Guide to Hospital Staff Roles

Consultant

The consultant is the most senior doctor in charge of a patient’s care. Unlike other doctors they don’t wear a doctor’s coat so it’s easy to identify them. They are responsible for overseeing diagnosis, care and treatment so lead a team of more junior doctors including registrars. A consultant is always a specialist. Nearly all consultants work for the NHS although some may elect to do private work.

Dietician

Dieticians are trained in the science of nutrition which they use as a basis to provide practical information about food. Their role is therefore focused on the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of diet and nutrition related health issues.  They do not wear a nurses uniform but rather can typically be found wearing a short-sleeved shirt and skirt or trousers. Dieticians can work in hospital or community settings.

Physician’s Assistant (Associate)

This role is primarily a technical one providing clinical support to doctors and nurses by undertaking specific clinical tasks.   The role can be called physicians associate or assistant. Physicians’ assistants typically wear scrubs either in the same or a different colour to other medical staff. Their main responsibilities include taking patient histories, analysing test results, and performing examinations. They operate under the supervision of a doctor.

Charge Nurse (Ward Sister)

This role is a clinical management one and deputises for the senior sister. Male and female charge nurses typically wear colour coded tunics and trousers. Their tunics have epaulettes.  This role has budget and quality improvement responsibilities but is still involved in assessing patients and implementing evidence based care. They are also responsible for the safety of the clinical environment.

Housekeeper

Housekeepers coordinate catering, cleaning and maintain equipment. This means they work with other staff to ensure patients have the correct food and that their bed area is tidy and clean. Typically housekeepers were dark trousers and a tunic with a shirt collar which distinguishes them from nursing staff. Housekeepers may also coordinate additional services including laundry.

Divisional Nurse

This is a senior nursing role overseeing a number of wards that form a division.  Typically these nurses wear a matching tunic and trousers typically in a dark colour such as navy blue. Has responsibility for troubleshooting problems that more junior nursing staff can’t deal with. Part of their role is to work with divisional management including a general manager and senior clinical staff.

Healthcare Support Worker

This role supports staff nurses and  is sometimes called a nursing assistant. Typically female healthcare support workers wear self-coloured dresses and their male counterparts were self-coloured tunics. Typical tunic or dress colours are white or light blue. Duties may include washing and dressing, bed making and serving meals.

Domestic Assistant

This role has responsibility for ensuring wards are clean and tidy. Typically domestic assistants wear dark trousers and a contrasting tunic. This role may wear the same uniform as a housekeeper.  Domestic assistants are required to clean to a high standard.

Occupational Therapist

An occupational therapist (OP) uses activity to help patients function independently.  Disability can be caused by aging, accidents, psychological or physical illness. Occupational therapists wear comfortable clothing – typically a polo shirt and trousers. The nature of their work requires freedom of movement. OPs can work in hospital or community based settings.

Physiotherapist

Physiotherapists treat patients who have mobility issues. Typically they wear tunics or polo shirts partnered with trousers.  In hospitals therapists are attached to most, if not all, wards. They have a particular role to play in ICU settings. Whether patients’ physical problems are caused by aging, illness or accidents, it is the physiotherapists’ role to assist wellbeing through movement.

Senior Clinical Nurse

This role is the senior nurse in charge of a group of wards. Their uniform can be similar to a Divisional Nurse’s and can be a tunic and trousers or a dress.  The colour of their uniform /style of dress or tunic will distinguish them from other nurses so is frequently a darker colour with piping. This role has particular responsibility for the clinical care of patients throughout a number of wards.

Senior Sister (Charge Nurse)

The senior sister has responsibility for managing a whole ward and is charged with improving outcomes and experiences for patients, families and carers.  They typically have a responsibility for staffing and ensuring all patients are assessed so professional leadership and line management are integral to the role. The precise responsibilities vary across Trusts. They typically wear a dress or tunic and trousers. Depending on policy, coloured piping may identify the role.

Specialist Nurse

A nurse operating within a distinct medical specialisation typically ward based working with patients who have long term conditions including stroke, dementia, diabetes, chronic heart failure and cancer.  A significant part of their role is helping patients manage their symptoms. Male nurses wear a tunic and trousers and female nurses wear the same although typically a different coloured tunic. Female nurses may also have the option of wearing a dress depending on Trust policy.

Staff Nurse

Staff nurses are responsible for the nursing care patients receive and typically work in teams. They typically wear light coloured dresses or tunics and trousers. As well as having responsibility for patient care they will also have audit and quality responsibilities. Staff nurses facilitate the learning of less experienced staff.

Student Nurse

Student nurses are typically found in teaching hospitals and can either be completing a degree or be an LPN candidate. Student nurses roles vary but the main element is to assist more senior nurses and learning to complete a range of medical procedures to an acceptable standard. They must also develop an understanding of nursing policies. Student nurses’ uniforms tend to be light coloured tunics and black or navy trousers.

Ward Clark

Ward clerks fulfil an administrative role. If in uniform they were tunics or shirts and trousers. Clerks have a wide range of responsibilities including booking patients for appointments, filing and keeping patient records. Clerks also handle general enquiries from patients and family members whether face to face or over the phone.  Ward clerks have responsibility for admissions to their ward.

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