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Asthma

Your Asthma Healthcare Team

When you have asthma, you’ll have a team to help you manage your condition. Together, you’ll create your asthma action plan. You may see several healthcare providers every year who help keep you healthy. Your asthma healthcare team may include the following experts.

Primary healthcare provider

This is the person you see for most healthcare visits. This includes yearly checkups and general care. He or she may be one of these:

  • Family practice doctor. This provider has a medical degree and has special training in family practice. He or she is board certified.

  • Internist. This provider has a medical degree and has special training in internal medicine. He or she is board certified.

  • Nurse practitioner. This provider is an advanced practice registered nurse. He or she is trained to give health care under the direction of a medical doctor. He or she has a master's degree and has passed a national exam to become board certified. This provider can do many things a medical doctor can, such as give you an exam and write prescriptions.

  • Physician’s assistant. This provider is trained to give health care under the direction of a medical doctor or doctor of osteopathic medicine. He or she has a master's degree and has passed a national exam to become board certified. This provider can do many things a medical doctor can, such as give you an exam and write prescriptions.

You’ll see your primary healthcare provider most of the time. But he or she may refer you to a specialist if your asthma is not under control. This may be a referral to a pulmonologist. Or you may see an allergist.

Pulmonologist

This is a type of doctor who treats diseases of the airways and lungs. Your primary healthcare provider may refer you to a pulmonologist to help get your asthma under control. A pulmonologist has a medical degree in internal medicine. He or she also got 2 to 3 years of extra training in the respiratory system. This provider should be board certified in internal medicine. He or she must also pass an exam for pulmonology.

Allergist

An allergist is also known as an immunologist. This type of doctor has extra training in treating asthma and allergies. Your primary healthcare provider may refer you to an allergist to help get your asthma under control. An allergist has a medical degree in internal medicine. He or she also got 2 more years of extra training in the immune system. This provider should be board certified in internal medicine. He or she must also pass an exam for allergy and immunology.

Nurses

These are healthcare providers who work with others on your healthcare team. A nurse may:

  • Give you an exam

  • Give you medicine

  • Teach you about your condition

  • Coordinate your care among your providers

Nurses can get special training to become certain types of nurses. These types include advanced practice registered nurse, nurse practitioner, nurse midwife, and pulmonary nurse practitioner. The types also include clinical nurse specialists such as asthma nurse specialist and respiratory nurse specialist. Each role requires different levels of education and training. The duties are also different. Nurses must be licensed to practice in your state.

Pharmacist

This healthcare provider works in a drugstore. He or she is trained in dispensing and advising about how to use medicines safely.  A pharmacist knows which medicines interact with one another. This includes prescription and non-prescription medicines. He or she can also give advice about medicine side effects. A pharmacist has a doctor of pharmacy degree and is licensed by your state’s board of pharmacy.

Exercise physiologist

This is a person who is trained in the best ways to do safe exercises. This provider can also design a fitness or exercise program for you. Exercise is important to stay healthy, but it can trigger asthma for some people. You may want to see this kind of provider to help you learn safe ways to exercise with asthma. An exercise physiologist has a master’s in exercise physiology. He or she may also be certified by the American College of Sports Medicine.

Mental healthcare provider

Emotional stress can trigger asthma for some people. Coping with a chronic condition like asthma can cause stress for both you and your family. A mental healthcare provider can help you and your family manage emotional stress. A number of different providers can give this care. A licensed clinical social worker has a master’s degree in social work and has passed a state exam. A psychologist has a master’s degree or doctorate in psychology. A psychiatrist has a medical degree. A marriage and family therapist has a master’s degree or doctorate in a mental health subject. All of these providers can help with personal coping as well as family emotional health. They will likely have training in individual, group, or family therapy. A social worker can also get you help with financial needs, training programs, and other resources. A psychiatrist can also prescribe medicine. A psychologist may be trained in other methods, such as cognitive behavioral therapy. This is therapy that helps a person change negative thoughts and actions.

Choosing asthma healthcare providers

Make sure your healthcare team members are board certified or licensed for their specialty. This means they have the special training and approval of an official group. Questions to ask a new provider may include:

  • Do you have any special training for treating asthma?

  • How many of your patients have asthma?

  • How often will I have tests?

  • Do you accept my insurance plan? What are your billing policies?

  • Will you send reports or records to my other healthcare providers as needed? 

Working with your healthcare team

You are part of your healthcare team, too. Make sure to:

  • Stick to your asthma action plan. Work with your healthcare providers to create this plan. It should include how to prevent symptoms and what to do if you have an asthma attack.

  • Use your medicines. You may have maintenance medicine. And you may have rescue medicine. Make sure to use these exactly as your healthcare provider tells you to. Talk with a nurse or your pharmacist if you need help using your medicines.

  • Keep track of your symptoms. Make note of your asthma triggers. This can help you and your care providers manage your asthma.

  • See your healthcare provider. Go to regular checkups. Make an appointment if you’re having trouble controlling your asthma.

Online Medical Reviewer: Blaivas, Allen J, DO
Online Medical Reviewer: Pierce-Smith, Daphne, RN, MSN, CCRC
Date Last Reviewed: 11/1/2016
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