If you’ve ever been to a hospital, you’ll have likely seen some rather unhelpful signage pinned to the wall. “OBSTETRICS THIS WAY” one will proclaim. “RADIOGRAPHY THAT WAY” another might respond. Clearly these signs all refer to different areas of medicine, but just what do they mean? Fortunately, we know how confusing the world of the hospital can be – especially when visiting for the first time. That’s why we’ve put together the ultimate who’s who, separating the immunologist from endocrinologist and neurologist from nurse. Welcome to the Qured guide to healthcare professions.
Typically heading into their mid-fifties, the humble General Practitioner (or GP for short) likes nothing better than to relax in a slightly faded tweed jacket, adorned with classic leather patches and years of wear. Over their career the GP has seen everything, in fact, nothing comes as a surprise anymore. The role is that of a generalist, that is, they’re equally adept in all rounds of the pub quiz, able to pop a wart as quickly as they’re able to administer a flu jab.
The GP can normally be found in the clinic where they live to serve the community, taking 10-minute appointments before deciding what the next course of action is. Sometimes this could be to prescribe medication, sometimes it’s a referral to an expert. Other times, it’s a gentle explanation that not being able to sleep after a double espresso is, indeed, normal.
Adorned with the posture of a Greek statue, the physiotherapist is by far and away the best looking of all the hospital staff (with the possible exception of the dermatologist). It’s their job to go where traditional medicine doesn’t, using a range of physical techniques to treat illness, reduce pain, increase mobility and stay healthy.
Their toolbox is virtually endless, and they’ll provide education and advice in addition to ‘manual therapy’ – a highly effective way of manipulating the body to achieve any number of goals.
There are actually many kinds of surgeon but we’ll group them all together here, mainly because they’re too busy hacking away at people to actually notice. Two things differentiate the surgeon from the rest of the staff. First is their strange propensity for the most colourful socks possible, the second is the palpable aura of confidence that follows them around the hospital floor.
That said, they have the ability to back it up – spending hours on hours in the operating theatre, carefully performing a series of modern day miracles. It’s very unlikely you’ll ever have to come face to face with the surgeon, but if you do, it probably pays to treat them nicely.
Best pals with the surgeon, the anaesthetist has spent years learning exactly how much anaesthetic to dole out to patients. Too little and they might wake up, too much and they might have some rather unpleasant side effects. Fortunately this kind of doctor is an absolute stickler for detail, keeping pens organised in their desk based on the amount of ink left. When they go home they follow recipes to the letter. When they go to bed it’s at exactly ten in the evening. They sleep like a log, no-one knows why.
Painfully energetic, engaging and always smiling, the laugh-a-minute paediatrician specialises in treating illnesses that occur in children. In some ways they’re a little like the oyster zip card – watching over you during childhood before vanishing as soon as you can legally pick up a bottle of Stella.
Don’t let appearances fool you though, underneath the jolly exterior the Pediatrician knows the exact ways in which babies and children’s bodies react compared to adults, and often act as much needed support for parents with ill children. Paediatricians are also adept at stealing candy while no-one is looking.
Hidden away in the corner of some dusty lab, the biomedical scientist sits over a microscope and bucket of chicken wings. It’s their job to run all the tests that doctors order, looking at whole blood samples, analysing individual cells and even running genetic tests (although they won’t tell you your ancestry). Every night the biomedical scientist walks past corridors of thank you cards written for the doctors and surgeons. If you were to look closely you’d see a single tear roll from their face onto the remnants of a chicken drumstick. “One day” they’ll mutter. “One day”.
These Doctors are specialists in treating conditions related to hormones – a series of chemical messengers that fly around the body. A classic example are the hormones produced by the thyroid, which help to keep the body’s metabolism under control. If the thyroid stops producing as much of these, people might experience sudden and unexplained weight gain – the result of cells not using up as much energy as normal.
“Aha” the Endocrinologist would say at this point, stepping out from the shadows. They enjoy their moment in the spotlight. Not as much as seeing the progress of their patients though.
Everyday the Obstetrician sees the miracle of birth. It just so happens to be from a rather unique perspective. Expert in all things pregnancy related, this kind of Doctor has reinforced eardrums and unparalleled bedside manner, working with patients throughout pregnancy to ensure a healthy baby and healthy mum.
The Gynecology part refers to the other part of the job, diagnosing and treating conditions of the female reproductive system. More often than not, a doctor will be trained in both disciplines, as well as an uncanny ability to block out hundreds of repetitive jokes every week.
Literally translated, Midwife means “with woman” – a description that isn’t at all helpful. The ‘woman’ in question is an expectant mother and the role of midwife is to provide care before, during and up to 28 days after birth. It’s important to note that midwives only deal with ‘normal births’ (medically speaking – we know that every birth is special), only calling the Obstetrician if things don’t look quite right.
Needless to say midwives are frankly obsessed with babies and there’s a high chance that one held you before any of your parents did.
Drawn into the field because Radiographer sounded cooler than Doctor, these medical professionals use their knowledge and ridiculously expensive equipment to perform scans on patients. Adept with X-rays, MRI scanners and photocopiers, doctors tend to be super nice to these people in an attempt to get their patients seen to first.
If you see the A&E (accident and emergency) Doctor running towards you it’s probably a good idea to get out of the way. Somehow able to keep a cool head in the middle of chaos, this Doctor deals with issues that need immediate attention, from dislocations to life-threatening car -crash injuries.
Incredibly humble (or just tired), the A&E Doctor is known for answering the question “so what did you do today?” with little more than a shrug. This, despite saving three lives that morning.
Upon entering a room everyone is forced to shield their eyes from the radiant skin of the dermatologist. Trained to deal with any skin related issue, this is the kind of Doctor than can help with acne, allergic rashes and even skin cancer should the need arise. The contents of their bathroom cabinet is the envy of all other healthcare professionals.
The loving face of the hospital, the nurse is the real reason everything is still standing at the end of the day. The role of the nurse is as important as it is varied, involving duties such as caring for patients day to day (changing bedding, providing comforts, etc.), keeping an eye on conditions and even administering certain types of tests and treatments.
In most countries, nurses outnumber doctors by at least 3 to 1, a reflection of just how crucial their role is. Although doctors will say otherwise, the nurses know they’re the real heroes.
Some people like challenges; playing cryptic crosswords or sudoku on the train. Some people like harder challenges; climbing mountains or playing Mensa mind games for example. And then, there are Neurologists.
While other Doctors avoid the mystery of the brain like the plague (although, to be fair they should be treating the plague instead), Neurologists are fascinated by its many intricacies. For them it’s a magical organ, it’s the one that makes a person who they are. Generally regarded as the cleverest kind of Doctor (mainly by themselves), these specialists also focus on diagnosing and treating disorders of the nervous system, spinal cord, muscles and conditions involving chronic pain.
Heavily bespeckled, you’ll often find the neurologist in the Hospital cafeteria comparing IQ points with the neurosurgeon.
When it comes to keeping diseases at bay, the body tends to do a pretty good job by itself. However, sometimes our built in defences (the immune system) are weakened for some reason, meaning that even common infections can become potentially very dangerous. Other times, the immune system might become confused and mistake our own cells for harmful bacteria or viruses, leading to a series of conditions known as ‘autoimmune disorders’. It’s the job of the Immunologist to diagnose these disorders and provide the right treatment.
Allergies fall under their own category of autoimmune disorders – occuring when the body overreacts to a certain molecule found in, say, peanuts. Immunologists can help identify these, as well as treating the symptoms. Knowing the importance of infection control, everything about the Immunologist is clean; from their spotless lab-coat to their remarkably shiny hair. They are the UK’s number one consumers of hand sanitiser.
Hospital care is as much about mental health as it is physical, and no-one knows this better than the Psychiatrist. Always dressed smartly and with a manner that puts everyone at ease, nobody is easier to talk to. The psychiatrist is a medically trained doctor, but will generally focus on diagnosing and managing psychological conditions such as dementia, depression and eating disorders – to name a few.
Often mental disorders can put a person at higher risk of a physical condition, and so the Psychiatrist is also trained to spot the signs of these. After years of studying behaviour, these kind of doctors are also excellent at reading poker faces.
Thinking about it, there’s one body part that takes more of a battering than any other – the feet. It’s little wonder that a separate discipline exists just for these then, well alongside the ankles and lower leg.
Primarily concerned about improving mobility, this kind of doctor is in it for the journey – enjoying nothing more than seeing patients improve their conditions over time. It is the goal of all other doctors to get a foot rub from the Podiatrist, apparently it’s like nothing else on this world.
The term Otolaryngologist might actually be easier be easier to pronounce if you have a throat full of phlegm – fortunate, as this would be a condition they’d help to treat. Specialists in the ear, nose and throat, these are the doctors you might spot clutching an otoscope (a little tool for peeking deep into the ear) close to their chests throughout the day. They like their jobs a lot. Mainly because they get to sit down for most of it.
Not to be confused with the Otolaryngologist, this specialist deals with the other facial feature – the eyes. Ninety-nine percent of the time these doctors ironically have poor eyesight themselves, wearing think designer glasses and brushing off any mention of them with a “oh, it’s just for fashion”. Commonly they are trained in eye surgery too, doubling up as an ophthalmic surgeon.
Sometimes the Ophthalmologist is confused for an Optometrist, an easy mistake to make (especially if you’re in need of one). However the latter refers to a professional who helps to give advice on visual problems and fit glasses.
Glued closely to the side of any of the above, it’s not uncommon to spot a medical student learning his or her trade on the spot. Fresh-faced and unburdened by years of adult responsibility, they’ll be making notes incessantly. However, should you feel uncomfortable, you can always ask this not-quite-doctor to leave the room momentarily.
In case you hadn’t noticed, the list of specialists goes on, and on… and on. To list them all would a monumental undertaking, especially considering how many branches of medicine divide on further (for example, you can have pediatric nurses, geriatric nurses, intensive care nurses – you get the picture). However, that’s not to say that they’re any less important than the others, with books that could be devoted to the details of each.
The most important person in the hospital. Unless faced with an emergency (in which case call 999), it’s best to see your local GP for any issues you might have. They can then either treat you or refer you to the right specialist. The process is simple, with most clinics having services to book appointments through the phone or via an online service. Just bear in mind that GP appointments tend to get booked up around two weeks in advance so it’s worth planning ahead.
If you don’t fancy the idea of waiting it’s now possible to order a GP, Physiotherapist or Podiatrist straight to your home, all within two hours. All you need is the Qured app, and the ability to press the ‘book now’ button on your phone – if this is a struggle it’s probably too late for you, sorry.
Hopefully we’ve cleared things up but if you have any more questions, feel free to get in touch. After all, there’s no better source of information than the experts themselves!