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A primary care physician (PCP) is a physician who provides both the first contact for a person with an undiagnosed health concern as well as continuing care of varied medical conditions, not limited by cause, organ system, or diagnosis.

PCPs are our first stop for medical care. Most PCPs are doctors, but nurse practitioners and even physician assistants can sometimes also be PCPs.

A PCP is the person your child should see for a routine checkup or non-emergency medical care. If your child has a mild fever, cough, or rash, or is short of breath or nauseated, a PCP usually can find the cause and decide what to do about it.

Usually, PCPs can treat conditions in their own offices. If they can’t, they can refer you and your child to a trusted specialist. If your child needs ongoing treatment or is admitted to a hospital, the PCP may oversee the care, help you make decisions related to treatment, or refer you to other specialists if needed.

One of a PCP’s most important jobs is to help keep kids from getting sick in the first place. This is called preventive care.

The best preventive care means forming a relationship with a PCP you like and trust, taking your child for scheduled checkups and vaccines, and following the PCP’s advice for establishing a healthy lifestyle, managing weight, and getting the right amount of exercise.