What Do Those Degrees Mean?

Have you visited our Meet the H&C 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 profession staff members.

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

A Psychiatrist is a Medical Doctor 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 Medical Doctors must be licensed by the state in which they practice.

A Nurse Practitioner, or NP, is an advanced practice nurse. NPs have six years of college with a master’s degree; many NPs are also certified in their specialty area. NPs are able to diagnose, manage, and treat both primary care problems and chronic illnesses. They also provide some care previously offered only by physicians, such as the ability to prescribe medications. NPs concentrate on early detection of illness and emphasize disease prevention by providing patient education; studies have shown that NPs are particularly adept at patient communication and helping patients stay healthy.  Health Services employs general practice NPs who specialize in either Adult Health (ANP) or Family Health (FNP).  Health & Counseling also employs a psychiatric nurse practitioner (NPP) who is available on a part-time consulting basis to provide psychotropic medications to students.  Nurse Practitioners must be licensed by 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.

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 has 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 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.