Many medical professionals will tell you there is no hierarchy in their industry, and that everyone is of equal importance in the chain of medical professionals. In reality, this is not true. Like any industry, some jobs come with more prestige than others. In some positions training is more extensive, and in some countries the disparity and hierarchy is more obvious than in others.
Hospital administrators are among the highest ranked in the hierarchy of the medical profession. This refers solely to doctors who have been promoted to administrative roles. They usually have reached the pinnacle of their careers, and, as such, are offered a role to oversee administrative duties. They are given these roles because they not only excel at what they do, but are also great at mediating and enforcing ethics and codes.
Because surgery takes a great deal more training than general medical practice, a surgeon is often considered the next on the rung of the ladder in the hierarchy. Surgeons garner a great deal of respect from their peers and are looked up to by most younger aspiring doctors. The best of these doctors represent a small percentage and often pioneer treatments and write lengthy textbooks, which are used to teach surgeons around the world.
Doctors who specialize in a certain type of medicine, such as oncologists, urologists and cardiologists, garner a great deal of respect and are considered up there among the best. For these doctors, the contributions they make to their specific field, the articles they publish, and the treatments they discover all play a part in their place in the medical professional hierarchy. Their place also depends on the difficulty of the specialty, and there are many subgroups. For example, a cardiologist would trump a dermatologist or urologist. However, this also depends on level of expertise, body of work and how well known they are in their field.
The Silent Doctors
It is hard to say these doctors come after anyone else, as they are often just as important, if not more so, as the surgeons. This group consists of doctors such as anesthesiologists, pathologists and radiologists. An anesthesiologist is one of the most respected types of doctors. Anesthesiologists keep people alive while a surgeon does his or her work. Likewise, a pathologist will examine tissues or pathogens (infectious agents) and determine what type of underlying disease or condition it is the patient may have.
Nurses usually fall at the bottom of the hierarchy, with only medical students beneath them. There are two types of nurses in the United States, the registered nurse (RN) and the licensed practical nurse (LPN). The LPN has less schooling and is not allowed to perform the same array of medical procedures. An RN can be as valuable as a doctor, performing all but the most complex procedures. Many RNs specialize in operating rooms or emergency care.
Though physician assistants belong somewhere in the vicinity of general practitioner, they have been placed here because this is a largely American phenomenon. A physician assistant is practically a doctor. They have extensive training, do the day-to-day functions of doctors and have the ability to prescribe medicine.