Specialty and Support Staff Explained

In Hospital Role Quick Guide, we described many of the roles that are often involved in patient care. Specialists may visit on an as-needed basis and make recommendations to your attending physician about what kind of care you will need both in and out of the hospital. Some of these individuals may be involved in direct care while others may provide guidance or support to your primary team in the background. Support staff, like specialists, may be part of your care on an as needed basis.

Staff Title

Role in Your Care


A chaplain can be requested at any point during your hospital stay for prayer, supportive conversation, emotional support, or for any kind of conversation/concern related to your faith/spirituality/belief system. Even if a chaplain is clergy for a particular religion, their role is to support you in whatever you believe or practice, and to provide comfort and support while you are in the hospital.

Child Life Specialist

Child life specialists are licensed and certified professionals who help children and their families navigate and understand illness and hospitalization. They can help children with psychological, emotional, and social adjustment through different means of expression including art, play, and music.

Occupational Therapist (OT)

Occupational Therapists work with you to assess how you perform your activities of daily living (cooking, eating, toileting, bathing, etc.) and provide a plan to help you perform these tasks.


Oncologists are doctors specially trained in the treatment and management of individuals with a diagnosis of cancer. When in the hospital, you might have an inpatient oncologist who will help with any cancer care you need, and who will update your outpatient oncologist about any changes in your care.

Palliative Care Team

The Palliative Care Team is a multidisciplinary team which can include a doctor, physician’s assistant, nurse practitioner, nurse, pharmacist, social worker, and a chaplain specialized training in helping manage the symptoms of people who have serious illnesses, including cancer. They are consulted to help with symptom management and to discuss the goals of your care and how your cancer is affecting the quality of your life. The Palliative Care Team is sometimes involved in end-of-life care as well.

Pain Management

A Pain Management Provider is an MD/DO/PA/NP with specialized training that can help diagnose, evaluate, and treat many different types of pain. Pain management teams are often consulted to help manage pain after surgery.


A doctor who is specially trained in examining body tissue. After a biopsy, a pathologist will look at the body tissues to help the doctors come up with a diagnosis.

Patient Advocate

Patient advocates work with you to address and help resolve any conflict or concerns you have during their hospital stay. They may be licensed individuals, such as nurses, or unlicensed staff who are trained in conflict resolution.


A pharmacist is a healthcare professional who specializes in the use, dosage, and administration of medications. They work closely with hospital physicians to ensure you are receiving the proper medications for your condition.

Physical Therapist (PT)

Physical Therapists assess your ability to walk, change positions (from sitting to standing, etc.), and safely move around independently, then develop a plan to help improve coordination, strength, and endurance.


A doctor who specializes in the treatment and management of patients with emotional, mental, and behavioral conditions. Psychiatrists can prescribe medications for mental health conditions and are sometimes consulted by the attending physician to make medication recommendations.


A psychologist is a mental health professional who works with patients to cope with life issues and mental health conditions.


A radiologist is a doctor specializing in the diagnosis and diseases and injuries using imaging (I.e., CT, PET, Ultrasound, etc.)

Radiation Therapist

Radiation therapists are healthcare professionals who administer radiation treatment per the Radiation Oncologist's plan. They work closely with the team to ensure the patient is receiving the appropriate doses and monitors for unusual reactions.

Registered Dietician (RD)

Registered Dietitians help determine nutritional needs and plan/provide resources regarding what to eat/drink. Dietitians also work in developing feeding plans for individuals who have feeding tubes.

Respiratory Therapist (RT)

A Respiratory Therapist is a certified healthcare worker who provides care for those having respiratory problems under the order of a doctor. They can be involved in providing breathing treatments, teaching breathing exercises, drawing certain labs, and more.

Speech Pathology (SLP)

Speech Language Pathologists help when there are issues with swallowing and oral communication. They provide strategies in eating/drinking/swallowing to prevent choking or aspiration.

For a guide on how to maximize your interactions with your care team, please see Getting to Know Your Care Team.

For any questions or support you may need before or after an admission, our team of Iris nurses, mental health therapists, and nutritionist are available to help.