Difference Between Skilled Nursing Facility Vs Nursing Home


If you’re searching for a residential facility to help take care of a loved one recovering from surgery, illness, or injury, you may have come across the terms “nursing home” and “skilled nursing facility.”

While many people equate these two terms, there are a few important differences between them. To determine the best placement for your loved one, it’s crucial to understand these differences so you can make an informed decision for their care.

What’s the difference between a skilled nursing facility and a nursing home?

There are two different types of highly attentive, round-the-clock care: custodial care and skilled care. In general, nursing homes are required to provide custodial care, which involves helping residents with daily activities such as bathing, dressing, grooming, and eating.

Custodial caregivers are not required to have any formal medical training or licensing, and nursing homes are most often appropriate for individuals who suffer from a chronic condition where recovery is not anticipated.

On the other hand, skilled nursing facilities offer a higher level of medical care for each resident, including supervision by doctors and 24-hour care by licensed and registered nurses. Patients in skilled nursing facilities are often in the process of recovering from surgery, injury, or acute illness, and require medical care and rehabilitative services so they may eventually return to independent living.

What regulations does a skilled nursing facility have to meet?

While all nursing homes are subject to health and fire inspections to ensure patient safety, skilled nursing facilities are required to adhere to strict federal regulations established by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) division of the US Department of Health. Regulations include:

  • Supervision of every patient by a physician

  • Full-time employment of registered nurses

  • 24-hour skilled nursing care

  • Maintenance of records for every patient

  • On-site center for storing and dispensing pharmaceuticals

  • Financial planning and budgeting requirements

CMS also established a star rating based on a combination of health inspections, staffing, and quality of resident care measures. Top-rated skilled nursing facilities have five stars, and are generally considered to be the best.

What services are provided in a skilled nursing facility?

Because a skilled nursing facility is often focused on restoring patients’ independence, they usually provide a number of rehabilitative services, including:

Physical Therapy

Physical therapists help patients evaluate movement dysfunctions, identify the source of the problems, perform treatments, and recommend exercises to improve alignment and alleviate pain.

Occupational Therapy

After an injury or serious illness, patients may benefit from new daily routines, modified living environments, and adaptive tools to achieve independent living. Occupational therapists teach patients to alter their habits and lifestyles, so they may attain their individual goals.

Speech Therapy

Speech therapy, or speech-language pathology, supports patients who experience communication difficulties by designing programs to improve speech, voice, cognition, and swallowing.

Respiratory Therapy

For patients who’ve suffered from lung surgery, pneumonia, or chronic lung disease such as COPD, respiratory therapy can help improve lung function through breathing strategies, medication, nutrition counseling, and education.

In addition to rehabilitative services, skilled nursing facilities also provide round-the-clock medical assistance, including wound care, medication administration, catheter care, intravenous therapy, and more.

Who works at a skilled nursing facility?

In a nursing home, it’s not guaranteed that doctors and nurses will always be present. But a skilled nursing facility always has trained staff on site, 24 hours a day.

Skilled nursing facilities employ doctors, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and certified nurses’ aides, in addition to psychiatrists, registered dieticians, and rehabilitative therapists such as speech-language pathologists, physical therapists, and occupational therapists.

Bella Vista Health Center is a 5-star skilled nursing facility in San Diego

If you or a loved one needs to bridge the gap between the hospital and the return to independent living, Bella Vista Health Center can help. With a coveted 5-star rating from the CMS, Bella Vista Health Center is the best skilled nursing facility San Diego has to offer.

Call us at (619) 644-1000 to find out more about our programs and services or to schedule a visit today.