Key Takeaways

    • Your hospital care team will include doctors, nurses, rehabilitation experts, care managers, and social workers.
    • It may be challenging to keep track of who you meet and what role they play in your care. Write down questions or concerns so you remember to ask for clarification.
    • You and your family/health advocate 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 care?

You will meet many care team members in the hospital. Aside from your doctors and nurses, you will meet several other experts who will coordinate your care and help plan your transition from the hospital to your home or rehabilitation facility.

Hospitals have various groups with unique expertise and roles to play in your care and recovery. Your 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 you, or “round,” at different times of the day. The medical care team consisting of doctors, trainees, and nurses will engage you and your family to communicate daily care plans and goals.

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


Your main doctor may be a critical care doctor, cardiologist, or internal medicine doctor. You 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. You may also need to have procedures performed by surgeons or interventional radiologists.


You will likely have 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 vitals or drawing blood.

Physical therapist

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

Speech-language pathologist

A speech-language pathologist may be asked to evaluate and treat you for difficulties with language (e.g., finding words you 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 ability to express yourself (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 your 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 home.

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 your 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 feel your care team is not addressing your needs or you 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 you 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

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