Doctors. If you’re a patient at a teaching hospital, this includes medical students (people in school to become doctors), interns and residents (people who have earned the title of “doctor”, but who are still learning their craft), and attendings (people who have completed their formal training as physicians). If you’re not at a teaching hospital, it’s less likely you’ll see medical students and other trainees (the army of white coats tromping through the hallways). Instead, you’ll see lone attending physicians.
Nurses. Nurses play vital roles in patient care; without them, hospitals simply would not work. Nurses arguably spend the most time with patients. They monitor and observe patients around the clock. As a result, they’re often the first to realize that something has changed and thus have the responsibility to do something about it.
There are different kinds of nurses, such as registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and certified nursing assistants. Their roles differ in terms of their training, skill sets, and responsibilities, but they all serve to observe and monitor patients and their conditions.
Therapists. Not the talky kind. There are respiratory therapists, speech therapists, physical therapists, and occupational therapists. They focus on skills and function: How can we help this patient walk? How can we help this patient talk with less difficulty? How can we retrain the muscles in this patient’s hand so he can write again?
Technicians. Radiology technicians, pharmacy technicians, surgical technicians, electroencephalogram technicians, patient care technicians … the list is long. They assist other professionals in the hospital in their duties and may have more contact with patients that the professionals themselves.
Consider an ultrasound technician. A physician may order the ultrasound, but it is the technician who will explain to the patient what an ultrasound is and perform the procedure. A radiologist will interpret the results.
A special note about patient care technicians (PCTs): These individuals often spend the most time with patients and are often a treasure trove of data for nurses and physicians. If you are a physician working in a hospital, make a point of talking with the PCTs. They’re the ones who will know if the patient slept, went to a procedure, has a change in mental status, etc.