our doctor has given you a diagnosis. What happens now?
You may need to work with more than one health care professional to treat illnesses like diabetes, cancer, arthritis, or heart disease. They’ll work as a team to give you the care you need.
Depending on your disease, you may need to visit different clinics that each specialize in one type of testing or care. You may see some specialists for procedures like surgeries or for treatments like radiation. You might see others for nutrition counseling or physical therapy.
Professionals called nurse care coordinators or patient care navigators can guide you through each step of your treatment, so you know what to expect.
And even if you see many doctors, new technology lets them share information about your treatment, test results, and prescriptions.
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Guide You Through Care
Your doctor might refer you to a specialist to help you manage your condition. For example, he might send you to an endocrinologist if you have diabetes or to a cardiologist if you have heart disease, says Kirsi Hayes, RN, a nurse and health coach at Baylor Physician Services in Dallas.
At her large hospital, nurses, social workers, and therapists with special training also offer patients extra care and support, in case they need ongoing help managing their disease at home, Hayes says. They also help with questions a patient might have about the health care system.
If you have a disease like cancer, “your social worker, care navigator, dietitian, and even clinical trials can all be a part of the health care team,” says Doris Jones, RN, a nurse navigator at DeKalb Medical Center in Decatur, GA.
Who’s on Your Team?
As you’re treated for your disease or as you manage it over time, you might see one or more of these people:
A care coordinator, advocate, or navigator (usually a nurse) to keep track of your treatment
Doctors who specialize in treating specific diseases. For example, cardiologists, endocrinologists, rheumatologists, or neurologists.
Nurses, nurse practitioners, or physician assistants who can answer your questions, do tests, or in some cases, prescribe drugs
Surgeons who do operations
Physical or occupational therapists to help you deal with pain or problems doing tasks
Social workers, psychologists, or counselors to help you cope with emotional symptoms
Imaging technicians who give X-rays, ultrasounds, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans
Nutritionists or dietitians to help you manage your diet