Working in an Inpatient vs. an Outpatient Setting

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Working inpatient vs. outpatient settings can be like working in two completely different worlds. If you are considering your career trajectory, you may be asking yourself ‘what is the difference between outpatient and inpatient medicine?’ And ‘what are the main differences in working in these different environments?’ In the most basic terms, inpatient means checking in to the hospital or care facility, while outpatient defines healthcare that can be administered without staying at the hospital. Some forms of outpatient care happen outside of the hospital or clinic altogether. For instance, some physical therapists travel to people’s homes. This usually results in a longer-term commitment with their patients, since at-home rehab tends to take longer than inpatient care.

Medical assistant in the office
If you are considering a career as a medical professional, and you want to travel instead of working in the same office every day, you should seek similar outpatient career options, if available. And if you’d rather travel to the same place every day in a more controlled environment, then you should seek work at inpatient settings. The difference between inpatient and outpatient care can be seen in a wide variety of positions in healthcare.

However, you can also find outpatient care roles at hospitals and other healthcare facilities. If you are working on the inpatient side, you are more likely dealing with patients who have serious diseases or terminal illness. You may work with people suffering from brain tumors, cancer, liver failure, and other deadly conditions. The outpatient side is made up of more manageable illnesses, such as diabetes and obesity related conditions. While there may be a more positive outlook for the patients on the outpatient side, the pace of work can be pretty hectic. If you want to be on the move all day, bouncing between seeing and calling patients the outpatient side may fit your work personality.

Inpatient work takes place in more than just hospitals. These settings also include nursing homes, halfway houses, hospice, and others. Although the patient situations may be direr, these roles give workers the chance to work with a consistent group of patients that they become familiar with. Because the shifts you will work in these environments tend to function on rotation, you can find positions that compensate for weekends, holidays and off-shifts. The downside of working inpatient care can be the longer shifts and irregular schedule. This can be an issue for professionals who have to juggle family responsibilities and rely on a set schedule to manage time with their children.

Outpatient work has its perceived ups and downs as well. For those who prefer more of a 9-5 schedule, outpatient work is probably up your alley. You may have to do some monitoring on weekends in case of emergencies. But such duties can be easily rotated between co-workers on a weekly basis, which relaxes the potential stress of that particular responsibility. And with outpatient care becoming more common with new technology and types of procedures, you must be willing to be on your toes and handle a large patient population in outpatient settings. Of course, every healthcare environment is subject to its hectic, head-spinning days.

If you are wondering what the difference is between an inpatient and outpatient pharmacy technician role, here’s the basics: In both settings you will work with the pharmacist to distribute the appropriate medicine to patients. You will input data, help fill, and manage payment processes. In a hospital setting, you will most likely communicate mainly with nurses and doctors, without direct interaction with patients. You will also have extra responsibilities, such as preparing IV’s, which a retail tech wouldn’t do.

There are other jobs with major differences as well. For instance there is a big difference between outpatient and inpatient coding. Inpatient coding can be more complicated and require certification to work in some facilities. Inpatient work may require you to assign diagnosis codes and interpret the principal diagnosis to be sure the correct diagnosis related group is assigned. Inpatient vs. outpatient coding may feel like two different worlds at times, but with the proper education you can qualify for positions in both types of positions.

There may also be pay differences between inpatient and outpatient settings. But this can depend on the profession. For instance, psychiatrists at inpatient facilities can expect higher wages than those that work at outpatient settings, where they may see twice as many patients and spend more time writing prescriptions that analyzing a patient population. This is also true in nursing, where there can be differences in pay between jobs at outpatient offices and nursing jobs at hospitals, for example. Ultimately, if you have the option between working in an outpatient or inpatient environment, you should make sure you choose the role that best suits your lifestyle and skillset.