Northside Health Library

Skilled nursing or rehabilitation facilities


When you no longer need the amount of care provided in the hospital, the hospital will begin a process to discharge you.

Most people hope to go directly home from the hospital after surgery or being ill. However, even if you and your doctor planned for you to go home, your recovery may be slower than expected.

As a result, you may need to be transferred to a skilled nursing or rehabilitation facility.

Who Needs to Go to a Skilled Nursing or Rehabilitation Facility?

One or more of the below factors may mean you no longer need the amount of care provided in the hospital but you need more care than you and your loved ones can manage at home.

Before you can go home from the hospital, you must be able to:

  • Safely use your cane, walker, or crutches
  • Get in and out of a chair and bed without needing much help
  • Walk around enough that you will be able to safely move between where you are sleeping to your bathroom and kitchen
  • Go up and down stairs, if there is no other way to avoid them in your home

Other factors may also prevent you from going directly home from the hospital:

  • Not enough help at home
  • Because of where you live, you need to be stronger or more mobile before going home.
  • Medical problems, such as diabetes, lung problems, and heart problems that are not well controlled
  • Medications that cannot safely be given at home
  • Surgical wounds that need frequent care

Common medical problems that often lead to time in a skilled nursing or rehabilitation facility include:

  • Joint replacement surgery, such as the knee, hip, shoulder
  • Long stays in the hospital for any medical problem
  • Stroke or other brain injury

If you can, plan ahead and learn how to choose the best facility for you.

What Happens During Your Stay?

Skilled nursing facilities provide care for people who are not yet able to care for themselves at home. The goal is for you to return home and care for yourself.

While a physician will supervise your care, other trained health professionals will be helping you grow stronger:

  • Registered nurses will care for any wound, give you the correct medications, and help monitor other medical problems.
  • Physical therapists will teach you how to make your muscles stronger and get up and sit down from a chair, toilet, or bed. They will also teach you how to climb steps, keep your balance, and use your walker, cane, or crutches.
  • Occupational therapists will teach you the skills you need to perform everyday tasks at home.
  • Speech and language therapists will evaluate and treat problems with swallowing, speaking, and understanding.

Review Date: 8/12/2011
Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, and Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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