A hospital is a health care institution providing medical, surgical and psychiatric services on an inpatient and outpatient basis. It has specialized staff, equipment and technology. Hospitals also serve as a training ground for doctors, nurses and other health care professionals. They are the backbone of health care systems around the world and play an essential role in delivering community-based care.
A patient in need of urgent care may be admitted to the emergency room, where doctors and nurses quickly examine and treat patients with serious illnesses or injuries. Other departments within hospitals handle specific types of diseases or conditions. For example, cancer patients are treated in the oncology department. Patients who need surgery are sent to the operating room. Women who are expecting babies go to the labor and delivery unit. Other departments include a laboratory, pharmacy and a kitchen to prepare meals for patients and staff.
Hospitals are usually large buildings with many rooms. They are often located in a central city area and are easily accessible by public transportation. Some are run by government agencies, while others are owned and operated by religious or private groups. Many hospitals in the United States are affiliated with universities and teach medical students. Some are owned by for-profit companies that make money by treating patients.
Like any other business, hospitals sometimes make mistakes. These errors may not harm patients, but they can cause frustration or discomfort. Some hospitals have special systems for tracking errors and preventing them from happening again. Others use outside groups to inspect their facilities and help them improve quality.
When visiting a hospital, look for clean rooms and friendly staff. Look for signs that doctors and nurses are well trained and caring, and ask how patients are monitored. Observe whether patients are comfortable and well cared for, and see if there are any social gatherings that allow families to interact with other relatives and friends.
If you are concerned about a hospital’s quality of care, you should contact the department that handles complaints and grievances. The hospital must respond to you in writing within a reasonable amount of time, generally 7 days. The letter should tell you what steps the hospital has taken to investigate your complaint and explain any corrective action that has been taken.
When choosing a nursing home for a loved one, visit several and observe how they are maintained. Notice if the residents seem happy and engaged, or if they are excessively groggy or overmedicated. Ask about the food and activities offered, and how staff keep family members informed. You can also learn a lot about a nursing home by observing how it functions during a crisis. Ask about their procedures for handling a loved one’s sudden decline in condition and how they keep families informed. Also, ask about the hospital’s visiting hours and restrictions on who can visit. A family member’s health can suddenly deteriorate, and it is important that you are able to visit them at times when it is most convenient for you.