What is the formal term for upper level healthcare workers?

By "upper level" I mean Medical Doctors and pharmacists; basically the ones that must have a university degree to perform the duties.

I'm aware of possible legal differences between various countries, fortunately I don't need a perfectly unambiguous term. The context allows for not being 100% accurate, journalistic accuracy would be enough, so to speak.

  • Health care professionals?
    – WS2
    Feb 17, 2014 at 19:44
  • @WS2 that would probably include nurses (correct me if I'm wrong), who are not "upper level" in the sense that I'm trying to convey
    – Morawski
    Feb 17, 2014 at 19:46
  • 1
    @Morawski: In the US, there are many grades of nursing license. RNs (Registered Nurses) mostly have university degrees these days, and APRNs (Advanced Practice RNs) hold at least a masters and may act as primary providers: develop plans of care, prescribe medications and so forth. Feb 17, 2014 at 20:09
  • 1
    That is nowadays much the same in Britain too. Many nurses start their training with a degree already under their belts. It is possible to take a PhD in nursing.
    – WS2
    Feb 17, 2014 at 21:18

2 Answers 2


The term "provider" has come into some use in some discussions of health systems to describe workers who are qualified to direct the care of patients. This is perhaps not quite what you intend, in that the term would not generally be understood to include pharmacists acting to execute a plan of care formulated by another person.

In the context of regulations, I have seen the term "licensed provider" used in a way that I think overlaps closely the group you describe, with the obvious difference being that the credential of concern is a license rather than a university degree. For linkage, in this vocabulary, "licensed independent provider" would correspond to the sense of "provider" in the previous paragraph.

Finally, I think that informally the term "clinician" falls close to what you describe, but as it places the focus on care delivered rather than training, precisely whom it comprises is the subject of sometimes heated discussion.

  • When I hear about a healthcare provider, I think less of an individual (doctor, nurse, or otherwise) but rather of an organization (hospital, practice, etc). Often I hear it more in reference to an insurance provider.
    – Doc
    Feb 17, 2014 at 20:19
  • @Doc, "provider" is the correct word used by the medical industry, including Medicare, for an individual or an institution that provides medical care. Feb 17, 2014 at 20:34
  • @Doc In practical terms, a "provider" is anybody who can send a bill to the insurance company and expect it to be paid. Feb 17, 2014 at 20:50
  • @KristinaLopez Perhaps so, and while I do agree that it can refer to an individual, I still feel that its ambiguity is enough to possibly make it not quite what the OP is looking for. The fact that it can refer to an institution rather than a doctor doesn't seem any better than a term that can refer to a nurse rather than a doctor.
    – Doc
    Feb 17, 2014 at 20:54

Weighing in as a physician . . .

It depends upon what that person does for a living:

Healthcare Provider means anyone from a medical assistant up to physician can be providing care. It is a more neutral term that encompasses anyone who provides direct care to patients regardless of their education and status.

Healthcare Professional tends to mean someone of advanced degree who provides health care. This typically implies that the person is a: Physician, Psychologist, Physician Assistant, Nurse Practitioner, Certified Nurse Anesthetist, Physical Therapist, etc.

Otherwise, the terms physician, pharmacist, etc. are the appropriate terms for people within those fields as opposed to doctor, druggist, etc.

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