An attending physician (also known as an attending, consultant, or staff physician) is a physician who has completed residency and practices medicine in a clinic or hospital, in the speciality learned during residency. An attending physician can supervise fellows, residents/registrars and medical students. Attending physicians may also have an academic title at an affiliated university such as "professor". This is common if the supervision of trainees is a significant part of the physician's work. Attending physicians have final responsibility, legally and otherwise, for patient care, even when many of the minute-to-minute decisions are being made by subordinates (physician assistants, resident physicians, and medical students).
Attending doctors may also still be in training, such as a fellow in a subspecialty. For example, a cardiology fellow may function as an internal medicine attending, as he has already finished residency in internal medicine. The term is used more commonly in teaching hospitals. In non-teaching hospitals, essentially all doctors function as attendings in some respects.
The term "attending physician" or "attending" also refers to the formal relationship of a hospitalized patient and their primary doctor during the hospitalization, as opposed to ancillary physicians assisting the primary doctor, referred to as consultants. However, even on a consultation service, at an academic center, the medical doctor who has finished his training is called the attending or consultant, as opposed to a resident physician.