Life in the Hospital Lane - Who's who in Hospital. Part 1
Wed Dec. 20th 2023
From the reassuring smile a the front desk to the skilled hands in the operating room, these heroes form a compassionate, dedicated network that strives to mend, heal and support.
Life in the Hospital Lane – Who's Who in Hospital
In the world of healthcare, hospitals are bustling hubs of activity. Within these busy walls, a varied group of professionals works together to ensure the well-being of the patients that come their way. From the reassuring smile at the front desk to the skilled hands in the operating room, these heroes form a compassionate, dedicated network that strives to mend, heal, and support. Whether you’ve been within the hospital walls frequently or are new to the scene - it can be daunting remembering the different titles of the professionals you meet, let alone knowing what they do! Here, we set out some professional roles and a brief description of what they do to give an overall picture of how the staff you’ll meet work together. The key roles of staff in a hospital can be broadly categorised into four areas.
Doctors (Medical Staff)
Allied Health Professionals
Every member of the hospital staff plays a unique and crucial role in patient care. Their combined efforts create a supportive and healing atmosphere that makes hospitals more than just buildings; they are places of hope and recovery.
Doctors (Medical Staff)
You may be treated by several doctors during your hospital stay – the Consultant (or Specialist), the Registrar, and the Resident. Together they assess and manage your medical care. Depending on which hospital you are in, you may also be treated by Interns and Student Doctors who work under the supervision of the Senior Doctors. Their responsibilities and titles are based on their level of experience.
Consultants (sometimes called Specialists) are highly specialised in their chosen field. They are the most senior grade of doctors, often responsible for leading a team. They make all the crucial decisions regarding patient care. Having completed additional training in their particular field, they can provide expertise and care in specialist areas. There are hundreds of specialties and subspecialties, you may have heard names such as Immunologists, Neurologists, and Oncologists - to name a few.
You will come across many different Consultants during a hospital stay and it may be confusing if you’re in the hospital with a younger child. If they are struggling with different names, and what they all do - there’s a helpful children’s book called ‘Doctors: A to Z Who Do You Want to Be?’ written and illustrated by Dr Maria Baimas-George. She creates and illustrates books explaining medical terms to children and their families as a way to offer comfort and hope. These are available through IDFNZ, feel free to get in touch if you’d like a copy.
Next up are Registrars – they are senior doctors who have more responsibility with patients and take on more of a leadership role with House Officers, and leading ward rounds when a Consultant is away. You may see them in outpatient appointments or at the hospital during daily rounds.
A less well-known type of Doctor is a Resident or Fellow – they undertake the same areas of duty as a Registrar, but they are in training for specialisation, a ‘Consultant in training’. A Fellow or Resident is a doctor above a Registrar who is close to becoming a Consultant.
House Officers or Junior Doctors – have completed their studies and are now finishing their final year in a hospital. They are getting experience and vital ‘hands-on’ experience by being immersed in the day-to-day undertakings at the hospital.
From time to time you may be advised of Undergraduate Medical Students accompanying senior doctors on rounds as observers. You may be asked at an appropriate time to share your story with them to help enhance their learning, this is optional however and it is always okay to decline.
Once you have been discharged from the hospital your care reverts to your General Practitioner. The GP ensures the day-to-day care of their patients runs smoothly. They receive all of your medical records and notes regarding your hospital care and are the first port of call for any non-urgent medical concerns. GPs can contact your Consultant directly if needed.
While the Resident, Registrar, House Officer, and Medical Students may be involved in part of the patient care while in hospital, it is important to note that they are all on rotating shifts and not always on the same Consultants team. This can be hard on long-term patients as they often develop a good rapport with a team, and then there’s a new set of faces and names to get used to and a need to start the therapeutic relationship again. The Consultant will usually provide a background summary to their team on rounds, but understandably it’s not possible to relay every piece of information. This often means you will need to answer questions and explain your history again. The one constant will be the Consultant.
Nurses manage most of your ongoing care and treatment in the hospital. They play a vital and multifaceted role in the hospital system, acting as compassionate caregivers, skilled clinicians, and advocates for patient well-being. Beyond administering medications and monitoring vital signs, nurses provide overall care by assisting with patients' physical, emotional, and psychological needs. Speak to the nurses about your immediate needs, no matter how big or small - they are the ‘frontline’ of the hospital staff. Collaboration between nurses and other health professionals ensures you have a robust and effective treatment plan. Like doctors, nurses have different roles and responsibilities based on their experience and specialties. Nurse roles include:
The Charge Nurse Manager is responsible for the running of the ward. They may not be overly visible as they manage the staff, and patients, offer clinical advice, and co-ordinate all the care on the ward for the day. However, if there are any issues relating to your time on the ward you are within your rights to ask to speak to the Charge Nurse Manager. The Charge Nurse Managers are very approachable, have a wealth of experience, and are more than happy to hear any concerns or compliments you may have about the ward.
Nurse Practitioners are highly skilled nurses with an advanced level of training. Their training equips them to diagnose and treat illnesses and prescribe medications. Nurse Practitioners often focus on a specific population or specialty, such as family health, paediatrics, or mental health.
Clinical Nurse Specialists (or CNs) are experienced registered nurses who have specialised and completed further study in a specific area of healthcare, such as oncology, critical care, or neonatology. They provide expert consultation to both healthcare providers and patients.
The type of nurse you will see most often when you’re in hospital is a Registered Nurse. Registered Nurses provide a high level of day-to-day care and perform some minor procedures. They assess patient conditions, administer medications, create care plans, and collaborate with other healthcare professionals.
Less visible, but just as vital are Clinical Nurse Educators whose work in the ward environment is to educate staff, keep them up to date with relevant information, provide hands-on learning, and ensure that staff maintain best practice in their work.
Working under the supervision of Registered Nurses or Nurse Practitioners are Enrolled Nurses. They provide nursing care such as monitoring vital signs, administering medications, and assisting with daily living tasks like feeding, showering, and dressing. They play a crucial role in supporting the overall well-being of patients. Enrolled Nurses remain under the supervision of more senior nurses until they have completed the necessary hours and training to become Registered Nurses.
During your stay in the hospital, you may meet Hospital Aides or Health Care Assistants. Their work ensures beds are made, supplies are well stocked, and the equipment used on the ward is safely put away and ready to be used for the next patient. They are vital to the smooth running of each ward in the hospital and provide support and assistance to ensure other nurses can be effective and efficient in their care of patients.
Whilst not often seen in a hospital setting, much like GP’s, Public Health Nurses are a link between healthcare in the community and the hospital. Public Health Nurses promote health and prevent diseases, and are often involved in immunisation programs, health education, and community outreach.
Nurses who specialise in the care of individuals regarding mental health are called Psychiatric or Mental Health Nurses: These nurses assess and support patients experiencing psychiatric disorders, and have undertaken specific training to provide therapy, medication management, and emotional support.
Registered Midwives are seen in both the hospital and community. Midwives are specialised nurses in women's health, providing care during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period. They also offer gynecological and family planning services.
This is just an outline of the field of nursing, and some of the common nursing roles you will come into contact within the hospital. As nursing continues to evolve there are changing and more specialised roles emerging to meet the dynamic healthcare landscape. Each type of nurse plays a crucial part in delivering quality patient care and there’s no doubt you will value their high level of care and contribution to your medical needs during your hospital stay whether it’s two days or two months.
Thank you to our hospital heroes!