Hospital Types

Different Hospitals Types

A hospital is not just a hospital any more.  No, in case you did not know, there are different types of hospitals in the nation.   This article might help you de-mystify the “hospital jargon” that you have heard, but never really understood.  Knowing the jargon of hospital types and hospital units may help you to decipher your hospital bills, and assist you in discussing care plans with a health care provider when you or a loved one is hospitalized.

According to the National Database of Nursing Quality Indicators, there are four major categories of hospitals at which you may receive care.

Four Hospital Types

  • Acute care community hospitals provide medical and nursing care for medical and surgical conditions.
  • Specialty hospitals include long-term acute care hospitals, and rehabilitation or behavioral health hospitals for care of specific medical conditions. Patients with mental health-related conditions are cared for in behavioral health hospitals.
  • Teaching hospitals provide training for interns and residents who are studying to advance their skills as doctors. In general, all tertiary hospitals are teaching hospitals. Some acute care community hospitals may also have training programs for interns and residents. These hospitals are affiliated with a medical school and/or a nursing school to provide  training for interns, residents.
  • Tertiary hospitals provide medical and nursing care for medical and surgical conditions and also provide specialized consultative care by specialists. Usually, your primary doctor must refer you for care here.

Federal Hospitals

In addition, there are federal hospitals which care for veterans, active military personnel or Department of Defense personnel only. These hospitals provide a variety of medical and surgical services, as well as behavioral health services.

Inside hospitals, there are different types of hospital units, usually grouped by the kind of care patients may need.

 Hospital Units

  • Adult Critical Care: This is the highest level of care, and includes all types of intensive care units (ICU). These hospital types include  optional specialty designations.Included are  Burn, Cardiothoracic, Coronary Care, Medical, Neurology, Pulmonary, Surgical and Trauma ICU ( Trauma Intensive Care Unit). Other types of  intensive care units exist, such as Surgical Intensive Care Unit, Medical Intensive Care Unit and Post-Anesthesia Care Unit.
  • Adult Step-Down: These are units that provide care for adult patients requiring a lower level of care than critical care units and higher level of care than provided on medical-surgical units. These are sometimes called Med-Surge, medical or Surgical Step-Down Units, or Post- Acute Care Hospitals.
  • Adult Medical: Units that care for adult patients admitted to medical services, such as internal medicine, family practice, or cardiology, Optional specialty designations include: Cardiac, GI, Infectious Disease, Neurology, Oncology, Renal or Respiratory medical units.
  • Adult Surgical: Units that care for adult patients admitted to surgical services, such as general surgery, neurosurgery, or orthopedic. Specialty designations include:  Bariatric, Cardiothoracic, Gynecology, Neurosurgery, Orthopedic, Plastic Surgery, Transplant or Trauma surgical unit.
  • Adult Medical/Surgical Combined: Units that care for adults patients admitted to either medical or surgical services. Optional specialty designations include: Cardiac, Neuro/Neurosurgery or Oncology med-surge combined units.

You might also consider: Choosing a Home Health Agency.

*Source: NDNQI. Guidelines for Data Collection and Submission on quarterly Indicators, Version 5.0. Kansas City, KS:  The University of Kansas School of Nursing; January, 2005

For more information, see Medicare Guide for Choosing a Hospital

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