By Stephanie Spillmann  3/25/17​


Use Your Local Hospital with Caution


large hospital on hill


Teaching Hospitals vs. Community Hospitals


​​Most people don’t realize how risky it can be to head to the local community hospital when a serious health situation arises.


If someone has lived in the same town for years, it becomes second nature to go to the nearest hospital when something is just not right.


Granted, you should always go to the nearest hospital when there is a life-threatening event happening. Choosing to continue care there, after being stabilized, is a decision that could cost you…a lot.


Community Hospitals 


All community hospitals aren’t bad, and I’m not implying that they are. However, some fall seriously short of their larger, metropolitan counterparts.


​Having grown up in a medical family with four nurses and three doctors, the overwhelming refrain from them has always been that they would never be caught in a small local hospital for something important.


​When my aunt was in a rollover accident with serious hand injuries (a cardiac pediatric nurse practitioner), she directed the ambulance to skip the nearest hospital and take her to the University of Alabama medical center.


Small hospitals that are not affiliated with universities, or considered teaching hospitals, are limited in the level of care and expertise they offer.



 The majority of their medical staff are trained in general practices but are rarely masters in any one area. There may be a small handful of specialists depending on the size of the place, but they don’t compare to the variety of specialized practitioners in university hospitals.


Community facilities often lack the newest equipment and technology when compared to teaching-centered hospitals. I recently read some staff comments on a community hospital thread that were quite enlightening.


One nurse said she wouldn’t want her dog to be treated at the local hospital where she works. A second employee voiced concern about outdated equipment and a need for newer technology.


My Experience with Local Hospitals


My second daughter broke her pinky finger when she was ten, and we took her to the local hospital to get it looked at and set. When her pain got worse the following week, we ended up an hour away at Children’s Hospital in Denver.


The x-ray showed that the bone was set wrong and had to be completely re-done. This doesn’t seem all that bad, but for a kid who was a prodigy-style pianist, having a finger not heal straight would have been disastrous. ​



banner that says use your local hospital with caution


That same daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes by the local community hospital when she was 16. I foolishly allowed her to begin her care with the local endocrinologist.


It didn’t take long to realize that she was going to starve on the eating plan he allotted for her.


After some research, we took her to the Barbara Davis Center for Juvenile Diabetes in Denver. There was a world of difference.


Their guidelines and diabetes management tools were completely opposite those of the local doctor. Basically, she was encouraged to live like a normal teenager with some slight modifications.


surgical intsruments


In my own case, my struggle with skin cancer (result of multiple sunburns as a kid) motivated me to carefully consider my options when a facial surgery became necessary.


​I chose a highly-trained facial trauma surgeon at the University of Colorado hospital as opposed to the recommended local physician. My surgeon had years of experience in facial trauma and plastic surgery, and, as a result, my face is still the same one I was born with.


Several years ago, my close friend was misdiagnosed at the local hospital, which resulted in a burst appendix. That can kill you, folks. The same friend had complications with the birth of her second child at that hospital, which put her life at risk due to some mismanagement of her care.


Another friend went to this local hospital for kidney stones. Although extremely painful, these usually resolve given some time. After three days, she felt worse and suffered extreme bloating and swelling.


She asked to be discharged, and was much improved at home the next day. It seems that they had been giving her far too much IV fluid.​


University of Colorado campus in Aurora

University of Colorado Hospital    Photo by: Dan Weaver


The Teaching Hospital

A university hospital is a sprawling campus of life-saving potential. Inside those doors are hundreds of specialists in almost any field of medicine you can imagine.


Patients have access to the best technology, equipment, and dozens of professional minds at the top of their fields. In difficult cases, this cream of the crop can put their minds together to solve difficult cases.  Just imagine an episode of “House.”


Teaching hospitals are affiliated with medical schools, and the level of expertise at these institutions is unsurpassed. They are on the cutting edge of new information and research.


They also offer a higher provider to patient ratio than any other hospitals. At these teaching facilities, terminally and critically ill patients are often given opportunities to participate in life-saving research trials.


Hopefully you and your loved ones are never faced with a critical health situation. If so, I would urge you to run, not walk, to your closest teaching hospital and leave the community hospital to the simplest of tasks.

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