Why Do They Call Them Rounds?

Face it. Everyone uses this term. But where did it come from? After a little digging, I think I’ve found the answer. I’m sure someone will step forward and offer another explanation, but the origins of some of our traditions grow foggy with time.

Supposedly, the term “rounds” was introduced by Sir William Osler, the famed physician, while he was at Johns Hopkins hospital in Baltimore. The original building was built in the 1880s and had a round dome. Osler and his trainees had to walk circular hallways to see their patients. I’ve not been there, but looking at the picture above, the corners of the building appear to be octagonal patient wards as well.

The term has stuck with us, and today just about every discipline from prehospital to rehab medicine use it! If anybody has another theory or correction, please let me know!

Reference: CIRCULAR HOSPITAL WARDS: PROFESSOR JOHN MARSHALL’S CONCEPT AND ITS EXPLORATION BY THE ARCHITECTURAL PROFESSION IN THE 1880s. Medical History 32:426-448, 1988.

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