I headed off to college with the intention of going pre-med, but decided that really wasn’t for me when I discovered that I couldn’t tell the difference between smooth and skeletal muscle cells (and that was just for starters). And while we have a bunch of lawyers in the family, there isn’t a single doctor.
Which meant that when we ended up at the hospital last week, I was relying on my vague memories of medical dramas (I haven’t really watched any in about ten years) and my own hospitalizations when I gave birth to make sense of the various medical staff around us. Yesterday, I did a Swag Bucks search and read a bunch of web sites to learn the following:
An intern is a doctor in the first year after graduation from med school.
A resident is a doctor who is more than one year out of med school. “Residency” is the period of training during which a doctor learns his/her specialty, so the length varies depending on the difficulty. (For example, neurosurgeons apparently have to endure an eight-year residency.)
A chief resident is a doctor who is doing an extra year of residency and in charge of the other residents. This position apparently helps lead to other, more desirable positions such as fellowships. (A fellow is a doctor who has completed residency and is currently serving a fellowship, which is often funded by a special grant and involves some kind of research.)
An attending physician is a doctor who has completed his/her residency. But there are obviously different levels of attendings, depending on experience. You definitely want to seek out the best attending you can find, because he/she will most likely have the final say about your care and treatment plan, and you want that to be as good as it can possibly be.
A final note based on personal experience: If a resident writes a prescription to be filled upon discharge, try to the get the attending’s medical license information to go with it. Our insurance plan wouldn’t accept just the resident’s info, and the pharmacy had to wait for the attending’s license number before it filled the prescription.