Should I see a “resident” doctor?

Ask the doctor

Q. In the hospital recently, a "resident" cared for me. Should I ask for a more experienced doctor?

A. Residents are doctors in training. They have graduated from medical school, been awarded an M.D. degree, and now are training to be a particular type of doctor — such as a pediatrician or pediatric specialist, or a type of surgeon. In their first year of such training, residents are sometimes called interns. All residents are supervised by a legally responsible senior physician. For over 40 years, I have been such a supervising physician. The residents typically have more time to spend with a patient than the supervising physician does. At the major teaching hospitals, like those here at Harvard, the competition to be selected for a residency is fierce. Those chosen are extraordinarily intelligent and knowledgeable. I've seen many residents save many lives. In fact, a recent study found that the quality of care was better in teaching hospitals. In short, you generally are in very good hands with a resident. But if you are concerned about the way a resident is handling your care, you always have the right to speak to the supervising physician.

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