Talking to Your Health Care Team

What is a Health Care Team?

Physician Team:

  • The physician or doctor leading your care, called your 'Attending Physician'

  • Consulting physicians

  • Resident, and other physicians working with them

  • Primary care physician

  • Nurse practitioner (NP)

  • Physician assistant (PA)


  • Nurses caring for you on the floor

  • Nurses in areas where you go for tests or procedures


  • Respiratory (breathing)

  • Physical, Occupational, Speech/Language

  • Child Life Specialists

You will hear medical centers talk a lot about the "Healthcare Team." These are the people responsible for taking care of you. There are more team members than you might think, including:

  • Your Doctor

  • Your Nurses

  • Your Nurses' Assistants & Technicians

  • Dietitians

  • Pharmacists

  • Social Workers and Chaplains

  • Case Managers

  • Therapists

And most importantly, YOU!

Why Talk to your Team?

The more we know about you and your needs, the better we can take care of you. You, as well as your health care team, need to know your plan of care as it is very important to your health and recovery.

Sometimes, you might believe your care team is too busy to address your concerns. The members of your team may not seem to have the time or interest to listen to you, or they may use words you do not understand and talk too fast. Remember, it is our job is to help you understand, so you are helping us when you ask questions. Your questions let us know what you understand and what you need to learn more about. We want you to ask questions. The more you know, the more helpful you are to your care team.

Please use the My Care Reminders” sheet or the handout your nurse gives you to write down your questions and keep notes while you are here.

What is a Care Plan?

With your best interests in mind, your healthcare team will create a plan for your care. This plan will help us figure out what your problems are and how to best treat them. Your plan might include tests to diagnose the condition, as well as the procedures, medications, therapy, and recommended diet.

You need to understand your care plan. Feel free to ask what it is and request more information.

Tips for Talking to Your Healthcare Team

Here are some tips:

  • Know the names of the people who come to talk to you.  Different members of your care team focus on different things, so it is good to know who said what about your plan of care. Sometimes it is helpful to write down names and discussions. Do not be shy about asking questions. Write down your questions or concerns as soon as you think of them.

  • Have a family member or friend with you who can help you during appointments to remember the answers to your questions. 

  • Have someone who can speak for you or ask questions when you feel too sick or are not up to it yourself.

  • Ask members of your health care team to explain any words or phrases you don't know. Medical professionals tend to use abbreviations and phrases you may not understand, especially when they are speaking with each other.

  • Try to ask your nurse to answer as many of your questions as possible.  He or she will know the best person to talk to about specific questions or concerns if you need more information.

Every day is a new day. Ask your questions as often as you need to, even if you already asked them.

Your health care team may not know all the answers all the time.  Sometimes your doctor or nurse will have to say, “I don't know.” They are not avoiding answering your questions, but they may need more information about you or your condition before they can provide you with the most accurate answer.  This may take some time.