Who’s on your team?


At some point in our lives, some of us will become sick and require hospitalization. During this stay, you will meet so many people your head will spin, and you will likely forget most of them. Nonetheless, each and every person has a role in your care.So let’s meet them.


First, you have your nurse or RN (registered nurse). This person will be your ‘go to’ for a whole range of needs that will pop up. Consider the nurse your right hand man. He or she will check you on a frequent basis, and notify the doctor of any complaints you have, or if you’re not doing well. He or she will administer your medications. And finally, he or she will keep you informed of the daily care plan.  Another subset of helpers include “certified nursing assistants”, otherwise known as patient care technicians (PCT), who are the liaison between the nurse and the patient. A pct will help patients with a variety of things such as going to the restroom, bathing, collecting specimen, moving around.


Next, you have your doctor.  Your main doctor who oversees everything, should be thought of as the team leader. Now, in most hospitals, this physician has come to be known as the “Hospitalist”.  This is an Internal Medicine or Pediatric Medicine trained physician (depending on patient age), who oversees all your medical needs and pulls in specialists as needed. This doctor is also termed as the “attending” of your case which signifies the lead doctor on your case. All other physicians who are brought in to evaluate specialized areas such as a cardiologist or neurologist are deemed as “consultants.”


Then there are pharmacists who oversee all the medications that are administered to you as a patient. They will follow doctor’s orders , and additionally apply their background knowledge , and check if the medication and all it’s aspects ( dosage, frequency, use, side effects) fit the patient’s profile appropriately or not. If there are any red flags, the pharmacist will communicate with doctor immediately and address the issue.

Care Managers

Finally there are care managers and social care workers who address and arrange other associated needs for the patient both during the hospital stay, and more importantly upon discharge.  These are the people who help with transitions to home or elsewhere including nursing homes/rehabilitation facilities, and offer information on  financial issues, safety needs, and medical equipment.


There are numerous others who also are a part of your team. There are transporters, orderly’s who help transporting you to different parts of the hospital. There are phlebotomists who will draw your blood early in the morning and at all other times of the day and night. There are an array of technicians who are skilled at doing &/ operating different pieces of equipment.

There are many other players that are involved, but the above are your core members that you should get familiar with.  Generally speaking nurses change every 8 hours, and doctors change every 12 hours, depending on the type of care you are needing. These are the basics! More details to come.

Until then, take the time to know thy team!


Hospitals come in Flavors


One would assume that you can walk into any hospital and get any type of medical care you need, but this is not true in all cases.  Now, as medicine has become more specialized, so has hospitals.  Knowing what each type has to offer can help guide you as a patient , so you know what you can get. It will likely have an affect on your bill too!

General Hospitals

First off, you have your basic general hospital, which offers the standard types of care including Emergency, Internal, Surgical, Critical Care Medicine.  Most of these hospitals will serve the adult population (~ 18 years of age or older). Some of these hospitals will also take care of the Pediatric population.

Specialized Hospitals

Then you have several specialized hospitals.  Most of your “Children’s Hospitals” serve exactly what the title implies, children ( ~ 18 and younger). At these hospitals, you have a slew of specialized pediatric services that are dedicated to all the different organs and systems     (Cardiac, Gastrointestinal, Renal, Cricital Care, Neonatal Medicine, etc…).  More specialized places include hospitals dedicated to psychiatry, geriatrics  (elderly patients with related medical issues including Alzheimer’s, Parkinsons), burn patients, trauma, rehabilitation. There are also certain facilities that serve as centers for areas such as cardiovascular and oncologic (cancers) problems. These places tend to encompass clinics that have more of an outpatient setting.

Private Versus Public

Many General Hospitals will also be dubbed as “public” hospitals, which means that these facilities are owned by the government, and are considered non profit. Other adjectives you might hear include “county” , “city” describing these facilities. There are also government facilities that only serve people from the army or navy and their extended family.  Funding is received either from local, state, or federal government.  Free care will be given to the uninsured at most of these places.

Private hospitals are owned by either profit or non profit groups, funded by payments from patients themselves, or their insurances.


Insurance specific institutions do exist such as Kaiser Hospitals which treat all Kaiser insured patients.

As a consumer of healthcare, knowing these different flavors of medical institutions is critical to knowing what kind of care is available.  In addition, one’s insurance likely pays for care that occurs at specific hospitals. So the patient can save a lot of money by going to one of these “in network ” hospitals, versus a different facility.  Now there are moments such as emergencies in which the patient doesn’t necessarily have a say which hospital he or she can be taken to.  The goal is to get the patient medical care  quickly; so naturally they will take the patient to the closest facility.

So take a moment to find out what hospitals are near you, and which ones your insurance company has connections with. Here’s a table describing some of the hospitals available in San Francisco.  Just a little bit of knowledge can go a long way when it comes to your healthcare.

Hospital Type Funding Non teach versus Teach
UCSF Medical Center General private/combo teach
San Francisco VA medical Center Specific-> veterans Government
Kaiser San Francisco Medical Center Specific Kaiser Permanente teach
San Francisco General Hospital General Government teach
UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Specific->children private/combo teach
California Pacific Medical Center General Private teach @ California Campus
St.Francis Hospital General Private non teach