Clinic vs. Hospital

In the United States, medical care takes many forms. However, medical care centralizes around two main locations: the clinic and the hospital. While AMOpportunities provides observerships and hands-on clinical rotations in both settings, it is important to know the distinction between both places before beginning your U.S. healthcare experience.  


A clinic is a health care center where patients visit a doctor for short-term, non-life-threatening care. The patient often receives routine, preventative care when they are healthy or receives treatment when they are sick with a mild to moderate illness. A clinic is much smaller than a hospital. Patients are in outpatient care and do not stay in a clinic overnight. Often, patients schedule an appointment ahead of time when visiting a clinic. Clinical visits are cheaper than hospital visits as the clinic does not have the same volume of staff or medical equipment as a hospital. Some reasons to visit a clinic include: routine medical appointments, immunizations, specialty visit, or outpatient surgery with under 24-hour recovery time.

When completing a rotation in a clinic, AMO visitors will be immersed in a smaller clinical environment. Clinics provide a more narrow, specialized degree of care compared to the degree of care in a hospital. Visitors will also follow a pre-set appointment schedule alongside the doctor in charge. Many specialists operate in clinics attached to hospitals, and at AMO we refer to that location as a professional building.  Ambulatory center refers to clinics for outpatient surgery or urgent care.


A hospital is arranged with rooms and beds for patients who need long-term care (over 24 hours) or have life-threatening injuries. Hospitals are equipped to handle a wide variety of medical conditions and large volumes of patients. Additionally, hospitals are open for almost all hours of the day. In hospitals, patients require admission for treatment. Often, patients go to the hospital for emergency, critical care, or pre-arranged services.  But outside of emergencies, a visit to the hospital may include the need for an inpatient surgery or operation, too.

When a completing a rotation in a hospital, AMO visitors will be immersed in a larger healthcare environment. Daily schedules might vary based on volume, and visitors might be exposed to a wide variety of conditions depending on where they are visiting and which specialty they are shadowing.  

AMOpportunities offers both clinic-based and hospital-based medical experiences. Check out our rotations to begin your AMO journey!