Medical student, resident, attending…who are all these people in white coats?!

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Yep, we get it. When you are in the hospital there are about a million people that come and see you and they are all wearing white coats. What’s the deal?

Medical students are just that. Students. They are in school and learning the fundamentals and science of medicine. Generally the first two years are more science, meaning they are in classrooms learning about how our body works. The last two years (yes, it’s four years AFTER college) are our clinical years where we learn hands-on in the hospital. We get to meet patients and work directly with residents and attendings.

Residents. Well, here is where we get confusing. But not for long. Residents are doctors. They have graduated from medical school and the second they do, they become official. So while they are doctors, they are still physicians in-training. They spend anywhere from 3-6+ years getting hands-on experience learning their specific field in a more in-depth, applicable fashion. Each year, they get more responsibility and work more independently but all under the supervision of an Attending. By the time they graduate, they can function completely on their own.

Attendings are the “boss.” They have already finished medical school and graduated from their respective residency programs or fellowships (additional even more specialized training in their field). They are in the process or have completed their board-certification. They coach and teach residents, they care for their patients, operate on them, and treat them after surgery. They call the ultimate shots.

So, yes, you typically meet A LOT of people in the hospital but just remember they are all working very hard to take the best care of you!

* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.