Consumers’ guide to who might be treating you in the hospital
By Asha Davis
Whenever you are admitted to a hospital, you typically think you are always going to be seen by a doctor. Yet, there are many different levels of medical people present in a hospital.
A prime example of these different medical physicians practicing in a hospital, is displayed in Shonda Rhime’s renowned TV show, Grey’s Anatomy. Grey’s Anatomy is a medical drama show focusing on Meredith Grey’s medical career starting from a scut working intern to a renowned general surgeon. Throughout the show, Meredith Grey, and her friends are trying to manage their personal life and climb to the top of the medical career ladder: intern, resident, fellow, and attending.
At the bottom of the medical career ladder is an intern. An intern is a student fresh out of medical school eager to get their hands on a patient and put their knowledge to the test. An intern is like a baby bird, who is unable to fly, ready to explore the world out of the nest. Yet, the resident that teaches the intern, acts as the mama bird who is constantly watching the baby to make sure it stays out of trouble. This analogy shows how a resident has to supervise an intern practicing medicine and make sure when they are practicing they stay confined to the rules of the program.
The next step on the medical career ladder is a resident. A resident has completed their internship year and must pass another test in order to practice as a general practitioner. If they have passed the test and do not want to become a general practitioner then they can continue their education in another field of medicine depending on what specialty they want to pursue. For example, if they want to practice family medicine they will spend another two years learning specifically about medicine that focuses on a family.
If a resident has chosen to a follow an educational path focusing on a specific kind of medicine they are know considered a fellow. A fellow has been enrolled into a fellowship program that allows them to receive specific training on their designated field of medicine. For example a cardiothoracic surgeon would complete a fellowship program that focuses on heart and lung procedures. Also a fellow is a fully credentialed physician.
Finally, at the top of the ladder is an attending. An attending is an expert in their field of medicine or surgery because they have completed their training and have obtained many years of practice in their field. In a teaching environment an attending provides demonstrations and monitors their fellows, residents, and interns in their field. Attendings will bring their residents and interns with them while making rounds to see patients to allow their students to learn about the patient’s health. This is the ultimate goal of a fellow: to become an attending.
Overall each person is a physician, which is a medical doctor who has completed graduate training to provide healthcare. But, each one has their own capabilities and level of medical experience.
So it’s important to be educated on the difference between the physicians present in a hospital. They might be making life or death decisions about you – so you want the most experienced person you can get.
Asha Davis is a student at Mercy High School in Baltimore and hopes to work in a hospital someday.