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endocrinologist next to a family doctor

Primary Care Doctor or Endocrinologist?

Diabetes is a very complex disease, so complex that it may require specialists to deal with the magnitude of it. Or does it? There are many knowledgeable primary care physicians (PCP), or as some of us refer to them ‘family doctors,’ who are quite capable of dealing with diabetes. In my end of the world, there seems to be a strong preference for specialists. There seems to be the feeling that a PCP doesn’t have the skill base to deal with diabetes. I disagree, but with a couple of asterisks. If a PCP uses their training to the fullest, they can deal with the complexity to a point but the PCP has to know where their ‘point’ ends and the specialists begins and is needed. Unfortunately, not all PCPs are reflective in their practice and know when to refer out. Here is my list of the pros and cons for care by PCP vs Endocrinologist.

Pros and cons of primary care physician vs. an endocrinologist

Primary Care Physician vs. Endocrinologist

Primary Care Physician


Has a basic or more advanced knowledge of what diabetes is, the impact on our health and how to treat
Has expert knowledge of what diabetes is, the impact on our health and the expertise to treat/combining treatment options
Often have a long established relationship of trust with the patient
Often meeting at a time of crisis, no trust relationship (yet) with the patient
Can take time to help you understand what diabetes is and treatment options
May or may not have/take the time to teach you about diabetes, may jump to a treatment they decide
May or may not give you a voice in your care
May or may not give you a voice in your care
Will have good/excellent knowledge of common medications for diabetes
Will have expert knowledge of common and new medications for diabetes
Will have basic knowledge about treatment options including lifestyle changes needed
Will have excellent knowledge about routine treatment including lifestyle changes needed, and new treatment options available
May not have the research to back up a discussion about new treatments
Will be able to discuss the research behind new treatments
May be more accessible in person for changes in health related to diabetes (days to weeks to get an appointment, Canadian system; may be different where you live)
May be less accessible in person for changes in health related to diabetes (several months to get an appointment, Canadian system; may be different where you live)

Primary care physicians and endocrinologists can be valuable for diabetes management

As you can see, very much like diabetes, the care we receive and value can be very individual. Some of us will be happy with the care of our PCP, others will be happy with the care of an endocrinologist. For me, I only gave up my PCP when he told me he had taken my care as far as he could with the knowledge he had; it was time for a specialist. And interestingly, I returned to my PCP and taught both he and his Nurse Practitioner about Trulicity injections. PCPs aren’t supposed to know everything about one thing, that’s why they are generalists but many know more than we give them credit for.

Who treats you and your diabetes?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • glennasgarden
    5 months ago

    My PCP has been treating me and my diabetes along with a certified diabetes educator. I have a great 13 yr relationship with my PCP. If the time came when she thought I needed an endocrinologist I would accept her opinion.

  • Kelly Dabel, RD moderator
    5 months ago

    Thank you for sharing glennasgarden. So glad that you’ve found such great care and a team you trust. We appreciate you sharing your experience! Best, Kelly, Community moderator

  • Thomas A McAtee Jr. moderator
    5 months ago

    Great one Shelly. I’ve been seeing Internal Medicine doctors for many, many years. It was one of them that diagnosed me and helped me to setup a team. Then when I had to quit seeing the doctors at the base near me due to hitting 65 and them not having enough doctors to go around I started seeing the Internal Medicine doctor that one previously on the base had recommended to the wife when she had to quit before. I liked him. He’d always fine time to talk to me during his lunch breaks. Real nice man.

    One of his views pertaining to diabetics was/is that we should have something like the AA due to like an alcoholic it’s so easy for us to fall off the wagon. At first when I heard that I laughed but after had given a thought I told him it sounded about right.

    I’m seeing an Endo for something else at the moment. But know that I could go to her with a referral from the new Internal Medicine doctor if I start having issues that she couldn’t handle. This new doctor that I’m seeing so far seems to have a good view of diabetes and diabetics. So will see how she works but I think she’ll work out fine.

    But damn good article here.


  • Shelley, TheLongPointGirl moderator author
    5 months ago

    Thank you! We do get attached to our drs don’t we? I think the idea of having an AA like group is not a bad idea. There are support groups that are successful for other things, why not diabetes? Makes sense. Glad you have such great support even with the changes in drs. Hope all is well!

  • Shelley, TheLongPointGirl moderator author
    5 months ago

    Good luck. Let me know how it goes.

  • Thomas A McAtee Jr. moderator
    5 months ago

    Shall see how things go. Have an appointment later this month with her so we can really get to know each other and she can do more tests etc.

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