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Choosing a Rehab Facility 

You or one of your family members are in the hospital following an injury, illness or surgery and the physician or surgeon says it’s time to leave the hospital but rehabilitation or additional care is needed before going home. Some conditions that may require short- or long-term care at a rehabilitation facility include stroke; disabling diseases such as Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis; brain and spinal cord injuries; orthopedic injuries or surgery; amputation; ventilator and breathing support; post-surgery recovery; acute illness and infection; and general wound care.  

Depending on resources, facility options, and the extent and length of rehabilitation and care needed, most people will either go to a skilled nursing facility that provides rehabilitation services or a long-term or short-term rehabilitation hospital.  

Staff at these specialized care centers may include nurses; physical, occupational and speech therapists; social workers; dietitians; a physician medical director; and other specialized medical staff as needed. 


Differences Between a Hospital, Skilled Nursing Facility or Acute Inpatient Rehabilitation Hospital 

What is the difference between a hospital, acute (short-term) rehabilitation hospital, long-term rehabilitation hospital and a skilled nursing facility? The differences have to do with the level of care provided, the length of care needed and the type of injury, illness or diagnosis of the patient. Here is some information on each type of care facility listed above: 


Acute-Care Hospitals provide constant, short-term treatment for a severe injury, an episode of illness or urgent medical condition. The patient is under the direct care of a physician. Most acute-care hospitals perform surgery and therefore provide short-term (days) post-surgery care. In medical terms, care for acute health conditions is the opposite of long-term care or care for chronic (ongoing) conditions. Length of stay is typically days, but may be longer depending on patient needs. 


Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNF) provide both short-term and long-term care for the elderly and/or those who have an illness or injury who require daily medical care, help with routine tasks, supervision and assistance. When around-the-clock care is required, a SNF may be the best option. Traditionally, the patient’s care is overseen by a physician, but a physician does not see the patient on a daily basis, as is the case in a hospital. SNFs provide physical, occupational and speech therapy, as well as nursing care. Medicare reports the average length of stay is 41 days.  


Short-Term Acute Inpatient Rehabilitation Hospitals can help speed the recovery process following surgery (most often an orthopedic surgery such as joint replacement or spine repair) or an extended hospital stay. Short-term rehabilitation focuses on rebuilding strength, retraining muscles, regaining speech and rewiring the brain. Treatment plans are individualized and most patients participate in two to three hours of physical and occupational therapy a day. Medicare reports the average length of stay is 12 days.  


Rehabilitation in Northern Arizona 

The highest quality rehabilitation care is available right here in Northern Arizona – no need to leave home. The newly opened Rehabilitation Hospital of Northern Arizona located on McMillian Mesa is the only rehabilitation hospital in the region, serving all of Northern Arizona. The 40-bed rehabilitation hospital provides intensive rehabilitation services to people recovering from disabling diseases or injuries, such as strokes, brain, spinal cord and orthopedic injuries. For more information, visit rhna.ernesthealth.com or call 928-774-7070. Follow on Facebook at Rehabilitation Hospital of Northern Arizona. 



By Richard Holt, D.O. 

Richard Holt, D.O., is the medical director at the Rehabilitation Hospital of Northern Arizona. Dr. Holt specializes in helping patients recover from injury or disease and live the highest quality of life possible. 



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One Response to Choosing a Rehab Facility 

  1. Taylor Bishop April 29, 2019 at 8:34 AM #

    Thanks for this advice for finding a good rehab facility. It’s interesting to learn that short-term rehabilitation can focus on rebuilding strength again. I’m interested to learn if this rehab is generally done for all parts of the body or if they can focus on specific ones.

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