Northside Health Library

Skilled nursing and rehabilitation facilities - choosing


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.

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.

Plan Ahead

If your surgery is planned, you should talk about this issue with your doctors and nurses in the weeks beforehand. They can advise you about whether going directly home will be good for you.

If your stay in the hospital is not planned, you or your family should discuss discharge planning with your health care provider as you begin to recover.

Planning ahead of time where you would like to go helps ensure you can go to a place that provides high-quality care and is located where you would like it to be.

  • Have more than one choice. If there is no bed available in the skilled facility that is your first choice, the hospital still needs to transfer you to another qualified facility.
  • Always make sure the hospital knows about the places you have chosen.

Choosing the Right Facility for You

It is always a good idea to check out different skilled nursing facilities that you would like to go to. Visit two or three facilities and choose more than one facility at which you would be comfortable.

Important factors in the facilities you choose will include where the facility is located, how well it is decorated and maintained, and what the meals are like, along with many others.

You should also remember, your most important goal is to get safely back in your home. The quality of care you will receive at this facility plays the biggest role in getting you home.

Therefore, when looking into the facilities that are near you or those suggested to you by friends or the hospital, find out more about them.

Do they take care of many people with your medical problem?

  • For example, if you had a hip replacement or stroke, ask how many patients with your problem they have cared for.
  • A good facility should be able to show you data that shows they provide good quality care.
  • Do they have a pathway, or protocol, for taking care of patients after hip replacement or stroke?

Other questions to ask are:

  • Ask whether they have physical therapists that work at the skilled nursing facility. Make sure the therapists have experience helping people with your problem. Ask whether you will see the same one or two therapists most days.
  • Do they provide therapy every day, including Saturday and Sunday? How long do the therapy sessions last?
  • If your primary care doctor or your surgeon does not visit the facility, will there be a doctor in charge of your care?
  • A good facility will take the time to train you and your family or caregivers about care you will need in the home when you leave the facility.

Review Date: 5/11/2012
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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