Attending Physician

A term used in teaching hospitals to differentiate students from full, practicing physicians.

I spoke to a cardiologist friend who told me the term isn’t used much outside of academia. In a teaching hospital, residents often provide services to patients, but they are not those patients’ assigned physician. Every patient is officially assigned to an “attending physician.”

So, to ask “who is the attending physician?” is to ask, “who is ultimately response for this patient’s care?”

From Wikipedia:

An attending physician typically supervises fellows, residents, medical students, and other practitioners […] Attending physicians have final responsibility, legally and otherwise, for patient care, even when many of the minute-to-minute decisions are being made by house officers (residents) or non-physician health-care providers (i.e. physician assistants and nurse practitioners). Attending physicians are sometimes the ‘rendering physician’ listed on the patient’s official medical record, but if they are overseeing a resident or another staff member, they are ‘supervising.'

Why I Looked It Up

I had wondered about the term for years. It was used often in Grey’s Anatomy. I was having coffee with the friend mentioned above, and remembered to ask him about it.

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