Your health care team at The Polyclinic can include additional medical professionals with whom you interact with closely to during your visit or throughout your care. This glossary guide provides an overview of some of these different roles, degrees and certifications you may see at The Polyclinic.

ARNP - Nurse Practitioner

An Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner (ARNP) is a provider who, after training as a registered nurse, completes additional training to expand their scope of professional responsibilities. This requires completion of an accredited graduate-level program and successful completion of certification exams. While most ARNPs are trained to practice primary care, about 25% decide to obtain expertise in specialty medicine, like rheumatology. In Washington State, ARNPs can practice independently and do not require physician oversight. In our practice, some ARNPs have their own small patient panels and some partner with the physicians to improve access to care, provide additional educational resources, collaborate on treatment plans and aid in customization of patient care.

CN - Certified Nutritionist

A Certified Nutritionist is a nutrition professional with an advanced degree focused on science-based advanced medical nutrition therapy, research and education.


American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) represents the highest level of competence in the medical-imaging modality of musculoskeletal sonography for health care providers. Registered in Musculoskeletal (RMSK) validates the clinical expertise fundamental to musculoskeletal sonography practice worldwide. RMSK recognizes the skills and knowledge required for making consistent and reliable diagnoses in musculoskeletal ultrasound.

DO - Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine

A Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) is a physician with similar training as a medical doctor (MD) but with additional training in the musculoskeletal system. A DO practices a whole-person approach to medicine.

Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine is the proper name for the degree given by medical schools in the United States and is represented by the acronym DO.

DOs and MDs are alike in many ways:

  • Both DOs and MDs are fully qualified physicians licensed to prescribe medication and perform surgery.
  • Students entering both DO and MD medical colleges typically have already completed four-year bachelor's degrees usually with an emphasis on scientific courses.
  • Both DOs and MDs complete four years of medical school.
  • After medical school, both DOs and MDs obtain graduate medical education through internships, residencies and fellowships. This training lasts three to eight years, depending on the specialty training, and prepares DOs and MDs to practice a specialty.
  • Both DOs and MDs can choose to practice in any specialty of medicine—such as pediatrics, family medicine, psychiatry, surgery or ophthalmology. MDs and DOs pass the same exams for specialty board certification.
  • DOs and MDs must pass comparable examinations to obtain state licenses.

DOs and MDs have some unique differences:

  • Like many trained MDs, DOs practice a whole-person approach to medicine, rather than treating specific symptoms or illnesses. They see the human body as an integrated whole.
  • DOs receive additional training in the musculoskeletal system. This provides osteopathic physicians with a better understanding of how an illness or injury in one part of the body can affect other parts.

This information is taken from the American Osteopathic Association.

MA - Medical Assistant

Medical Assistants (MA) work alongside physicians providing administrative and clinical support. Tasks vary but can include scheduling, preparing treatment rooms, charting, coding for billing, conducting patient interviews, taking and recording vital signs, collecting specimens, assisting with procedures and administering medication under physician supervision. Medical assistants typically complete a one- or two-year training program and must earn state certification.

MD - Medical Doctor

A Doctor of Medicine (MD) can reference a physician or surgeon. An MD is typically earned in four years of medical school after four years of undergraduate education. After receiving an MD, physicians are required to complete at least one internship, pass certain tests, complete residency and in some cases, a fellowship.

MSW - Master of Social Work

A professional with an MSW can practice social work in a variety of settings depending on training and licensure. At The Polyclinic, MSW professionals work both in primary care and in Behavioral Health. For primary care, our medical social workers perform a variety of services to support patient health. In Behavioral Health, our licensed clinical social workers provide short-term psychotherapy for Polyclinic patients.

PA-C - Physician Assistant

A PA is a nationally certified and state-licensed medical professional. PAs may be part of a care team or they may have their own patient panels. They undergo three years of training with many of the same courses as medical schools including anatomy, pharmacology, microbiology, physiology and others. PAs also complete more than 2,000 clinical hours in their chosen specialty. PA duties may include taking a patient’s medical history, annual physicals, urgent care visits, diagnosing and treating illnesses, patient education/preventive care, assisting with procedures/surgery, and writing prescriptions.

  • Read Stephanie Rezendes ' article, "What is a PA-C?"
  • PSR - Patient Service Representative

    PSRs are often patients’ first point of contact with the doctor’s office. They answer phones, schedule patients, check patients in and out for their visit, perform recalls and patient outreach, and assist with other administrative duties as needed to support the care team.

    RN - Registered Nurse

    Nurses play two key roles on the patient care team: providing clinical care and helping manage care for patients with complex or chronic conditions. Nurses often serve as a liaison between the patient and physician and their responsibilities include providing patient education, health coaching, triage for urgent issues, follow-up for patients who have been to the hospital or emergency room, and connecting patients to additional health resources and support. RNs undergo training a variety of ways including associate’s, bachelor’s (BSN) or master’s degrees (MSN) in nursing; all nurses must pass national certification tests.