Allied Health Professionals: What Are They and Why Should I Care?

Many people think the only person that can provide medical care in a doctor’s office is their doctor. This is a common misconception, as nowadays, there are many different healthcare providers that work together to provide you better care. In our office, we employ physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and certified nurse midwives in addition to our doctors and medical assistants. It is the combination of all of these different providers that makes our office run smoothly. Some of you may have already seen one of these allied health professionals and may wonder why you are not seeing your doctor. Allied Health Professionals help to fill in the gaps when physicians cannot be in the office. As an OB/GYN, you can imagine this happens rather often. When doctors leave for deliveries or surgeries, the physician assistants and nurse practitioners help to see their patients so they are not forced to reschedule or wait for several hours to see their doctor. Midwives perform deliveries at the hospital so that the doctor can spend more time at the office seeing their patients. They also have more flexibility with their schedules, often times having same-day appointments available when your physician’s schedule is booked out several weeks in advance. Together, we work cohesively as a team to better your overall experience at MacArthur OB/GYN.

Some of you might be wondering, what are the qualifications of Allied Health Professionals? All Allied Health Professionals complete rigorous training and education through a certified program. All are able to complete physical exams, prescribe medications, make diagnoses and order lab testing, amongst other things. Here is a chart outlining some of the differences between the 3 types of AHP’s in our office.

Physician Assistant
A PA is a nationally certified and state-licensed medical professional. PA’s practice medicine on healthcare teams with physicians and other providers. They practice and prescribe medication in all 50 states.

Master’s Degree

6 – 7 years

Broad, educated in all medical fields; may choose to do a residency in one field, but not required

Nurse Practitioner
As clinicians that blend clinical expertise in diagnosing and treating health conditions with an added emphasis on disease prevention and health management, NPs bring a comprehensive perspective to health care.

 

Master’s Degree or Doctorate Degree depending on program

6 – 8 years

 

Typically specialized to one field, i.e. women’s health

 

Certified Nurse Midwife
CNMs are licensed, independent health care providers with prescriptive authority in all 50 states. CNMs are defined as primary care providers under federal law.

 

Master’s Degree or Doctorate Degree depending on program

6 – 8 years

 

Specialized to women’s health; perform deliveries and assist with cesarean sections

 

5 Secrets to a Healthy Vagina

All women should be concerned about their vaginal health. There are many suggested tips you can follow to provide a healthy vaginal environment.

1. Maintaining a normal pH balance is important for a healthy vaginal environment.

It is recommended to avoid douching, using harsh soaps or feminine fragrances. Any alteration in the vaginal pH could lead to an overgrowth of yeast or bacteria, leading to infection. Some women have a difficult time maintaining a normal vaginal pH, despite their greatest efforts. There is an over the counter product, RepHresh (available in a variety of forms), which can help normalize the vaginal pH.

2. It is imperative to practice safe sex.

Using condoms will reduce and protect you against transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s). Some of the  more common STD’s are Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Trichomonas, Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and Herpes. These STD’s  commonly cause vaginal discharge, odor, itching, burning, lesions or painful ulcerations.

3. Vaginal hygiene is another important key to a healthy vagina.

The genital area should be kept clean and dry. A mild soap, like Dove, is recommended. Proper wiping techniques (front to back) will prevent contamination of bacteria into the vagina. This is especially important after a bowel movement. Cotton under garments should be worn and thongs should be avoided. It is important to remove wet bathing suits and work out clothes after use to avoid creating a warm and moist environment allowing the perfect environment for yeast production.

4. Adequate vaginal lubrication is another important aspect of vaginal health.

Vaginal dryness can potentially lead to labial and vaginal irritation, chafing, tearing and pain during intercourse. There are several over the counter products (KY and Replens, to name a few) which offer daily moisturizers and vaginal lubricants. If you are in your menopausal years, your vaginal dryness could be a result of decreased estrogen production, and you would likely benefit from a vaginal estrogen cream supplement to aid in your dryness and comfort.

5. Your overall health also plays a major role in your vaginal health.

If you are a diabetic, it is important to control your blood sugars. Chronic elevated blood sugars can increase yeast production in the vaginal tissue. Managing your weight is strongly recommended as well. Being overweight in the abdominal region can lead to weakness of the pelvic, bladder and vaginal muscles, which can result in poor control of urine and prolapse of the bladder and/or your uterus. If you are a smoker, you should quit! Smoking can have devastating effects on all organs. Smoking weakens your ability to fight off infection. Smoking will also increase your likelihood of developing cervical and vaginal cancers.

In conclusion, it is important to see your provider yearly for your annual pap smears to screen for cervical cancer. It is advised to seek medical evaluation for vaginal symptoms including: discharge, odor, itching, burning, dryness, lesions or ulcerations, and pain during or after intercourse.