What Is a Hospital?

A hospital is a healthcare institution providing patient treatment with specialized health science and auxiliary healthcare staff and medical equipment. In addition to treating sick and injured patients, hospitals also perform research and education. Hospitals often have many departments including a general medical unit, emergency room, operating rooms, diagnostic imaging, outpatient clinics, and nursing care units. Some hospitals are also considered to be a specialty hospital and may have a department for heart disease, cancer, diabetes, or rheumatology. Others have more diversified departments such as pediatrics, obstetrics, and internal medicine.

The first hospitals were founded as places of hospitality. As the practice of medicine developed and became more complex, so too did the need for hospitals to accommodate a growing number of patients. Many hospitals were originally founded and run by religious orders or volunteers. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries in England during the 16th century, hospitals largely became secular institutions funded by private donors. The word hospital derives from the Latin noun hospitium, which means “place of hospitality.”

In modern times, hospitals are staffed by professional physicians and surgeons. A large number of other support staff also work in the hospital, such as nurses and allied healthcare professionals. In some cases, hospitals are also called “training hospitals” or “educational hospitals,” as they may have programs to train new medical professionals.

A few of the largest hospitals in the world are renowned for their specialties. For example, Rochester’s Mayo Clinic in Minnesota is known for its expertise in a wide variety of ailments and regularly ranks as one of the best hospitals in the world. Other notable US hospitals include Cleveland Clinic in Ohio and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

Patients who are hospitalized can be confined overnight or for longer periods of time, depending on the nature of their illness. Those who are hospitalized for short appointments or surgery usually leave shortly after being treated (“outpatients”). In contrast, patients who are admitted to the hospital for more prolonged stays are known as inpatients.

Hospitals are open 24 hours a day and can be visited at any time of the day or night, even on holidays. Most hospitals accept most insurance plans, but if yours does not cover all hospital fees, you should request an itemized bill and compare it to the services you received to ensure that all charges are correct. In addition, you should ask about income-based financial assistance programs. If you are worried about how to pay for your visit, you can try to find a free clinic in your area or get help from a charity. You can also talk to your doctor about payment plans or other options for financial assistance. It is advisable to avoid visiting the hospital when you are contagious. If you do visit, be sure to wash your hands before and after you come in. Also, stay away from patients in critical or emergency care areas if you have a cold or other infection.

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