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What's a Teaching Hospital?

What’s a teaching hospital and how is it different from a regular community hospital? How do I know which is the best for my child?
- Theresa

A teaching hospital is affiliated with a medical school, is used to train doctors, and often is involved in research.

At a teaching hospital, you may encounter medical students in their final years of studying and who are training in patient care. You might also encounter fellows or residents who have graduated from medical school and are training in a specific area of medicine before they go on to their own practices. Some residents are referred to as interns — these doctors are in the first year of their residency training. Some teaching hospitals have other students as well, such as nursing students. Any students who are in training in hospitals are closely supervised by others with more experience.

At a teaching hospital, a team of physicians might care for a patient. This means that your child could be seen and examined by several different people. Some parents like this because they feel that their child is being thoroughly examined, but others don't like having so many physicians involved.

Traditional hospitals, which have patients of all ages, can be teaching hospitals. Children's hospitals, which usually treat kids up to the age of 18 or 21, can be teaching hospitals as well. Either way, sometimes the newest treatments are first available at teaching hospitals.

Many factors should go into choosing which hospital is the right one for your child. It often depends on what your child needs to be treated for. Are there specialists there who have experience treating the condition? Is it nearby? Are you comfortable with your child being seen by several different doctors?

Whether you decide to go to a teaching hospital or not, you should always be aware of the nearest hospital in case of an emergency. If you have any questions about local hospitals, talk with your doctor.

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: April 2013