Specialty definitions

Physician Compare lists health care professionals who are qualified to practice in many specialties. Each specialty focuses on certain parts of the body, periods of life, or diseases. Below are definitions of medical specialties for physicians followed by a list of specialties for other health care professionals. Please note that the specialties listed on Physician Compare are the specialties health care professionals indicate when they enroll in Medicare.

Physician specialties

Addiction medicine
Specialists in addiction medicine treat substance abuse and addiction.
Specialists in allergy and immunology treat conditions that involve the immune system. Examples include allergies, immune deficiency diseases, and autoimmune diseases.
Anesthesiologists provide anesthesia for patients who are having surgery or other procedures. They also treat pain and care for patients with critical illnesses or severe injuries.
Cardiac electrophysiology
Cardiac electrophysiologists use technical procedures to evaluate heart rhythms.
Cardiac surgery
Cardiovascular disease (cardiology)
Cardiologists treat diseases of the heart and blood vessels.
Chiropractic medicine
Chiropractors adjust specific parts of the body (often the spine) to prevent and treat diseases.
Colorectal surgery (proctology)
Colorectal surgeons treat diseases of the lower digestive tract.
Critical care medicine (intensivists)
Intensivists treat critically ill or injured patients.
Dermatologists treat skin conditions.
Diagnostic radiology
Diagnostic radiologists use imaging, such as x-rays or ultrasound, to diagnose diseases.
Emergency medicine
Emergency medicine specialists take care of patients with critical illnesses or injuries.
Endocrinologists treat diseases that involve the internal (endocrine) glands. Examples include diabetes and diseases of the thyroid, pituitary, or adrenal glands.
Family practice
Family practitioners provide primary care for people of all ages. They treat illnesses, provide preventive care, and coordinate the care provided by other health professionals.
Gastroenterologists treat diseases of the digestive organs, including the stomach, bowels, liver, and gallbladder.
General practice
General practitioners provide primary care. They treat illnesses, provide preventive care, and coordinate the care provided by other health professionals.
General surgery
General surgeons take care of patients who may need surgery.
Geriatric medicine
Geriatricians provide primary care for elderly patients.
Gynecological oncology
Gynecological oncologists treat cancers of the female reproductive organs.
Hand surgery
Hand surgeons perform surgery for patients with problems that affect the hand, wrist, or forearm.
Hematologists treat diseases of the blood, spleen, and lymph. Examples include anemia, sickle cell disease, hemophilia, and leukemia.
Go to Hematology and Medical Oncology
Hospice and palliative care
Hospice - Opens in a new window and palliative care physicians manage pain and other distressing symptoms of serious illnesses. “Hospice care” is palliative care for patients who are expected to have 6 months or less to live.
Infectious disease
Infectious disease physicians treat patients with all types of infectious diseases.
Internal medicine
Internists treat diseases of the internal organs that don’t require surgery. They also provide primary care for teenagers, adults, and elderly people.
Interventional cardiology
Interventional cardiologists are heart and circulatory system specialists who use minimally invasive catheterization techniques to diagnose and treat coronary arteries, the peripheral vascular system, heart valves, and congenital heart defects.
Interventional pain management
Interventional pain management specialists use special procedures to treat and manage pain. For example, they may use cryoablation (a procedure involving extreme cold) to stop a nerve from working for a long period of time.
Interventional radiology
Interventional radiologists perform procedures guided by various types of imaging. For example, they may use imaging to find a clogged spot in an artery and to guide a procedure to unclog it.
Maxillofacial surgery
Maxillofacial surgeons perform surgery on the teeth, jaws, and surrounding tissues.
Medical oncology
Medical oncologists treat cancer with chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, biological therapy, and targeted therapy. They may also coordinate cancer care given by other specialists.
Nephrologists treat disorders of the kidneys.
Neurologists treat diseases of the brain, spinal cord, and nerves.
Neuropsychiatrists treat patients with behavioral disturbances related to nervous system problems.
Neurosurgeons perform surgery to treat problems in the brain, spine, and nerves.
Nuclear medicine
Nuclear medicine specialists use radioactive materials to diagnose and treat diseases.
Obstetricians and gynecologists take care of women during pregnancy and childbirth (called obstetrics). They also treat disorders of the female reproductive system (called gynecology).
Ophthalmologists are physicians who specialize in the care of the eyes. They prescribe glasses and contact lenses, diagnose and treat eye conditions, and perform eye surgery.
Optometrists are eye care professionals who perform eye examinations, prescribe corrective lenses, and treat some eye diseases that don’t require surgery.
Oral surgery (dentists only)
Oral surgeons are dentists who use surgery to treat problems in the mouth and nearby areas.
Orthopedic surgery
Orthopedic surgeons treat diseases, injuries, and deformities of the bones and muscles.
Osteopathic manipulative medicine
Osteopathic physicians often use a treatment method called osteopathic manipulative treatment. This is a hands-on approach to make sure that the body is moving freely.
Otolaryngologists treat conditions of the ears, nose, and throat (ENT) and related areas of the head and neck.
Pain management
Pain management specialists take care of patients with pain.
Palliative care
Pathologists examine body tissues and interpret laboratory test results.
Pediatric medicine
Pediatricians provide primary care for infants, children, and teenagers.
Peripheral vascular disease
Peripheral vascular disease physicians treat diseases of the circulatory system other than those of the brain and heart.
Physical medicine and rehabilitation
Physical medicine and rehabilitation specialists are physicians who treat patients with short-term or long-term disabilities.
Plastic and reconstructive surgery
Plastic and reconstructive surgeons perform procedures to improve the appearance or function of parts of the body.
Podiatrists specialize in caring for the foot and treating foot diseases.
Preventive medicine
Preventive medicine specialists work to promote the health and well-being of individuals or groups of people.
Primary care
Primary care physicians treat illnesses, provide preventive care, and coordinate the care provided by other health professionals. Physicians in family practice, general practice, geriatric medicine, and internal medicine provide primary care.
Psychiatrists treat mental, addictive, and emotional disorders.
Psychiatry (geriatric)
Geriatric psychiatrists treat mental and emotional disorders in elderly people.
Pulmonary disease
Pulmonologists treat diseases of the lungs and airways.
Radiation oncology
Radiation oncologists use radiation to treat cancer.
Rheumatologists treat problems involving the joints, muscles, bones, and tendons.
Sleep medicine
Sleep medicine physicians treat problems related to sleep or the sleep-wake cycle.
Sports medicine
Sports medicine specialists treat problems related to participation in sports or exercise.
Surgical oncology
Surgical oncologists specialize in the surgical diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
Thoracic surgery
Thoracic surgeons treat problems in the chest, including problems affecting the heart, lungs, or windpipe.
Urologists treat problems in the male and female urinary tract and the male reproductive system.
Vascular surgery
Vascular surgeons treat diseases of the circulatory system, other than the brain and heart.

Other health care professional specialties

Anesthesiologist Assistant
Anesthesiologist assistants work under the direction of an anesthesiologist as a part of the anesthesia care team.
Audiologists have advanced training and evaluate hearing or balance problems. They provide hearing aids and counsel people about how to cope with hearing loss.
Certified Nurse Midwife
Certified nurse midwives (CNM) are registered nurses who have earned a master's degree in nursing and met other requirements. They practice in hospitals and medical clinics. They may also deliver babies in birthing centers and attend home births.
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist
Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNA) are registered nurses who have earned a master's degree in nursing and met other requirements. They provide anesthesia, working with other health care professionals.
Clinical Nurse Specialist
Clinical nurse specialists (CNS) are registered nurses who have earned a master's degree in nursing and met other requirements. They handle a range of physical and mental health problems.
Clinical Psychologist
Clinical psychologists have a doctorate in psychology and have advanced training in promoting mental health and helping people cope with problems.
Clinical Social Worker
Clinical social workers (CSW) have earned a master’s degree, and help people deal with life changes and challenges, including mental disorders.
Nurse Practitioner
Nurse practitioners (NP) are registered nurses who have earned a master's degree in nursing and met other requirements. They provide primary and preventive care, prescribe medicines, and treat common minor illnesses and injuries.
Occupational Therapy
Occupational therapists (OT) help people who are recovering from injuries to regain skills. They also support people who are going through changes related to aging. They provide home assessments, teach people to use adaptive equipment (such as devices to help with bathing, dressing, or eating), and work with family members and caregivers. OTs are state-licensed and nationally certified to practice
Physical Therapy
Physical therapists (PT) provide rehabilitation to help people move, reduce pain, restore function, and prevent disability. PTs are state-licensed and nationally certified to practice.
Physician Assistant
Physician assistants (PA) are graduates of accredited PA educational programs. They’re licensed to practice medicine with a physician’s supervision. They examine patients, diagnose and treat illnesses, order lab tests, prescribe medicines, perform procedures, assist in surgery, and counsel patients.
Registered Dietitian / Nutrition Professional
Registered dietitians (RD) and other nutrition professionals are food and nutrition experts. They teach patients about nutrition. They also provide medical nutrition therapy.
Speech-Language Pathologist
Speech-language pathologists (SLP), sometimes called speech therapists, treat communication and swallowing disorders. They're state-licensed and nationally certified in speech-language pathology.