What does discharge mean and what should I do about it?

Symptom Database

Discharge is a term that can have different meanings depending on the context in which it is used. In the medical field, discharge refers to the process of releasing a patient from a hospital or healthcare facility after receiving treatment. It involves providing the patient with necessary instructions and information to ensure a smooth transition from the healthcare setting to their home or another care facility. Additionally, discharge can also refer to the termination of employment in the military, known as military discharge, or the release of bodily fluids or substances from the body.

Medical Discharge

Medical discharge is a crucial step in the healthcare process as it marks the end of a patient’s stay in a hospital or healthcare facility. It involves several components, including a discharge summary, discharge planning, and discharge instructions.

Discharge Summary

A discharge summary is a document that provides an overview of a patient’s medical history, diagnosis, treatment received, and recommendations for further care. It serves as a communication tool between healthcare providers and ensures continuity of care. The discharge summary may include:

  • Patient’s demographic information
  • Reason for admission
  • Diagnosis
  • Treatment received
  • Medications prescribed
  • Follow-up appointments

By reviewing the discharge summary, patients and their caregivers can have a clear understanding of the medical journey and the necessary steps to take post-discharge.

Discharge Planning

Discharge planning involves coordinating the patient’s transition from the healthcare facility to their home or another care setting. It aims to ensure that the patient receives appropriate care and support after leaving the hospital. The discharge planning process may include:

  • Assessing the patient’s needs and resources
  • Arranging for home healthcare services if necessary
  • Coordinating follow-up appointments
  • Providing information on community resources

Effective discharge planning helps prevent readmissions and promotes the patient’s overall well-being.

Discharge Instructions

Discharge instructions are guidelines provided to patients to help them manage their health and recovery at home. These instructions may include:

  • Medication instructions, including dosage and frequency
  • Wound care instructions
  • Dietary recommendations
  • Activity restrictions or modifications
  • Signs and symptoms to watch for
  • Emergency contact information

Following discharge instructions is crucial for a successful recovery and to prevent complications.

Military Discharge

Military discharge refers to the termination of a service member’s contract with the armed forces. It can be an honorable discharge, a general discharge, or a dishonorable discharge.

Honorable Discharge

An honorable discharge is given to service members who have met or exceeded the military’s standards of performance and conduct. It signifies a successful completion of service and allows veterans to access various benefits and services.

General Discharge

A general discharge is given to service members whose performance and conduct were satisfactory but did not meet the highest standards. While it is not as favorable as an honorable discharge, it still allows access to some benefits.

Dishonorable Discharge

A dishonorable discharge is the most severe form of military discharge and is given to service members who have committed serious offenses or crimes. It can have significant consequences, including the loss of benefits and difficulty finding employment.

Discharge from Hospital

Discharge from a hospital is a significant milestone in a patient’s recovery journey. It signifies that the patient’s condition has improved to the point where they no longer require inpatient care. However, it is essential to follow the healthcare provider’s instructions and continue any necessary treatments or medications at home.

Discharge Process

The discharge process from a hospital typically involves the following steps:

  • Final medical evaluation to ensure the patient is stable
  • Preparation of the discharge summary
  • Discussion of the discharge plan with the patient and their caregivers
  • Arranging transportation if needed
  • Providing prescriptions and necessary medical supplies
  • Ensuring follow-up appointments are scheduled

By following the discharge process, patients can transition smoothly from the hospital to their home environment.


Discharge, whether it be medical discharge, military discharge, or discharge from a hospital, carries different meanings and implications. In the medical field, it involves providing patients with necessary information and instructions for a successful recovery at home. Military discharge, on the other hand, signifies the end of a service member’s contract with the armed forces and can have varying levels of consequences. Understanding the discharge process and following the provided instructions is crucial for a positive outcome and continued well-being.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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