is.
If you stick with your childhood doctor, make sure he or she recognizes that you are growing up and that your concerns are changing.
Internists are also called internal medicine doctors. This type of doc sees adults, but some see patients who are in their late teens. You might choose to use the same internist as your parents or other relatives, or someone different. Sometimes you can choose a different doctor in the same office.
Internists are used to talking to adults, so there can be some "culture shock" switching from a pediatrician to a doctor who treats adults. Be prepared to ask for more details and don't hesitate to ask a doctor to repeat something you don't understand.
These pediatricians or internal medicine doctors have done additional training in caring for teens. It's sometimes easier to feel comfortable with adolescent medicine doctors, since they specialize in caring for teen patients. Not every town has an adolescent medicine specialist.
Some experts have training in both pediatrics and internal medicine. Called "med-peds" doctors for short, their special training allows them to bridge the gap between treating young patients and adults. This can be helpful when transitioning from childhood to adult care.
Med-peds experts can be particularly helpful to people with diseases that start in childhood and continue into adulthood, such as cystic fibrosis, achondroplasia, or diabetes. They often understand pediatric illness better than other internal medicine docs. As with adolescent specialists, it may be harder to find med-peds specialists in certain areas.
These doctors care for patients from infants to the elderly, including teens and young adults. A family medicine doctor sometimes sees everyone in the same family, parents as well as kids.
Primary care physicians are there to help people establish healthy lifestyles, giving advice on things like exercise and weight management. They also help patients manage their health care and keep track of medical history so any health problems can be caught early. And, if we do have health problems, primary care physicians help coordinate specialized treatment and monitor medications so there's less chance of interactions and problems — and more chance we'll stay in the best of health!
Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: October 2013
|American Medical Association (AMA) The AMA has made a commitment to medicine by making doctors more accessible to their patients. Contact the AMA at: American Medical Association|
515 N. State St.
Chicago, IL 60610
|Adolescent Health Transition Project This is a health and transition resource for adolescents with special health care needs, chronic illnesses, and physical or developmental disabilities.|
|CDC: Preteen and Teen Vaccines CDC site provides materials in English and Spanish for parents, teens, preteens, and health care providers about vaccines and the diseases they prevent.|
|Questions to Ask Your Doctor You're probably used to answering your doctor's questions - not asking your own. But it's your body, so you should be able to ask your doctor questions about anything you'd like. Here are some ideas to get you started.|
|Your Medical Records Each time you hop up on a doctor's exam table, somebody makes a note in your medical records. There may come a time when you need your medical information, so find out how to get it and how it's protected.|
|Electronic Health Records Because EHRs improve how well your doctors talk to each other and coordinate your treatment, they can enhance your overall care. This article gives the facts on electronic health records.|
|Choosing Your Own Doctor We all deserve a doc who helps us feel comfortable and understood – and who can guide our medical care in a way we need. Get tips on finding the best doctor for you.|
|Managing Your Medical Care Visit our center on managing your medical care for advice on how to get involved in taking charge of your health and choosing the right health care providers.|
|Health Care: What Do You Know? How much do you know about taking charge of your health care? Take our quiz and find out!|
|Finding Low-Cost Medical Care If you need medical care but don't think you can afford it, you're not alone. Get tips on finding low-cost or free care in this article for teens.|
|Health Insurance: Cracking the Code Health insurance has a language all its own. This article for teens explains what some key terms mean.|
|Talking to Your Doctor Your best resource for health information and advice is your doctor - the person who knows you, your medical history, and accurate medical information to answer your questions.|
|Who's Who in the Hospital There are so many different medical specialties that it's easy to feel confused. Here's a guide to some of the experts who care for you in the hospital.|
|Gyn Checkups Girls should get their first gynecological checkup between ages 13 and 15. Find out what happens during a yearly gyn visit -- and why most girls don't get internal exams.|
|Adolescent Medicine Specialists Adolescent medicine doctors are specialists who have extra training in the medical and emotional issues that many teens face.|
What to expect when coming to Akron Children's
For healthcare providers and nurses
Residency & Fellowships, Medical Students, Nursing and Allied Health
For prospective employees and career-seekers
Our online community that provides inspirational stories and helpful information.