Key Takeaways

    • The hospital care team will include doctors, nurses, rehabilitation experts, care managers, and social workers.
    • It may be challenging to keep track of who your loved one meets and what role they play in their care. Write down questions or concerns so you can remember to ask for clarification.
    • You and your loved one might request to be a part of daily rounds or care plan development; to host a care team communication meeting; or to provide feedback to healthcare leadership on your healthcare experience.
Who might be involved in your loved one’s care?

Your loved one will meet many care team members in the hospital. Aside from their doctors and nurses, they will meet several other experts who will coordinate their care and help plan their transition from the hospital to their home or rehabilitation facility.

Hospitals have various groups with unique expertise and roles to play in your loved one’s care and recovery. Their care team consists of doctors, nurses, medical trainees, respiratory therapists, social workers, care managers, rehabilitation experts, clinical nutritionists, and chaplains. Different team members will see the survivor, or “round,” at different times of the day. The medical care team consisting of doctors, trainees, and nurses will engage the survivor and their family to communicate daily care plans and goals.

Here is a brief description of who you and your loved one might meet and what their role might be during their hospital stay. The survivor or, in most cases, the primary contact among all the family members should keep a log of questions for the care team and feel empowered to ask for clarification when needed.


The main doctor may be a critical care doctor, cardiologist, or internal medicine doctor. Your loved one may need consults from other doctors, such as those who specialize in the brain (neurologists), kidney (nephrologists), stomach and intestines (gastroenterologists), lung (pulmonologists), rehabilitation (physical medicine and rehabilitation doctors), or others. They may also need to have procedures performed by surgeons or interventional radiologists.


There will likely be a primary nurse, as well as potentially 2-3 different nurses in a day, depending on how long their shifts last. There will be a “charge nurse” who can also be a resource for questions. Patient care technicians or health aides may assist with checking your loved one’s vitals or drawing blood.

Physical therapist

A physical therapist may be asked to evaluate and treat your loved one for various physical impairments, such as the ability to walk, rise from a chair, etc. They may recommend assistive devices such as a cane, crutches, or a walker. They may suggest adaptations to improve your loved one’s ability to get dressed, walk, or use the stairs in order to be independent with these activities.

Occupational therapist

An occupational therapist may be asked to evaluate and treat your loved one for various fine motor impairments, such as the ability to use their hands, coordinate their fingers, sense objects they touch, etc. Assistive devices such as a grab device (“reacher”) or utensils with modified handles or textures may be recommended. The occupational therapist may also suggest adaptations to improve your loved one’s ability to get dressed or eat in order to independently do these activities. They may focus on strategies to improve your loved one’s memory or ability to multitask.

Speech-language pathologist

A speech-language pathologist may be asked to evaluate and treat the survivor for difficulties with language (e.g., finding words they want to say, enunciating words clearly), communication, or ability to swallow. They may recommend assistive devices such as communication boards. They may suggest adaptations to improve your loved one’s ability to express themselves (e.g., wants, needs, safety), organize, plan, and multitask. 

Care manager

A care manager is often someone with nursing training who helps to navigate discharge plans recommended by doctors, checks on insurance coverage, and facilitates transfers to rehabilitation, skilled nursing, or long-term acute care facilities. Care managers also help apply for durable medical equipment and home health services for your loved one.

Social worker

A social worker is someone with specialized training in social and community resources. Sometimes, social workers do many of the same tasks as the care managers too.

Unit coordinator

A unit coordinator answers phone calls, coordinates consults, and files or faxes paperwork. There is often one at the main desk in the patient’s unit. They may have various other responsibilities, depending on the level of care for the unit or the hospital.

Administrator on duty or patient care services

There is often an administrator on duty for the hospital. This individual can be a resource if you or your loved one feels that their care team is not addressing their needs or if they have an urgent safety concern.

Clinical nutritionist

They are highly qualified professionals who create diets for patients based on how food can affect the body. They may consider digestive problems, metabolic issues, immune function, and the brain’s response to certain chemicals and how by-products can harm a patient’s health. They will work with your loved one when structuring a diet.

Chaplain or clergy

A chaplain is a certified clergy member who provides spiritual care for nurses, doctors, and administrators, as well as patients and their families. Chaplains lead non-denominational religious services that can benefit patients and families from a variety of religious or spiritual backgrounds.

Thank you to our contributors

Kelly Sawyer & Jasmine Wylie

We Appreciate Your Feedback

Please leave any feedback you have regarding the content of this article. Have you found it helpful? What would you change or like to see differently?