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What Do Those Degrees Mean?

Have you visited our meet the SHC Staff page and wondered what all of the different degrees mean? Are you unclear about what services a nurse practitioner can provide? Are you confused about the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist? The information below may help you to better understand the credentials of our professional staff members.

Most people know that the initials MD are used to designate a Doctor of Medicine. Less well-known is that fact that a Doctor of Medicine can also be a DO (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine). Both types of doctors of medicine are physicians who have earned a 4-year undergraduate college degree and have attended a 4-year medical school. Following medical school, doctors of medicine are required to complete at least two years of a medical residency, which is a full-time clinical specialty training program. Both types of doctors of medicine provide the full range of health care services.

A Psychiatrist is a Doctor of Medicine who has specialized in the field of psychiatry, an area of mental health. Psychiatrists are the only mental health providers who can prescribe medication (although psychotropic medications may also be prescribed by health care providers such as primary care physicians and nurse practitioners); some psychiatrists may provide psychotherapy as well. All Doctors of Medicine must be licensed by the state in which they practice.

There are two types of advanced practice providers in Health Services.   Both Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners are able to diagnose, manage and treat primary care problems, as well as chronic illnesses.  They also provide some services previously offered only by physicians, such as the ability to prescribe medications.  The practitioners concentrate on early detection of illnesses and emphasize disease prevention by providing patient education.  Physician Assistants (PA-C) are trained in all disciplines of medicine, while our Nurse Practitioners have more specialized training in either Pediatric (CPNP) or Family Health (FNP).  All have completed post-graduate education and passed national board exams to attain their credentials, in addition to maintaining licensure in the state in which they practice.  

A RN, or Registered Nurse, is a graduate of an accredited school of nursing who has passed an examination administered by the NYS Department of Education in order to become a licensed practitioner. Nursing activities include teaching health promotion and illness prevention, providing care and counseling to the ill, administering medications and treatments, and the coordination of health care providers and procedures.

As an assistant to physicians and registered nurses (RNs), a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) takes care of basic duties in settings such as hospitals, nursing homes, and long-term care facilities. Also known as a licensed vocational nurse (LVN), the role is critical to providing patients with the quality care they need.

A Psychologist is a mental health clinician who has attained a doctorate degree, either a Ph.D. (doctor of philosophy) or Psy.D. (doctor of psychology); most Psychologists in clinical practice are either Clinical or Counseling Psychologists. Psychologists complete a graduate program involving approximately 4 years of combined classwork and clinical training plus a full-year clinical internship. Once they receive their degree, psychologists become licensed after meeting additional supervisory requirements and passing an examination administered by the NYS Department of Education. Psychologists provide a wide variety of mental health services, including individual, couples, and group psychotherapy; testing and assessment; plus outreach and other programming. Psychologists must be licensed by the state in which they practice. The other license-eligible mental health providers in New York State include Psychiatrists (medical doctors with a specialty in psychiatry), Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHC), and Clinical Social Workers, who have attained a master's degree in social work (usually referred to as LMSW, LCSW, CSW-R, RCSW, or ACSW).  As of this time (2013), New York State health insurance plans will only provide reimbursement for mental health services when those services are provided by Psychiatrists, Psychologists, Clinical Social Workers, and Licensed Mental Health Counselors.

The Coordinator of Health Promotion and Alcohol and Other Drug Program (AOD) Coordinator are both health professionals who have been trained to plan, implement, and evaluate programs which promote healthy behaviors.  The AOD Program Coordinator focuses specifically on alcohol, whereas the Coordinator of Health Promotion addresses a variety of health-related topics, including sexual health, nutrition, physical fitness, and healthy relationships. Both professionals have at least a bachelor's degree but may hold a master's degree or higher; fields of study include Health Science, Health Promotion, Physical Education, Public Health, Psychology, Counseling, Education, and College Personnel. Coordinators design and prepare health education materials such as fliers and brochures, mass media, health displays, classes, workshops, and presentations to groups and individuals. A Coordinator also serves as a resource person who works to help improve the health of others. In a college setting, Coordinators often have a background in student development, and they work with various others on campus to plan and implement programs. In addition, campus Coordinator of Health Promotions are frequently are involved in training student volunteers/peer educators, and AOD Program Coordinators may be involved with creating alternatives to alcohol/drug sanctions on campus.

The Electronic Medical Records (EMR) Technical Specialist has a background in Information Technology. She is the  Manager of Electronic Medical Records Database – Point and Click (PnC). The EMRTS performs all database management and system work to keep the PnC database running and minimize as much downtime as possible. Coordinates with the vendor and CIT implementation to test, train, the roll-out of all updates and upgrades as needed to improve the usage for our students. The EMRTS also manages and maintains the Student Health and Counseling web site. She manages and maintains the Student Web portal ( were students; book appointments, complete online forms, and upload entrance records.