Some teaching hospitals also have a commitment to research and are centers for experimental, innovative and technically sophisticated services. Many teaching hospitals also serve as “safety net” providers that treat large numbers of uninsured and under-insured patients.
There is no official definition of a teaching hospital or external certification process to distinguish teaching from non-teaching hospitals. A hospital is typically determined to be a teaching hospital if it is a short-term, general, nonfederal hospital and has one or more medical residents receive part of their training at their institution. If the hospital has a major commitment to teaching (participation in multiple training programs and other health professional educational education) it is generally referred to as a “major” teaching hospital. A common definition of a major teaching hospital is that they have at least one full time medical resident for every four operating beds. Veterans Affairs medical centers, military specialty hospitals and children’s hospitals can also be teaching hospitals
There are about 1,100 teaching hospitals in the United States. Approximately 375 of the larger institutions belong to the Association of American Medical Colleges’ Council of Teaching Hospitals and Health Systems (COTH). COTH teaching hospitals train about 75 percent of residents yearly and provide more than 40 percent of all hospital charity care in the nation.
Although institutions for caring for the sick are known to have been around much earlier in history, the first teaching hospital, where students were authorized to methodically practice on patients under the supervision of physicians as part of their education, was reportedly the Academy of Gundishapur in the Persian Empire during the Sassanid era. The Middle Persian word Bimaristan literally translates into "land of sickness".
In the medieval Islamic world, al-Nuri hospital, built by the famous Nur ad-Din Zanqi, was made a teaching hospital and renowned physicians taught there. The hospital's medical school is said to have had elegant rooms, and a library which many of its books were donated by Zangi's physician, Abu al-Majid al-Bahili. A number of Muslim physicians and physicists graduated from there. Among the well-known students are Ibn Abi Usaybi'ah (1203-1270), the famous medical historian, and 'Ala ad-Din Ibn al-Nafis (d. 1289) whose discovery of pulmonary circulation and the lesser circulatory system marked a new step in the better understanding of human physiology and was the earliest explanation until William Harvey (1628).
According to Sir John Bagot Glubb:
In the United States, the majority of students use the National Residency Matching Program as the method for selecting the teaching hospital they prefer among the hospitals that want that student.
The American television shows Chicago Hope, ER, Scrubs, House, and Grey's Anatomy all take place in teaching hospitals (Chicago Hope Hospital, County General Hospital, Sacred Heart, Princeton-Plainsboro, and Seattle Grace, respectively).