The Healthcare Team: Know Who Is Taking Care of You


People are usually familiar with three types of healthcare professionals: doctors, nurses, and surgeons.

Healthcare Team

But as the healthcare system evolves, so do the specialties and knowledge involved in taking care of patients. Today, physicians and nurses are not the only staff with whom you’ll be interacting with in a hospital. Depending on your condition and your type of treatment, you may be attended to by a number of professionals who are members of a healthcare team.

Who are they and how can they help you get better?

 Your Healthcare Team Members

It’s important to become aware of the people who take care of you and the roles they take on. Just because a person is making rounds doesn’t immediately make him a doctor: he could be a resident. Similar to a football team, each healthcare expert has his or her own specialty; but they need to work together in order to help the patient return to good health.

Here are the usual members of your healthcare team, along with a brief description of their tasks:

  • Attending Physician: In-charge of the patient’s diagnosis and/or treatment. May be a specialist in a certain field like a cardiologist or a pediatrician. The attending physician could also be a surgeon or someone who specializes in family care.
  • Physician’s Assistant (PA): Under the supervision of a doctor, PAs can perform several duties such as conduct physical exams, order and interpret tests, assist in surgery, and even write prescriptions. The difference is that they don’t need to complete internship or residency. However, they are still licensed and certified as a medical professional.
  • Resident: He or she is a fully-licensed physician who is training to become a specialist. Do note that residents are NOT your attending physician, but they can be active during your treatment process.
  • Nurse: Similar to doctors, nurses can have specializations, too. But in general, a nurse will provide round the clock bedside care and assistance like administering medication, monitoring your recovery, and educating you and your family about your condition.
  • Patient Care Technician (PCT): Not to be confused with a medical assistant, a PCT works closely with patients and nurses. They are more commonly referred to as nursing assistants. A few of their duties include changing patient bandages, collecting bodily fluids for testing, helping during mealtimes, and/or ensuring the room has clean, fresh supply of linens and other sanitation.
  • Pharmacist: They are in-charge of prescribing and even recommending medicines for the patient.
  • Other members: Depending on your medical condition and personal needs as a patient, you may also encounter interpreters, social workers, dieticians, therapists, medical students, technicians (such as in radiology), as well as clergymen.

Having an idea of the people in-charge of your care while at a hospital will help you get the most out of your experience. For example: if you’re unhappy with any aspect of your treatment, you could always voice these concerns to your attending nurses. But if you feel uncomfortable talking with them, you may chat to the Nurse Manager instead.

Another scenario is during palliative care, which involves support and care for patients with serious life-threatening diseases, such as cancer. Knowing you have healthcare team members that will support you as well as your family during these tough times will make the situation a bit bearable.

Help Them Take Care of You

Even when you know that you’ll receive the best treatment possible, some patients still feel anxious, doubtful, and depressed. Others insist on working with only a few members of the healthcare staff.

For instance: some patients may be alarmed when their primary care doctor does not immediately follow them to the hospital. Although it’s ideal for primary care physicians to be there for their patients, several reasons (such as regular office hours) may prevent them from doing so. It’s for this reason that hospitals put a lot of value on strong healthcare teams.

Healthcare team members who work harmoniously with one another can effectively support patients and make the entire hospital experience less stressful. In the case of absent primary care physicians, hospitalists or residents can definitely take over. After the treatment, they will coordinate with the patient’s primary care doctor to ensure a smooth transition. Hospitalists and/or residents can also be in-charge of handling patients without any attending physicians.

If you let your healthcare professionals take care of you, they can better understand your condition and help you get through the situation in the best way possible. However, if for some reason you’re not comfortable working with them, don’t be afraid to speak up! No one knows your body more than you. Let your medical team know what you need and they’ll do what they can to accommodate your request.

After all, the ultimate goal of their teamwork is to give you best care.

About the Author:

Cris Antonio is the Chief Editor of She’s currently focused on helping healthcare workers find better career opportunities through Locum Tenens. Aside from writing, Cris also enjoys painting, collecting toys, and reading German novels.

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