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Medicine has a history spanning many thousands of years and specialized establishments for treating the sick have also existed for eons. Despite the fact that function of hospitals have not changed much during the last century, technological and scientific progress has made possible treatment approaches that could not have been implemented a hundred years ago and made a large contribution to health care. The main differences between hospitals today and a century ago are improved surgical techniques, the safer use of anesthesia, and safer childbirth procedures.

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medical history

Today, many people take anesthesia for granted and cannot imagine surgery without local or complete analgesia. Anesthetics are widely-used, and oftentimes, even minor surgery is done with the mandatory application of these drugs. They have become significantly less dangerous, and the control over their usage is applied effectively. This can be attributed to the invention of the re-breathing circuit by Ralph Waters, which facilitated the application of artificial ventilation during surgery (Stephen 24).

Another significant achievement of modern hospitals is quality supervision over pregnancy. Today, a woman giving birth can reasonably presume both she and her child will undergo a healthy process from pregnancy to birth. This has become possible due to the new and progressive ways of monitoring the status of a mother and her fetus. For instance, most modern hospitals, with the help of electronic means, can survey a baby’s heartbeats using an internal device positioned directly on the fetus’s head which measures the electrical current produced by the heart (Stephen 26). The cesarean section rate today is approximately 30% in the United States and some birth procedures used in the past century have been revealed as ineffective and have ceased (Berkowitz 210). The adoption of new childbirth technology not only mitigates any risk that might have led to loss of life or disability a century ago, but assures an almost perfect outcome.

These positive changes can be attributed to numerous scientific innovations, economic developments, and better administration policies. Also, decreased levels of illiteracy both of medical staff and patients should also be considered. Modern hospitals are exceptionally scientific and complex institutions and have introduced complex diagnostic and therapeutic technologies. Many hospitals have also broadened their services and have transformed into institutions offering health education, research, training, and disease surveillance (Haagen 193). Still, this does not mean modern hospitals do not face challenges. For example, hospitals, especially those in developing countries, continue to be plagued with shortages of hospital beds and other necessities (Haagen 201).

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At the same time, a hundred years ago, health care had faced difficulties caused by the imperfection of treatment methods and drugs. Thus, using anesthesia during surgery a century ago was linked with danger, sometimes even greater than the surgical procedure itself. The most popular anesthetics were chloroform and ether, both administered over the patient’s mouth. This led them to fall into a condition of deep unconsciousness and many patients lost their lives as a result of overdose (Haagen 193).

Giving birth to a child a hundred years ago was a challenge as difficult as today, but the situation was even more complicated due to the absence of modern painkillers and technologies. A lot of women underwent childbirth with trepidation, since they were aware of a mother, or baby, who had died during this process. Back then, the status of the fetus could be surveyed and monitored only by the means of a specially designed fetal stethoscope. Thus, it was difficult to predict how the fetus would develop, as well as prevent possible dangers for mother and child. Lots of women preferred to give birth at home, or just had no access to hospitals where they could have been taken care of. Although cesarean sections were used early in the twentieth century, the rate of recurrence was low.

In addition, it is important to remember that a hundred years ago, hospitals were far worse equipped and the presence of many diseases as well as the reasons that caused them were unknown to science. Illnesses that are now successfully cured with several injections of an appropriate drug could kill a person living a hundred years ago. Besides, sanitary conditions in cities and villages sometimes were awful and the methods of preventing and treating epidemics were less effective than today. On the other hand, diseases that would be resistant to drugs never, or rarely occurred and various types of viruses did not mutate at the rates they do today.

It should be emphasized that there has been a radical transformation in the way hospitals operate today compared to a century ago. Improvements in anesthetics administration has made surgery safer and new birth techniques employed by hospitals have facilitated a smooth child delivery procedure. Most of this can be attributed to new scientific innovations. Modern hospitals are not yet in the clear. They still face challenges, like the emergence of new diseases and a lack of adequate facilities, which hamper their efforts. When compared to hospitals that existed a hundred years ago though, modern hospitals have transformed greatly in how they deliver their services.


Stephen, Hilary. The Growth of Hospitals. New York: Sing Song Press, 2004. Print.

Berkowitz, Adam. Measures to Ensure Hospital Staff Safety in the Modern Era. Chicago: Blooms Books: 2012. Print.

Haagen, Veronika. Fully-Functioning Health Care. London: Griffin Publishers, 2013. Print.

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