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Weekend Check-UpSarah Bryant


March 24, 2018


The Extended Hospital Stay: How Swing Bed Improves Recovery


By Sarah Bryant, MBA

What is a swing bed? If a vision of a hospital room containing a literal swinging bed comes to mind, this article should clear things up. ‘Swing bed’ is actually just a Medicare term used to designate skilled nursing care following an inpatient hospital stay. (Not quite like recuperating in a hammock, but equally as therapeutic).

Varying levels of hospitalization are designed to meet patients’ individual medical needs. The patient’s primary physician determines the type of care and length of stay based on severity of illness.

The intensive care unit is the most severe. Here, vital signs are monitored frequently and patients receive one-on-one nursing care. Acute inpatient care then takes place in the medical or surgical unit, commonly referred to as ‘med/surg.’ Nurses are typically assigned to more than one patient on this floor. 

Once vital signs have stabilized, the physician will determine if swing bed care, also known as skilled nursing, is appropriate. Swing bed programs continue the care delivered by a hospital’s team of healthcare providers with focus on rehabilitation.

“We explain sJohn Irvingwing bed as bridging the gap from acute hospitalization to home,” says John Irving, BSN, RN, swing bed coordinator at William Newton Hospital. “It allows for a smooth transition of care. Patients recover with the same skilled team and most likely in the same room.”

Swing bed care gives patients convenient access to a network of medical professionals providing a wide range of services not typically found in a traditional nursing home. In addition to nurses, individualized day-to-day care can be attended by rehabilitation services, including physical, occupational, and speech therapists.

Wound healing, dietitian, laboratory, pharmacy, and other staff provide services when needed.

“At William Newton Hospital, we also staff a physician in the emergency department 24/7,” says Irving. “Knowing a doctor is always on site in the event of an emergency provides great comfort to patients and families.”  Leah Somerville

According to Leah Somerville, RN, utilization review coordinator at William Newton Hospital, the length of this extended stay is flexible based on patient progress. It will also be determined by insurance coverage. For example, Medicare covers 100 percent up to 20 days.

One of the Medicare qualifications for swing bed care, cites Somerville, is for the patient to have spent three days in acute inpatient care within 30 days. 

“Many William Newton Hospital patients transition to swing bed care directly from our med/surg unit,” says Somerville. “However, patients meeting the criteria can come from any hospital.”

“Patients can be close to home, close to family and friends,” adds Irving. “WNH provides a number of amenities, such as Kitchen on Fifth, Auxiliary snack bar/gift shop, and volunteer services, making it easy for loved ones to visit.”

If you’re faced with an inpatient stay, talk to your doctor about the option for extended care through hospital swing bed programs.

Learn more 

Since 2016, Sarah Bryant has served the Director for Marketing & Business Development and Public Informatio Officer at William Newton Hospital. If you have comments or story ideas, call 620.221.2300, ext. 1113, or e-mail.  

The "Weekend Check-Up" is a regular health column published in the Cowley Courier Traveler penned by employees and friends of William Newton Hospital.