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Skilled nursing and rehabilitation facilities - choosing


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

Most people hope to go straight home from the hospital after surgery or being ill. But even if you and your doctor planned for you to go home, your recovery may be slower than expected. So, you may need to go 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. After your stay at the facility, you may be able to return home and care for yourself.

Alternative Names

SNF; SAR; Sub-acute rehab

Plan Ahead

If your surgery is planned, discuss discharge arrangements with your health care providers in the weeks beforehand. They can tell you whether going straight home will be good for you.

If your stay in the hospital was not planned, you or your family should discuss discharge arrangements with your provider as soon as possible during your time in the hospital. Most hospitals have staff who coordinate discharge planning.

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

  • You should have more than one choice. If there is no bed available in the skilled facility that is your first choice, the hospital will need to transfer you to another qualified facility.
  • Make sure the hospital staff knows about the places you have chosen.
  • Have someone check if your health insurance will cover your stay at the facility.

Choosing the Right Facility for you

It is always a good idea to check out different skilled nursing facilities. Visit 2 or 3 places and choose more than one facility where you would be comfortable.

Things to consider when choosing a place:

  • Where the facility is located
  • How well it is decorated and maintained
  • What the meals are like

Get answers to questions like:

  • Do they take care of many people with your medical problem? For example, if you had a hip replacement or stroke, how many people with your problem have they cared for? A good facility should be able to provide you with data that shows they give good quality care.
  • Do they have a pathway, or protocol, for taking care of people with your medical condition?
  • Do they have physical therapists who work at the facility?
  • Will you 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 surgeon does not visit the facility, will there be a doctor in charge of your care?
  • Will staff take the time to train you and your family or caregivers about care you will need at home?
  • Will your health insurance cover all of your expenses? If not, what will and will not be covered?


Skilled Nursing Learn About Skilled Nursing Facilities. Accessed May 7, 2015.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Your Guide to choosing a Nursing Home or Other Long-term Care. Revised December 2013. Accessed May 7, 2015.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Your Medicare Coverage: Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) Care. Accessed May 7, 2015.

Review Date: 5/3/2015
Reviewed By: Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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