Differences Between Clinical and Non-Clinical Medical Jobs

The difference between clinical and non-clinical jobs is fairly simple. Just because you work in ​a clinic or a hospital doesn’t mean your role is clinical.

The term has to do with whether or not you treat patients or provide direct patient care of any type, in which case your job is clinical. Non-clinical work may support patient care, but the work does not provide direct diagnosis, treatment, or care for the patient.

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Examples of Clinical Roles

Clinical roles often have face-to-face contact with patients for the purpose of diagnosis, treatment, and ongoing care. Some clinical professions are behind-the-scenes, such as laboratory professionals whose work supports diagnosis and treatment.

Clinical roles often require certification or licensing.

These are roles where the professional provides direct patient care:

  • Physician (MD): Doctors typically treat patients, although depending on their administrative duties it may become less prominent, as with department chiefs.
  • Hospitalist (MD): A hospitalist is a physician who specializes in the care of hospitalized patients and whose practice is in the hospital, not in an office. Hospitalists are board-certified in internal medicine and well-versed in the unique needs of the hospitalized patient.
  • Physician assistant (PA): A PA provides a broad range of healthcare services traditionally performed by a physician. These include physical examination, diagnosing and treating, ordering tests, preventive health care, patient education, surgical assisting, and writing medical orders and prescriptions.
  • Nurse practitioner (NP): An NP is a registered nurse (RN) who has completed a master’s degree and advanced practice certification. NPs provide the same level of care as primary care physicians and can serve as a patient’s regular healthcare provider.
  • Registered nurse (RN): The RN manages patient care, assumes primary responsibility for the care of the patient, and directs the care provided by other caregivers.
  • Licensed practical nurse (LPN): The LPN assists with the coordination and implementation of the plan of care as delegated by the RN. The LPN is licensed to administer specified medication, take vital signs, and perform many patient care procedures.
  • Nurse anesthetist (CRNA): The CRNA is an advanced practice nurse who has specialized education and training in anesthesia. A nurse anesthetist works with an anesthesiologist to comprise your anesthesia care team.
  • Patient care technician (PCT): The PCT assists with the care of patients as delegated by the RN by taking vital signs, collecting blood samples for testing, and inserting urinary catheters. The PCT also provides personal care to patients.
  • Surgical assistant (CSA): The CSA is a certified professional that assists surgeons in a wide variety of surgical procedures, including orthopedic, vascular, and general surgery.
  • Nursing assistant (CNA): The CNA provides quality-of-life care for patients in nursing care facilities and clinics under the direction of an RN or LPN.
  • Allied health professionals: These include medical assistants, medical technologists, medical laboratory technicians, physical therapists, occupational therapists, respiratory therapists, speech-language pathologists, dietitians, diagnostic medical sonographers, radiographers, pharmacists, and more.

Examples of Non-Clinical Roles

Non-clinical roles are those which do not provide any type of medical treatment or testing. Some non-clinical workers do interact with patients but do not actually provide medical care.

Non-clinical roles include medical billers and coders, transcriptionists, hospital executives, receptionists, and anyone who works behind the scenes at a hospital such as human resources, IT, biomedical technicians, administrative assistants, etc.

There are a lot of other non-clinical roles in the medical industry such as medical transcriptionist, pharmaceutical representative, biomedical engineering, medical recruiter, and medical device sales.

2 Sources
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  1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Family medicine physicians.

  2. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Physician assistants.

By Andrea Clement Santiago
Andrea Clement Santiago is a medical staffing expert and communications executive. She's a writer with a background in healthcare recruiting.