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Aboard Federation ships, a Sickbay is the main medical facility where the sick and injuried are treated. On Starbases, this is called an Infirmary. The Sickbay is overseen by a Chief Medical Officer, usually an experienced physician of several specialties. Additional doctors and Nurses also assist in monitoring and serving the general health of the crew. The area was also used for certain analyses of new lifeforms a starship might encounter, and for developing treatments for unknown diseases and illnesses. This allows for the addition of Medical Lab Technicians, Physician's Mates, and other medical professionals.

Besides the crew, a Sickbay is often called upon to render assistance to people (of various species) of other spacecraft and planets. They must stand ready to deal with any contingency, from a toothache to a planet-wide epidemic to mass casualties, and do it on a moment's notice. Applied clinical medicine is only a part of what a sickbay handles. Theory, experimentation, and cataloging are also vital in a galaxy of unknowns. Starfleet medical personnel are trained to perform both.

Sickbays vary in size and capability, depending on the vessel in question. A "simple" Sickbay may include a general treatment area, a small Surgical Bay, a med lab, a Medical Supply Storage, and the CMO's office. As space and missions allow, additional medical areas can be added, such as:

Because the nature of space travel is so dangerous and challenging, medical personnel are typically given priority in terms of equipment, supplies, and power. They have their own environmental systems, replicators, and state-of-the-art equipment. Larger ships may have more than one sickbay, or have an attached hospital pod. Dedicated medical vessels like the Olympic class are equipped and staffed to cover nearly every medical speciality. Smaller vessels are geared to render more basic treatments and provide for a patient until larger, more extensive facilities can be reached.