What is a Teaching Hospital?

Doctors save lives. Using their knowledge, compassion, and hard work, they prevent suffering and help us when we do. We all know that medical professionals, and the institutions they work for, provide a wide range of services to patients with various health conditions. But chances are you would want to know what kind of hospital is treating you before you get admitted. 

When choosing the best physicians and hospitals, there are many factors to look into. One of the most important things to consider is whether to go to a teaching hospital or a non-teaching hospital. Your decision here can dramatically impact your experience. 

What is a Teaching Hospital? 

A teaching hospital provides training and education to future doctors and other health care professionals. In addition to attending physicians, it’s staffed with medical interns, residents, fellows, and other health care professionals in training. 

As part of their academic mission, teaching hospitals and their partner schools are at the forefront of medical research and innovation. These hospitals collaborate with research centers and universities not just to care for patients but also to develop cutting-edge medical solutions to save more lives.

How About a Non-Teaching Hospital? 

A non-teaching hospital, on the other hand, employs professionally trained staff whose mission is to provide for the essential health needs of a community. The doctors in this type of hospital have years of experience in the field but are not necessarily so directly involved in medical research and breakthroughs. 

Although they are not known to facilitate medical advances, non-teaching hospitals are just as crucial to our health care system. Instead of partnering with medical schools, they focus on serving local communities by providing easy access to medical care, both emergency and longer-term. 

emergency room at local non-teaching hospital

What Can Teaching Hospitals Offer to Patients?

In a teaching hospital, you’ll get specialized care from highly trained attending physicians and health specialists like pharmacists and dietitians. Residents and medical students also participate in patients’ treatments as part of their education process. Medical students train under the direct supervision of senior or attending physicians. 

Resident doctors are medical school graduates training to specialize in a specific medical field, such as dermatology or internal medicine. They diagnose conditions and diseases, perform medical procedures, and directly care for patients throughout their training. 

Their work routines begin with simple tasks with minor supervision and then transition to more challenging assignments once they gain more experience. Residents aren’t allowed to do complex procedures until they’ve shown competency after many years of training.

doctors looking at x-ray at teaching hospital

Teaching hospitals have a lively environment, as they are run by young, inquisitive, and passionate medical learners. For many patients, being looked after by several professionals can be reassuring, often resulting in a comfortable experience with better health outcomes. Some patients might be attended to by a large team of doctors to determine the best treatment options. 

Major teaching hospitals are called academic medical centers since they constantly research new techniques to provide the best possible care to patients. Attending physicians in these institutions are involved in research, making them good teachers and communicators. They can explain illnesses and treatments to patients clearly, avoiding medical jargon and using familiar words and phrases.

Getting admitted to a teaching hospital means getting quality specialized surgeries and medical procedures due to access to medical innovations and state-of-the-art technologies that might not be available in other hospitals. Many patients can also be part of clinical trials and access alternative treatments that are potentially more effective than standard cures. 

Those suffering from rare illnesses or who cannot get a precise diagnosis can benefit from getting help in a teaching hospital. Physicians in training are dedicated to learning more about diseases and medicine, so unusual diagnoses and conditions may interest them. At some point, many strive to get published in medical journals to fulfill education requirements and build their reputation. Rare medical cases can serve as good research topics that can soon help more patients. Remember that the polio vaccine and other medical breakthroughs were first developed at teaching hospitals. 

Is a Teaching Hospital the Best Choice for You? 

Like most things in life, seeking treatment at a teaching hospital has its advantages and disadvantages. It may not be the best option if you feel uncomfortable consulting new doctors and health care workers. While new professionals are highly specialized and passionate about expanding their medical experience, some patients feel more at ease with consulting more experienced physicians. 

Interestingly, there’s something called the “July effect.” During the summer months, graduates fresh out of medical school start their journey working in hospitals and other settings. The July effect says that around this time, patient death rates and efficiency in patient care drop at teaching hospitals. 

Does this mean that teaching hospitals should be off-limits during these times? No! And certainly, we shouldn’t assume that all teaching hospitals experience this decline. Rather, do your due diligence and learn more about what your local teaching hospitals are doing to limit this effect and keep patients safe.

Choose the Best Hospital for Your Medical Care

Know that both teaching and non-teaching hospitals have their advantages and drawbacks. Consider the pros and cons and choose what’s best for you. We won’t always have time to do this, particularly during health emergencies. But if you can, take time to research your options to recover quickly and ensure a quality, comfortable experience. 

And remember that medical professionals dedicate their lives to the well-being of others. The potential for great care is there regardless of the type of facility you choose.

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Jonathan Baktari MD

Jonathan Baktari, MD brings over 20 years of clinical, administrative and entrepreneurial experience to lead the current e7 Health team. He has been a triple board-certified physician with specialties in internal medicine, pulmonary and critical care medicine. He has been the Medical Director of The Valley Health Systems, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, Culinary Health Fund and currently is the CEO of two healthcare companies.
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