Visiting the hospital with your child usually means meeting multiple members of a care team. Each one has a different role, and it can be difficult to keep track of who does what. To help you, we have compiled a list of people you may meet and what they do.

  • Resident: A doctor who has completed medical school and plans to become a pediatrician. For around three years, they help take care of patients’ day-to-day needs, reporting to the attending physician.
  • Attending physician: A senior physician overseeing your child’s care and managing the clinical care team. They also use their experience to help teach residents and fellows.
  • Specialist: A doctor who focuses on a specific area of medicine, type of procedure or type of treatment. Examples include oncologists, orthopaedic surgeons and nutritionists.
  • Fellow: A physician who has completed their residency but is undergoing training to become a specialist (like a neurologist or cardiologist).
  • Intern: A term referring to first-year residents.
  • Chief: Each department has its own chief. These people are responsible for leading the department, managing its physicians and creating/enforcing its policies.
  • Hospitalist: A doctor who works exclusively with people who have been hospitalized.
  • Advanced practice nurse or nurse practitioner: A nurse who is board certified and has completed graduate-level education. They collaborate with doctors, providing care in specialty areas.
  • Registered nurse: After receiving a degree in nursing and passing a national licensing exam, these nurses are involved in day-to-day care, helping assess a child’s needs and often overseeing the unit’s nursing team.
  • Physician’s assistant: A licensed medical professional who assists specialists and surgeons by following up with patients and families.
  • Patient advocate: A liaison between patients, patients’ families and hospital staff. They are neutral advocates who help guide patients through the healthcare system and help direct complaints/grievances.

Even with this list, finding the right person to address your needs at a hospital can feel overwhelming. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Any one of the team members listed above can provide you with support or point you to someone who can.

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