What Is a Hospital?

A hospital is a large medical facility equipped to diagnose and treat a wide range of illnesses and injuries. It is staffed by professional physicians, nurses, and allied healthcare providers. It provides around-the-clock care for its patients. It offers services like emergency room care, surgery, laboratory work, and labor and delivery. Hospitals also house rehabilitation and chronic disease management programs. They may also serve as training sites for medical students and nurses.

In the past, hospitals were often founded by religious orders as almshouses for the poor or hostels for pilgrims. The word is derived from the Latin word hospitium, which means “hospitality,” a sense of welcome and benevolence that was embodied by members of the founding order who served in these institutions. In the 16th and 17th centuries, this etymology transformed into its modern meaning as an institution offering hospitality to strangers in need of shelter. In the Middle Ages, churches were a major supporter of hospitals; after the dissolution of the monasteries by King Henry VIII in 1540, the church lost this function to secular institutions such as the Royal Hospital Chelsea in London.

Today, hospitals are generally not for-profit organizations. They provide treatment to individuals regardless of their ability to pay, or their insurance status. They may be subsidized by government funds, general endowments or gifts from private donors, contributions from public health-insurance carriers, charges for uninsured patients, and patient payments out of pocket or through prepaid group practices (such as health maintenance organizations).

Some hospitals are chronic institutions where people who need long term care reside for months or years. Others are acute-care institutions where people stay for only a few days to a few weeks at a time. Hospitals are usually designed to be a safe and comfortable environment. They are well-lit and have a variety of seating options to accommodate visitors. Some have playrooms for children and specialized rooms for families with newborns or ill family members.

Most of the staff at a hospital are highly skilled and compassionate professionals. Many of them are dedicated to helping their patients regain health and return home as soon as possible. In addition to a caring and competent team of doctors and nurses, hospitals employ technicians, janitors, and other support personnel.

If you have to spend some time in the hospital, be sure to bring books and magazines to keep you busy. Also, make sure you have your current prescriptions and a copy of any legal forms that specify your wishes for health-care decisions should you become incapacitated. Be aware that some treatment areas, such as operating rooms and intensive care units, may not allow visitors. This is to prevent the spread of contagious diseases or infections to other patients. When you are permitted to leave your room, be careful to wash your hands frequently and carefully, especially after touching any surfaces in the room. This will help prevent infections and blood clots. In addition, try to remain mobile as much as possible. This will speed up your recovery and help you avoid the formation of bed sores.