Bimaristan is a Persian word (بیمارستان bīmārestān) meaning “hospital”, with Bimar- from Middle Persian (Pahlavi) of vīmār or vemār, meaning “sick” plus -stan as location and place suffix. In the medieval Islamic world, the word “Bimaristan” was used to indicate a hospital where the ill were welcomed and cared for by qualified staff.
Features of bimaristans
As hospitals developed during the Islamic civilization, specific characteristics were attained.[clarification needed] Bimaristans were secular. They served all people regardless of their race, religion, citizenship, or gender. The Waqf documents stated nobody was ever to be turned away. The ultimate goal of all physicians and hospital staff was to work together to help the well-being of their patients. There was no time limit a patient could spend as an inpatient; the Waqf documents stated the hospital was required to keep all patients until they were fully recovered. Men and women were admitted to separate but equally equipped wards. The separate wards were further divided into mental disease, contagious disease, non-contagious disease, surgery, medicine, and eye disease. Patients were attended to by same sex nurses and staff. Each hospital contained a lecture hall, kitchen, pharmacy, library, mosque and occasionally a chapel for Christian patients. Recreational materials and musicians were often employed to comfort and cheer patients up.
The hospital was not just a place to treat patients, it also served as a medical school to educate and train students. Basic science preparation was learned through private tutors, self-study and lectures. Islamic hospitals were the first to keep written records of patients and their medical treatment. Students were responsible in keeping these patient records, which were later edited by doctors and referenced in future treatments.
During this era, physician licensure became mandatory in the Abbasid Caliphate. In 931 AD, Caliph Al-Muqtadir learned of the death of one of his subjects as a result of a physician’s error. He immediately ordered his muhtasib Sinan ibn Thabit to examine and prevent doctors from practicing until they passed an examination. From this time on, licensing exams were required and only qualified physicians were allowed to practice medicine.
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