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What is a Burn Unit?

Jessica Ellis
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A burn unit is a hospital department that deals with the initial treatment and management of severe burns. Many large hospitals feature a burn unit, as this type of injury is relatively common and requires immediate medical attention and prolonged care in serious cases. Working in a burn unit is often a difficult and thankless job, sometimes receiving less attention than more celebrated hospital departments.

Burn units require the work of an extraordinarily diverse group of health care professionals. Plastic surgeons, physical therapists, respiratory specialists, occupational therapists, and a wide variety of nurses and technicians all help a good burn center to run efficiently. Many burn units provide both emergency and recovery care, helping the victims of serious burns survive not only the initial situation but also adapt to the sometimes severe lifestyle changes that can occur after a severe burning accident.

There are many types of burns that can land an unfortunate patient in a burn unit. In addition to burns by fire, chemical burns, steam scalding, and electrical burns can all cause critical and even fatal harm. People receive intense burns in car accidents, plane crashes, explosions, mechanical accidents, and regular fires. Even after initial treatment, those suffering from critical burns have a long road ahead to survival, as the loss of skin and possible internal burn damage can destroy the body's ability to continue normal function and inhibit healing.

At a burn unit, the priority is to assess and deal with immediate life threatening issues following a burn. Following this, the patient needs to recover and often undergo surgery to repair some of the damage caused by the burn. Surgeons can perform skin grafts to help replace lost skin, while nutritionists and therapists help a patient progress along the road to recovery. Burn patients are extremely susceptible to infection that may cause graft rejection and other problems, so burn units require an incredibly scrupulous hygiene policy.

In addition to physical medical care, many burn units offer a wide variety of psychological services as well. Unfortunately, some burn victims are left permanently scarred or disabled, even with the best medical care. Severe depression is not uncommon among these patients; many burn center workers insist that psychological recovery from a severe burn may be just as important as physical recovery.

Many health care professionals cite burn centers as one of the most difficult places to recruit needed doctors and care workers. Workers in a burn unit see horrifying injuries and must attend patients through difficult and frequently incredibly painful recoveries. Nevertheless, the dedicated professionals who work in burn units can be heroes to their patients, saving not only their lives but continuing to see and treat them as people following a disfiguring or debilitating accident.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis , Writer
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for The Health Board. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.

Discussion Comments

By anon1004279 — On Jan 04, 2021

Go fund me. The Caribbean and Central America burn unit to be located in Kingston Jamaica. Many poor Jamaicans have died unable to pay the cost to get treatment for burns in first world countries.

By anon961304 — On Jul 16, 2014

The burn unit is a wonderful unit. Once you have tolerance, patience and a good nurse to patient relationship, you are going to love it there.

By Scrbblchick — On Mar 11, 2014

Working in a burn unit has to be one of the hardest jobs in the medical field -- second only to something like pediatric oncology.

Nurses have to be specially trained to deal with a burn patient's needs, since they require such specialized treatments with being handled, bathed, changed, etc. A serious case requires almost constant supervision for pain management, if nothing else. It's an incredibly challenging undertaking and one that often does not have a good outcome.

I really don't know how people do work in burn units. They have a wonderful kind of dedication to their patients that is inspirational.

Jessica Ellis

Jessica Ellis


With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
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