What Does SNF Mean? Explanation and FAQ

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Written by Kayla Tyson Editor, B2C Content, IntelyCare
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Reviewed by Alexa Davidson, MSN, RN Content Writer, IntelyCare
A nurse at a skilled nursing facility, or SNF, assists an elderly man using a walker.

The healthcare domain is notorious for its complex terminology and content-area jargon. It can even be difficult for those with experience in the profession to keep it all straight. You’re certainly not alone if you’re wondering, what does SNF mean in medical terms?

SNF could have any number of meanings, but has a specific meaning within the healthcare profession. We’ll explore the meaning of SNF in nursing, the regulations SNFs must follow, and the types of care they provide. We’ll also compare SNFs to another closely-related medical acronym.

What Does SNF Mean?

In nursing, SNF refers to a skilled nursing facility. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) provide a straightforward definition of SNF, meaning a facility that provides inpatient skilled nursing care to those who need medical, nursing, or rehabilitative services. One of the defining features of SNFs is that they provide 24-hour care.

Typically, SNFs provide a higher level of medical care and employ a greater number of credentialed nursing professionals than other types of care facilities. However, it’s important to note that the level of care in SNFs is somewhat less intensive than what’s provided in a hospital setting, though they both provide constant support.

What Regulations Must SNFs Follow?

Skilled nursing facilities are licensed and regulated by the federal government to certify that they meet established standards of care. Adherence to these regulations is a condition for receiving payment through Medicare and Medicaid programs.

In addition, states are responsible for enforcing these federal requirements through site visits to survey SNFs. These surveys can occur without advance warning, at any time of day, and can require multiple days to complete. The results of these inspections are sent to the CMS office to determine whether a facility is eligible to receive federal funding.

SNFs are inspected once a year; the inspection team will issue a citation if a facility fails to meet certain standards. The SNF must take action to address the findings of citations within 10 calendar days by submitting a statement of deficiencies and plan of correction outlining how they’ll address the issue. Or, if a SNF disagrees with the citation findings, they can request an Informal Dispute Resolution (IDR) within that same timeframe.

What Does SNF Mean in Terms of Care?

SNFs often admit patients who were recently in the hospital or based on a referral from a primary care physician. There are a couple representative patient populations one might find at a SNF, meaning SNF patients usually fall into two main groups: short-term rehabilitation and long-term medical care.

While the length of a resident’s stay may differ, they might each receive a range of services: physical therapy, speech-language pathology services, occupational therapy, intravenous medication administration, dietary counseling, and more. Patients in a skilled nursing facility require the care of licensed professionals, such as a nurse or therapist, that can’t be delivered by an aide. Skilled nursing services also may include:

  • Artificial airway management (such as a tracheostomy and ventilator)
  • Complex wound care
  • Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN)
  • Enteral nutrition through feeding tubes

How Do SNFs Compare to ALFs?

Now that we’ve answered the question, What does SNF mean? we’ll compare them to a similar type of care facility — assisted living facilities (ALFs). These types of residences provide care to individuals who need some support with daily activities, but don’t require 24-hour medical services.


Assisted living facilities are a less-intensive option for individuals who need support with activities of daily living (ADLs): bathing, eating, mobility, and more. While both types of facilities help with these daily tasks, ALF services are limited to these types of support. As a result, residents of ALFs have a greater level of independence in their day-to-day lives and must coordinate with a third-party provider if they require more complex medical care.


Oversight in an ALF is less standardized when compared to a SNF, meaning there are no current federal regulations for ALFs. While ALFs must adhere to state regulations, these can vary from state to state. The frequency of inspections can also vary, which could result in greater discrepancy in the quality of these facilities.


With the decreased intensity of care, ALFs are generally less expensive than SNFs. This is because they don’t need to hire as many qualified nursing professionals, like certified nursing assistants (CNAs), registered nurses (RNs), and licensed practical nurses (LPNs). It’s important to note that ALFs are less likely than SNFs to accept Medicare and Medicaid due to the lack of federal regulation, which is often a significant factor as patients consider payment options.

Despite these distinctions, SNFs and ALFs have a number of similarities. They each provide residential care, assist patients in daily tasks, and require credentialed healthcare professionals to keep things running. As a result, both facility types need to establish an effective nursing management team that prioritizes quality care.

Need More Nursing Care Resources?

Now that you know how to answer the question, “What does SNF mean?” you may be ready to take a deeper dive into the nursing care industry. Get the latest industry resources and insights from our experts by signing up for our free newsletter today.

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