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Welcome to Our Patients


Photo of entrance to Clinical Center

Welcome to the NIH Clinical Center!

The Clinical Center is the research hospital at the National Institutes of Health. It is the world's largest hospital devoted solely to research. You will be among patients who like you--are participating in a clinical research study.

Our doctors, nurses, health-care professionals and support staff are committed to providing the best in medical and hospital care for you. Your participation in clinical research at NIH is an investment in health and health care.

Why you were selected
You were selected as a Clinical Center patient on the basis of the medical information provided, and you will be invited to take part in a research program. By studying and observing many people with a particular disorder, we hope to find common factors that will help us to better understand the condition.

Some patients at the Clinical Center receive new treatments, which may offer the promise of helping you or others with certain conditions. NIH doctors carefully monitor their patients' response to these new treatments. For other patients, too little is known about their condition to begin new treatment. These patients have been accepted for admission to enable us to gain vital information about their disease.

The research protocol
Whether or not you receive new treatments, you will be admitted under a care and observation plan, called a protocol, developed to study your condition. This plan outlines what researchers need to know about your condition and how they will get this knowledge. Before you take part in a protocol, it will be explained to you. You'll be encouraged to ask questions, and asked to give your written consent before any research or treatment takes place. The requirements of a protocol and the status of your health determine how long you will stay at the Clinical Center and whether you will be an inpatient or an outpatient.

The hospital and clinics
The National Institutes of Health (NIH)is one of five health agencies of the Public Health Service, which, in turn, is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The principal medical research arm of DHHS, NIH conducts basic, clinical, and applied research related to a broad spectrum of diseases and health problems. It represents the nation's commitment to biomedical research and improving the health of its people. Thousands of research projects are in progress on the campus. Over the years, NIH has supported the work of 76 Nobel Prize winners.

The Admissions Process

Photo of admissions area
When you enter the Clinical Center, report to admissions. Admissions handles registrations for all new inpatients and outpatients as well as previously registered patients who are scheduled for inpatient admission to the hospital. If you are a new patient, you will be interviewed by the admissions clerks. You will be asked to review and sign a general consent form stating that you have agreed to take part in biomedical research. You will also be asked to review and sign an information practices form. This form states that the Clinical Center will do its utmost to protect your privacy and identifies situations when the Clinical Center may share information about you.

Except for an emancipated minor, only a parent, legal guardian, or legally authorized representative may sign for a patient who is a minor (less than 18 years of age). If you have any concerns about your research program or informed consent, ask for assistance. There are many people available to address your concerns.

When the admissions process is completed and you have signed the required forms, you will be directed to the patient care unit or outpatient clinic. If you are being admitted as an inpatient and accompanied by relatives or friends who wish to stay near the Clinical Center, admissions personnel will help arrange housing for them.

Money and valuables. When you are admitted, valuables such as money or jewelry should be taken to the cashier's office located on the first floor where they will be placed in a locked vault. You will receive a receipt. Cashier's hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. If you expect to be discharged on a weekend, evening, or holiday, withdraw your valuables in advance. You may call the cashier's office at 301-496-2654.

If you are going to be discharged before 9 a.m., be sure to remove your property before 5 p.m. the previous day. At other times, the admissions staff will accept valuables to keep in the safe and turn them over to the cashier for you. Be sure to safeguard your property and belongings.

Luggage. Luggage can be stored in lockers located in the Transportation/Waiting Area. Hospitality staff will be available to assist you.

Medicines. Give all your own medicines (even aspirin or vitamins) to your nurse. If NIH doctors prescribe medicine for you, it will be dispensed to your unit and administered by your nurse. Please plan to be on the patient care unit at medication time.

Medications prescribed at discharge or in your clinic, are dispensed at the Outpatient Pharmacy.

Some Guidelines

Appliances. To ensure a safe environment on the patient care units and throughout the hospital, we have a policy about electrical appliances patients may bring. Small personal appliances such as electric razors, hair dryers, or laptops are okay, but they should require standard 110-volt electricity and should not show signs of damage (frayed cords). Appliances must not need to be connected to government property. Irons, portable heaters, heating pads, hot plates, toasters, hot oil popcorn poppers, and other kitchen appliances used to heat and prepare food are not permitted. Because of concerns for the operation of medical equipment, we restrict the use of cellular phones and other transmitting devices in some patient care areas. If you have any questions about the appliances or equipment you may bring, be sure to ask your nurse.

If you own or rent a medical device that you routinely use, you may bring it to the Clinical Center. When you are admitted, our staff will tell you whether this device can be used. When possible, we will try to accommodate your special needs and you will be allowed to use the device. However, the CC reserves the right to substitute another device for yours if it is determined necessary for your protocol or for your care at the CC.

If it is ok for you to use your medical device at the hospital, the device must be in good working order. Since we may not have your device at the Clinical Center, you should also bring a supply of disposable items (e.g., special tubing or bags), instructions for use, as well as any reports on the testing and performance of the equipment.

Dress. Unless your doctor or nurse tells you otherwise, you are urged to be up and dressed during the day. If you are not confined to your bed, you should plan to wear casual street clothes and comfortable walking shoes. If you prefer to go out of your room in night clothes, please wear your bathrobe. At night, you will probably prefer to use your own night clothing, robe, and slippers. However, the Clinical Center can supply free, standard hospital nightwear. Please remember always to wear shoes or slippers.

Identification bracelet. On admission to an inpatient unit you will receive an identification bracelet to wear on your wrist. Please keep it on at all times, even while bathing or when going home on weekend pass. This bracelet will serve as identification when you go through security checks at NIH.

Identification badge. Patients may ask their health care staff about getting an NIH identification badge. This badge may be useful for security checks or for using other Clinical Center services.

Leaving the unit. Before leaving the unit or clinic, please sign a check-out sheet at the nurses' station and inform a staff member. This enables the medical and nursing staff to locate you if necessary. Check with your nurse to see if you are scheduled for any tests or medications. Try to plan returning to the unit by 9 p.m.

Leaving the Hospital with a pass. You will need permission from your doctor if you wish to go outdoors. Many patients are also permitted to leave the campus for an evening or weekend. Obtain a pass from your doctor and check with your nurse to make sure no tests are scheduled when you plan to be away. Your nurse will obtain any medicine that you will need, and he or she will notify the kitchen about your missed meals. Because units may have slightly different procedures, you may want to check with your nurse.

No-smoking policy. As the nation’s leading medical research center, the NIH Clinical Center is committed to ensuring a healthy and safe environment for patients, visitors and staff. Clinical Center policy restricts smoking anywhere inside the Clinical Center (including the parking garages), within 100 feet of any entrance to the Clinical Center, within 25 feet of any exterior wall of the Clinical Center, and in all areas around the Clinical Center designated as "no-smoking areas". Please note that persons found smoking inside the Clinical Center will be subject to a fine from the NIH police.

Clinical Center Medical Executive Committee policy permits patient smoking under certain strictly controlled circumstances. Talk with your doctor or nurse if you need more information or would like information about smoking cessation. Learn more.....

Introducing Your Doctors

Your doctor at the Clinical Center. While you are a Clinical Center patient, there are always two doctors who share the responsibility for your care.

  • Your attending physician is responsible for conducting your study (protocol) and for the overall quality of your medical care.
  • Your clinical associate, a well-trained doctor who has chosen to come to NIH to learn more about medical research, is responsible for the immediate management of your care.

The doctor to talk to regarding questions about treatment. The clinical associate who evaluates you, orders medications and tests, and sees you often is the doctor who knows you best. The clinical associate consults with your attending physician. You may, of course, ask to see your attending physician if you have more questions.

How often you will see your attending physician. This depends on the design of the research protocol, the complexity of the medical problem, and your individual needs.

Doctors may change. If you are a Clinical Center patient over a long time, you will not always have the same doctors. Clinical associates are assigned to patient care for fixed periods, so unless you are a short-term patient, your clinical associate will change from time to time. You may retain the same attending physician, but on many patient care services, these responsibilities rotate among a group of senior doctors who also rotate on a fixed schedule. Any time you are transferred from one Institute or branch to another, both your clinical associate and your attending physician will change.

Doctors come from different NIH Institutes - so know your Institute and branch. The National Institutes of Health consists of many Institutes, most of which conduct research in a specific field of medicine. Within each Institute are several branches where studies are being done on specific conditions within the general field covered by the Institute. Many patients have problems of interest to more than one Institute or branch. Each Institute and branch has its own team of doctors. If you should ever need assistance when your own doctor is not available, knowing your Institute and branch will make it easier to locate the person best able to help you.

Seeing NIH doctors outside your Institute and branch. You may see a number of other NIH doctors who have been asked to examine you because they are specialists in medical fields other than those familiar to your attending physician or clinical associate.

Why so many people are involved in your care. Because of the complexity of medicine, it is impossible for one person to know all that can be known, or all that needs to be known, about a medical problem. Doctors with special training provide expert opinions, perform tests, and operate advanced medical equipment. Other health care professionals are also trained to perform certain procedures or monitor your condition.

The continuity of your care rests with a team or group of doctors. Even though members of the team or group may change, they all communicate through the same channel: your clinical associate and attending physician. You should always be informed when changes occur. If you ever have questions, do not hesitate to contact your clinical associate or attending physician so that you understand the situation to your satisfaction.

Introducing the Nursing Staff

Photo of nurses consulting

You will get to know the nursing staff. They will provide much of your day-to-day care and will be a link to other hospital staff. Your primary nurse will coordinate all of your nursing care. He or she will assist you and your family and see that your medications, tests, and treatments are carried out.

You will become familiar with the unique and special features of your unit. For more information about Clinical Center Nurses, visit their home page at

Your primary nurse. The primary nurse is a key member of your health care team. This nurse has the following responsibilities:

  • overseeing your nursing care
  • discussing with you the specifics of your care and personal preferences
  • working closely with your doctors and other hospital staff members to ensure that your concerns and needs are included in their treatment plans for you.

Your primary nurse will be responsible for coordinating your care throughout your hospital stay. He or she will also communicate your needs to other nursing staff members who may be caring for you.

How will I know who my primary nurse is? You will be introduced to your primary nurse within 48 hours after admission. You will also meet your associate nurses. Your primary and associate nurses will work together to assure that your care needs are met. They will usually work with you directly when they are on duty.

What will my primary nurse do for me? The goal of your primary nurse is to provide the best possible physical and emotional support during your stay in the Clinical Center. Possessing extensive knowledge about hospital procedures and health, the primary nurse will be your resource to answer questions and to provide any other information you need. No question is too unimportant for you to ask, especially if knowing the answer will relieve your concern. Your primary nurse will always listen to what you have to say: whatever is important to you, is also important to your primary nurse.

This page last updated on 02/7/07

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