Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Rural Hospitals

I recently did a surgery rotation at an outlying hospital. It was labeled a "rural" hospital, but in reality it is only a 30-minute drive from where I live. It was a great experience. Without residents, I actually felt that I was a useful member of the team and in the OR actually got to do more than hold something that I can't see. The hospital only had something like 30 beds and I expected that any patient requiring more than a minimally complicated procedure would make the 30-minute hop to the giant academic center nearby. To my surprise lots of patients there would rather have their complicated multi-organ bowel surgery at the small 30-bed hospital (with only 4 ICU beds). Their main reasoning was that they felt comfortable in a place with familiar faces, where they knew the staff as friends or families of friends, something that they preferred over a giant maze of a hospital where you're known as a diagnosis or a room number. Also, I quickly figured out that the quality of care was the same (if not better, in some respects) than the giant academic center. True, you couldn't get a transplant or brain surgery, but for most procedures that general surgeons (or orthopedic surgeons) do, they're just as good. What's more is that things happen amazingly fast at this small hospital. There were several patients that came in with suspicious breast lumps and within a week had a partial mastectomy with pathology results in and an oncology appointment made. Scheduling several procedures across four different specialties is pretty much not possible in a large hospital. So, even though there's a lot of "outside hospital" bashing in academic centers, for the most part, they're just as good.

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