Tips For a Safe, Happy Hospital Stay

How can you ensure that you receive the best possible care during a hospital stay? The first step is to become an informed patient.


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Being knowledgeable about your condition and treatment makes you more relaxed and confident. Here are other strategies for ensuring you’ll receive top-notch care.

Before Being Admitted

Make sure hospitalization is necessary – Schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss your condition and the treatment options. Many procedures that once required hospitalization can now be done safely on an outpatient basis (i.e., hernia repair or cataract removal).

Have your doctor explain the treatment you’ll receive – Find out how long the operation and recovery will take, and discuss scenarios that might unfold during your hospital stay. A surgeon may decide during coronary angioplasty, for example, that you need bypass surgery. You and your surgeon should agree before you’re wheeled into the operating room how the various scenarios are to be handled.

Meet every doctor who will be involved in your care – If you’re scheduled for surgery, you’ll want to meet the surgeon and the anesthesiologist. Key questions to ask are: 1) Are you board certified? 2) How many cases like mine do you handle in a year? (You’ll want someone who’s done at least 25 procedures like yours successfully) 3) Is this hospital appropriate for my condition? (Teaching hospitals have more experience with serious conditions, while community hospitals are sufficient for common and low-risk procedures.)

Learn hospital routines – Call the hospital a week or so before your admission to inquire about admitting procedures, parking regulations, charges for telephones and televisions, etc. Ask about the discharge routine. Will you be in a wheelchair or on crutches? Will you need an escort? Should you follow a special diet or other restrictions post-surgery? Confirm details with your doctor.

Appoint a healthcare advocate – It’s the job of this trusted friend or family member to speak on your behalf should you be unable to speak (during recovery from surgery, for example). Pick someone who is level-headed and assertive. To give your advocate more authority, sign a legally binding proxy. Obtain a proxy form from the hospital’s patient services department, or from your lawyer. If you have a living will, your advocate must make sure the doctor respects your wishes.

Pack wisely – Take pertinent medical records, a list of allergies you have and a supply of the drugs you routinely take. Don’t forget books and magazines and a list of telephone numbers of friends, family and doctors. As for clothing, bring slippers and a bathrobe. Pajamas aren’t necessary, since you’ll receive a clean hospital gown at least daily. Leave jewelry and other valuables at home.

During Your Hospital Stay

Take an active interest in your care – Become acquainted with hospital staff that enter your room, ask questions and only consent to tests and procedures after discussing them with your doctor.

Guard against mistakes involving drugs, food, etc. – When unsure about something, ask questions and give pertinent information to new or rotating staff when necessary.

Insist that the staff wash their hands and wear rubber gloves – You can never be too careful, and professional staff shouldn’t mind your assertiveness.

Don’t suffer in silence – Notify staff of any discomfort or pain, so you can receive proper treatment.

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