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Work Closely With Your Doctor - Working With Doctors in the Hospital

When you're in the hospital, it may take extra effort to be an active patient and to communicate with all the different doctors, nurses, and other providers you will work with.

It's important to remember that even though you're in the hospital, you still have the ability to speak up and make decisions. But instead of just talking to your doctor in his or her office, you'll be talking to a variety of providers who come to your room.

Your attending physician

Your main doctor in the hospital is called your attending physician. Your attending physician is like the head coach of your health care team. He or she is in charge of coordinating your care and making sure that all the players are doing their jobs.

If you're in the hospital for surgery, your attending physician might be your surgeon. If you're in the hospital for an illness, your attending physician might be your family doctor or a specialist you were seeing before you were hospitalized.

Or your attending physician might be a doctor called a "hospitalist." A hospitalist specializes in treating hospitalized patients and doesn't see patients outside the hospital.

Attending physicians check on their patients during daily "rounds." This is your attending physician's time to see how you are doing and answer your questions. Your doctor or your nurses may tell you what time of day you can usually expect rounds. But don't be surprised if your doctor comes much later than expected on some days.

Before you go into the hospital, you may want to ask your primary care doctor these questions:

  • Will you be my attending physician?
  • If not, how will you keep in touch with me while I'm in the hospital?
  • How will you communicate with the hospital doctors?

Remember that doctors aren't on the job all day and all night every day of the week, so your attending physician may change on certain days. Find out who your attending physician is, and ask to be notified if that person changes.

Other health professionals you may meet

During your hospital stay, you'll be cared for by a number of different health professionals, depending on the reason you're there.

The providers you'll see most are your nurses. They work in shifts, so you'll probably get to know three or more nurses during your stay. These men and women are a great resource. They're trained to help you know what's going on. If you have a question they can't answer, they will know how to help you get the answer.

For certain health problems, nurse specialists may be part of your treatment team. These are nurses who have special training about the health problem you're having.

Other health care providers you may meet include:

  • Nurse's aides, such as LPNs or LVNs and nursing assistants.
  • An anesthesiologist.
  • Hospital technicians. For example, a lab technician may come to your room to draw blood samples. A technician may come to your room to do an ultrasound. Someone from the hospital pharmacy may visit you to explain a new medicine.
  • Medical specialists. These are doctors or surgeons who are expert in whatever health problem you're in the hospital for. For example, a cardiologist specializes in treating heart problems. An oncologist specializes in treating cancer.
  • A nurse educator. This is a nurse who specializes in teaching people how to manage their health problems.
  • Other providers, such as:

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