An Introduction to the Healthcare Team: Who They Are and What They Do

The healthcare team is made up of a variety of different professionals who work together to provide care for patients. You may think that it is just the doctor and nurses, but there is so much more than that!

The healthcare team coordinates its efforts to make sure that each patient receives the treatments they need. We will introduce you to the members of the healthcare team and explain what they do. By understanding who these people are and what they do, you will be better equipped as an acute care nurse with the resources you need to be successful in your role.

Table of Contents

Nursing Roles in Healthcare

registered nurses

Registered Nurses (RN)

Nurses make up the largest group of healthcare professionals. They play a vital role in patient care, providing support and assistance to doctors and other members of the team. Nurses are responsible for carrying out treatments and procedures, as well as monitoring patients’ progress and ensuring their comfort.

There are many different types of nurses, each with their own area of expertise. For example, there are critical care nurses who work in intensive care units, and operating room nurses who assist during surgery. No matter what type of nurse you are, you play an important role in the healthcare team.

These nurses have earned either an associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degree and have passed the NCLEX-RN exam.

Licensed Practice Nurses (PN)

LPNs are also referred to as Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs) depending on the state in which they practice. These nurses provide basic patient care, such as taking vital signs and changing dressings. They also administer medications and injections based on their scope of practice and often work closely with patients to help them with their daily activities.

LPNs must complete an accredited nursing program usually through a vocational school or community college and pass the NCLEX-PN exam to become licensed. LPNs typically work under the supervision of a registered nurse depending on the state’s scope of practice.

nursing assistants

Assistive Personnel include Certified Nursing Assistants and Certified Medical Assistants

Assistive Personnel consists of Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs), Certified Medical Assistants (CMAs), cardiac monitoring technicians, phlebotomists, and dialysis technicians. These team members are the backbone of the healthcare system!! For most roles like CNAs, there is a certification exam after completing a state-approved training program. These professionals provide patient care based on their specialty and skillset.

CNAs typically work in long-term care facilities or hospitals and provide basic patient care, such as bathing, dressing, and eating. They also take vital signs and help patients with their daily activities.

CMAs typically work in physician’s offices and clinics and provide basic patient care, such as taking vital signs and medical histories. They also schedule appointments and laboratory tests, and may administer medications or injections based on their scope of practice.

Cardiac monitoring technicians, phlebotomists, and dialysis technicians all have specific roles in patient care. Cardiac monitoring technicians work in hospitals and review telemetry for patients who require monitoring. Phlebotomists draw blood for laboratory tests and dialysis technicians provide dialysis treatments for patients with kidney failure.

Advanced Practice Nursing Roles

Advanced practice nurses (APNs) are RNs who have completed a graduate-level program and have earned a master’s or doctorate degree in nursing. They also have an additional certification in their area of specialty.

  • Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)
  • Nurse Practitioner (NP)
  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
  • Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)
  • Nurse Educator
  • Nurse Researcher

The Clinical Nurse Specialist role is a clinical expert in a particular area of nursing practice. They often work in hospitals or clinics and work with specialties to create best practice standards and research.

Nurse Practitioners direct patient care, as well as education and guidance. Many own practices in states that recognize NPs as independent practitioners.

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists administer anesthesia for surgeries and other medical procedures.

Certified Nurse Midwives are experts in women’s health and provide care throughout the lifespan. They often work in OBGYN offices or clinics, but may also work in hospitals or primary care settings.

Nurse Educators teach nursing at the collegiate level and prepare the future workforce. They often work in academia, but may also work in hospitals or clinics to provide staff development education.

Nurse Researchers conduct research to improve patient outcomes. They often work in academia, but may also work in hospitals or clinics to provide staff development education.

Non-Nursing Healthcare Roles

The healthcare team also consists of non-nursing roles, such as providers, physician assistants, and pharmacists. These roles are essential to patient care!

Providers

Providers come in many different forms including, but not limited to, physicians (MDs and DOs), surgeons, Advanced Practice Nurses, and Physician Assistants. They help diagnose and treat patients based on their symptoms and medical history.

Medical Doctors (MDs) are physicians who have completed a four-year undergraduate degree, four years of medical school, and three to seven years of residency training. Medical Doctors focus on the diagnosis and treatment of disease.

Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine (DOs) are physicians who focus on preventative care and the whole person – body, mind, and spirit.

Surgeons operate on patients to treat a variety of conditions.

Physician Assistants (PAs) are health professionals who have completed a graduate-level program and have earned a master’s degree. PAs work under the supervision of a physician and provide diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventive healthcare services.

social worker

Social Worker

A social worker is a healthcare professional who helps patients and families cope with the psychological and social effects of illness, injury, and disability. Social workers often work in hospitals, clinics, or social service agencies.

Social workers also help coordinate care before and after discharge by reaching out to resources the patient may need upon discharge.

pharmacist

Pharmacist

A pharmacist is a healthcare professional who dispenses medications and provides information on their proper use. They are also great resources when you are wondering whether medications are compatible and can be given together in the same lines.

occupational therapist

Occupational Therapist (OT)

An occupational therapist is a healthcare professional who helps patients regain their ability to perform everyday activities. These activities can include brushing their teeth, doing laundry, and preparing food.

Physical Therapist (PT)

A physical therapist is a healthcare professional who helps patients regain their strength and mobility. Like OTs, PTs make sure the body can function properly but they focus on the whole body. For example, if the patient has a knee replacement, PT will work with the patient to help them with walking like they used to instead of focusing on brushing their teeth as they did not lose that ability.

speech language pathologist

Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP)

A speech-language pathologist is a healthcare professional who helps patients with communication disorders. These disorders can include difficulty speaking, trouble understanding others, and difficulty swallowing. For example, a dysphagia patient has difficulty with eating foods and will need a proper assessment from an SLP and develop a plan of care to get them back to eating regular foods. These types of patients are at high risk of aspiration until the patient is strong enough to swallow.

respiratory therapy

Respiratory Therapy (RT)

Respiratory therapists are healthcare professionals who help patients with respiratory disorders. These disorders can include difficulty breathing, asthma, and cystic fibrosis to name a few.

If your patient is having difficulty breathing, converting atmospheric air to oxygen, or has lungs that are not functioning properly, the respiratory therapy team will be your best friend.

RTs also always respond to codes as rapid response calls to help protect the airway.

dietitian

Registered Dietitian (RD)

A registered dietitian is a healthcare professional who helps patients with their nutritional needs. This can include anything from making sure the patient is getting enough calories to teaching the patient how to cook healthy meals.

If a patient is admitted with uncontrolled diabetes, an RD will be a critical part of the team to help get their diabetes under control. The RD will also be able to provide education on how to eat healthy and what foods to avoid.

Spiritual Care Provider

A spiritual care provider is a healthcare professional who helps patients with their spiritual needs. This can include providing support and resources for patients who are dealing with a difficult diagnosis, end of life, or grief.

If a patient is admitted and is struggling to come to terms with their diagnosis, a spiritual care provider can help them work through those feelings.

Their services are not only limited to the patients, any healthcare professional can speak with the spiritual care team if they are struggling with something that is going on.

environmental services

Environmental Services

Environmental services are the people who keep the hospital clean. They are also responsible for waste management and infection control.

If there is a patient with an infectious disease, the environmental services team will work closely with the infection control team to make sure the room is properly cleaned and disinfected.

transportation team

Transportation Team

The transportation team is responsible for getting patients to their appointments and tests. This can include anything from taking them to get an X-ray to taking them to surgery.

If you are working in the Intensive Care, you will also be transporting the patient as they are no advanced licensed professionals that can manage complex machines.

The transportation team is also responsible for getting the patient discharged from the hospital by taking them to their car and ensuring they can transfer safely from the wheelchair.

This is not a complete list but is a good guide to get you started on understanding the health care team.

Each hospital will have different roles and responsibilities but these are some of the most common. It is important to know who is on your team so you can better collaborate and provide the best care for your patients.

I hope this gives you a better understanding of the healthcare team and their roles in the hospital. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out!