Hospitals in their modern form are health care institutions where people attend due to illness or abnormality. In some cases this is by referral from their doctor and in other cases it is by self-referral, where they will attend at A&E (Accident and Emergency) for diagnosis and then, possibly, treatment or further referral.
Hospitals vary widely in the types of services for which they cater. Most contain the basic facilities to diagnose and treat most basic needs whilst other, usually larger, hospitals are known for the specialist services that they provide such as heart surgery, spinal injuries and the like.
There are two types of patients, outpatients and inpatients. Outpatients are patients who attend hospital, are diagnosed and possibly treated but do not stay overnight. All hospitals cater for this type of patient as the turnover is fairly brisk and doesn’t take up bed space for any amount of time. Inpatients are those who require extensive treatment, surgery or observation and are therefore required to stay overnight. Whilst the majority of hospitals do cater for this, not all have the means, and those that do have varying capacities for the number of patients they can take at a time.
As is logical, hospital sizes vary depending on the sizes of the settlements and, therefore, the number of people surrounding them. Hospitals form a hierarchy, with those of big cities being the superior of the smaller ones around them. These hospitals are the ones that tend to have the extra and more specialist facilities, thus allowing its subsidiaries the option of referring the more complicated patients with these more specialist needs to it for specific treatment.
There are many different types of health care professional who work within a hospital, each with their own important role to play.
The mainstay of the doctor profession is the physician, who specialises in internal medicine. Upon attending hospital, a patient will be assessed by a physician for diagnosis and the recommendation of further treatment if any is required.
Physicians can specialise in many forms of medicine, including becoming consultants in various joint and mobility issues, ailments of the skin (dermatologist), women’s reproduction and associated functions (obstetrician), and children and associated complications (paediatrician), amongst others.
Surgeons are secondary medical practitioners, though this reference does not mean they are in any way inferior to physicians. In fact, surgeons are a specialist type of physicians and become involved after referral from physicians after diagnosis. They specialise in surgery and their work involves cutting the body in some way in order to perform operations within, whether to remove tissue or repair breakages and tears.
As with physicians, surgeons can specialise in many areas within their field, including, but not restricted to, brain surgery, heart surgery and spinal surgery. These surgeons are often based at hospitals that cater for these specialised fields as explained above.
Though often considered inferior by many, nurses hold one of the most important roles in a hospital. They fill a wide range of roles, treating both the body and the mind, and indeed without them the hospital would fail to function. They provide the important link between the various doctors and professionals who tend to the patients.
Nurses are responsible for much of the running of the hospital. Teams of nurses are dedicated to certain wards and become extremely proficient at their daily routine, working as a unit with one nurse at their head. It is they who keep track of medications and ensure that they are administered at the allotted times. They also monitor the patients’ welfare, noting any changes in condition and informing the appropriate doctor if necessary.
Specialist mental health units can be found at many hospitals and usually consist of facilities for retaining patients, either through voluntary admission or through sections under the Mental Health Act. These facilities house psychiatrists and other specialists on their staff to tend to the needs of the inpatients.
Mental health has long been a minor subject but has gained growing recognition in recent years as a serious threat to many. Once considered a taboo topic to speak of, mental health is now more openly discussed and as such the number of patients admitted to these kind of facilities has increased and will continue to do so in the coming years as the openness becomes more commonplace.
Hospitals face growing challenges in the coming years, especially in the United Kingdom where they face major changes including the threat of privatisation that will put pressure on them to make a profit. It remains to be seen whether this will benefit or hinder a system that is already under both financial strain and a difficulty in hitting targets but whatever the outcome, hospitals will always be a key part of the infrastructure of our cities and towns.
matt @ medical equipment
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