Glossary: Who Might I Meet in the Hospital? | Child Life Program | Children's Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock (CHaD)
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Glossary

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Who might I meet in the hospital?

You and your child may encounter many people when you visit the hospital. Below you will find a glossary that provides explanations of who works at the medical center and how they may help you and your child.

Physicians/providers

  • Attending physician: A staff doctor who has completed all medical education, considered to be the senior staff member responsible for patient care. Attending physicians also supervise medical students and residents which means they may have other people with them when they visit you.
  • Fellow: A doctor who has finished residency (usually three to seven years after medical school) and is getting additional training in a specific area or working on research.
  • Resident: A doctor who is doing post-graduate training in a specialty area of medicine. For example, a resident in general surgery will do a one-year internship and a four-year residency in surgery, plus three or four more years to specialize.
  • Medical students: After university studies, medical school involves four years of academic and clinical education.
  • Nurse practitioner (APRN): Has a master's degree which requires two years of additional nursing training. APRN’s are trained to provide extended nursing services, can do physical exams and prescribe medication.
  • Physician assistant (PA): A medical professional who usually has a background in a health-related field plus two years additional training in medical sciences and works under the supervision of a physician.

Nurses

  • Registered nurse (RN): May specialize in various medical areas. Generally an RN serves as the coordinator of a treatment plan, administers medication, and starts IV lines.
  • Licensed practical nurse (LPN): Has received nursing training from an accredited program that requires one year plus a summer to complete. LPNs generally provide direct patient care with similar duties to the RN and assist with tasks like changing wound dressings, taking vitals, and daily patient care.
  • Medical assistant (MA)/licensed nursing assistant (LNA): Has basic nursing training and assists with daily patient care.

Therapists

  • Physical therapist (PT): Involved in diagnosis, evaluation, planning, and implementation of treatment in the area of patient mobility, physical growth and development, and rehabilitation. Patients may see PT after an injury, surgery, or due to a long hospitalization.
  • Occupational therapist (OT): Involved in diagnosis, evaluation, planning, and implementation of treatment in the area of functional ability, motor skills, sensory, and visual development, coordination, and rehabilitation.
  • Speech and language pathologist (SLP): Involved in the diagnosis, evaluation, planning, and implementation of treatment in the area of speech, language, hearing, and swallowing.
  • Respiratory therapist (RT): Involved in the assessment and treatment of breathing conditions.
  • Nutritionist/dietitian: Has knowledge of nutrition, ability to teach and prepare patients and family members in nutritional needs and supervision of dietary needs of patients. They may provide guidance to help children and families after they leave the hospital.

Other

  • Pharmacist: A pharmacist is a specialist in the science of medicine and has a degree in pharmacy allowing them to work in hospitals, HMOs, and independent pharmacies. They work with the medical team to choose the best treatments and provide medication to your child both in the hospital and when you go home.
  • Social Workers: Social workers are typically involved in counseling, family services, discharge planning, social welfare issues, and third-party reimbursement programs. Social workers focus on emotional well-being and help coordinate health care and services in the community.
  • Psychologists: Psychologists provide emotional support to adults, children, and families in a variety of medical and community settings.
  • Child life specialists (CLS): Child life specialists focus on the psychosocial, emotional, and developmental needs of children and the impact that illness, injury, and hospitalization can have on patients and families.
  • Clergy: Clergy men and women can specialize during their training in hospital chaplaincy as an internship or may devote themselves to a full-time career in this field. They typically focus on the spiritual and religious needs of patients and families in the hospital, and may also be found working in the community in hospice care and health ministry.
  • Health Technicians: There are a variety of technicians in the health care field who will assist with various test and procedures such as MRIs, x-rays, or laboratory testing.
  • Support Services: There are many support services in community health centers. These include environmental services such as maintenance and housekeeping, food services, transportation, medical record keeping, medical library services, and volunteer departments. Volunteers play an important role in all aspects of health care.
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