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Resident, Fellow, and Attending Doctors

When you are being treated in a hospital, you will find there are many doctors with various titles. There are mainly residents, fellows, and attending doctors, and it is important for you to know, whom they are, and who is treating you. If you ever need to file a medical malpractice case, having this knowledge can be helpful.

The Resident Doctor

A resident is a doctor in training, a fellow is one who has more years in training, and an attending doctor will be one of the senior doctors. A resident is someone who has completed four years of medical school, and now they are beginning their training in their particular specialty. Residency training can take four to seven years depending upon the type of medical specialty. One thing to note is that these doctors in training are not experts yet, as they are still in the learning phase.

They are supposed to be supervised by senior doctors in the hospital like staff doctors or attending doctors. In the morning, the doctors taking rounds and attending to each of the patients are typically residents. They are supposed to be coming in with usually the senior doctors who have more experience. The senior doctors are supposed to watch and supervise residents on a daily basis.


A fellow is one who has completed their residency training for a few years, and now they want to do something specialized. In many hospitals now, there are programs for doctors to undergo specialized training. Becoming a fellow would mean the doctor would be training for an extra year or two in a specific sub specialty. However, fellows too have not yet achieved the expert status because they are still in learning mode and they still have to be supervised by the attending or senior doctors.

Attending Doctors

There are two kinds of attending doctors. One type is a doctor who has long ago finished his residency, and may have done his fellowship. Once doctors have completed their residency and they begin to work and treat and see patients in a hospital, then they are considered to be attending physicians. There are different relationships that attending doctors can have with the hospital.

Some may be employed by the hospital and work for the hospital, whereas some attendee doctors might have their own private practices outside the hospital but have privileges to admit, see, and treat patients in the hospital. In either of these instances, they are both known as attending doctors because they have completed their training and are practicing fulltime.

When you are admitted in a hospital, you need to know the level of knowledge and expertise of the doctors, who are caring for you and treating you on a daily basis. If the right type of doctors are not treating you, or if a resident is treating you without supervision of a senior doctor, and you suffer harm and injury, then it could be grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit.

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