Your Hospital Stay
Follow these tips to prepare for before and after your hospital stay.
Plan for Assistance
Before you go to the hospital, you need to plan ahead for your return.
Coordinate a ride home from the hospital (even if it is a short stay!).
Consider having someone stay with you for a few days if you are in some pain or even slightly immobile.
WHN Tip: Arrange the extra help well in advance so a family member or friend can take time off work, if needed.
Arrange extended medical care services after a surgery or other procedure, which requires some planning.
WHN Expert Tip: Visit Centers Now
"If you're having hip surgery and you know you have to stay in a rehab facility for a few weeks after your hospital stay, you may want to go visit those rehab centers (before your surgery) to make a good, informed choice about what your care is going to look like after you've had your acute care stay in a hospital." Judy Pechacek, R.N., M.S., and vice president of Patient Care at Fairview Southdale
Prepare Your Home
Ask our doctor if you'll be bedridden, immobile or incapacitated to any degree.
Make it as post-hospital user-friendly as possible. Arrange furniture and set up a bedside/couch-side stations with your necessities like extra pillows and blankets, books, remotes, phone, food, water and so on.
Clear cords, furniture and other objects from walkways and stairways in your home to make it easier.
WHN Reader Tip: Couch Potato Ready
"I knew I'd be stuck to the couch for a few days. I had everything in arm's reach of the couch on either end so I wouldn't have to get up. I had a trash can nearby, a small cooler with water and ice in it, reading materials, and the remotes for everything we have." Bob Pavlica, Bloomington, MN, talking about his pre-surgery routine
Finish last-minute chores:
- pay household bills
- stop the mail if you'll be gone for a while
- clean the house
- empty the garbage
- make arrangements for any child care or pet care during and after your hospital stay
- order groceries for delivery when you return
What to Pack
If there is time, pack these items to take along, or have someone bring them to you after admission. Choose only what you need and what is appropriate.
Click here [WHN page link TK] to print out a PDF of this list.
Bring a notebook, pens and folder to track all prescriptions, doctors' names, questions, receipts, policies, paperwork, etc.
Print out the WHN Hospital Stay Tracking Form [WHN page link TK] to help you track new and old medications, tests ordered, staff contact information and so on.
A list of your doctors and specialists and their contact information
Cards for your health insurance, Medicare, Medicaid and any other medical insurance information
Driver's license or other photo I.D.
Any referrals or necessary paperwork
Address and phone book to contact family members, etc.
WHN Tip: Cell Phones
Some hospitals do not allow cell phones, so it's important to make a list of numbers from your cell phone before you go.
Quarters for phone calls, parking and vending machines
WHN Tip: Bring a phone card in case you can't use your cell phone
Book and/or magazine
Large towel (preferably dark in case of stains) for showering. Some hospitals only supply small towels.
Scarf or cap for hair, in case it's a while before you can shampoo.
A comfy robe and nightwear. (Consider ones that open easily or at the front), slippers and socks
Extra set of loose clothes and shoes to wear when you leave the hospital.
Favorite music or radio
Massage oils or lotion, tennis balls (for a massage)
WHN Tip: Snacks or Food
Check with your physician to see what food items are allowed.
Watch or travel clock
Hairbrush, comb, hair ties and clips
Toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, eye glasses/contact cases and solution, lip balm, make-up, shampoo/conditioner, soap/body wash)
Do Not Bring
Jewelry or other important valuables
WHN Tip: Even wedding rings!
"We ask that you not bring jewelry and that you leave it at home, even wedding rings. Jewelry needs to be taken off before surgery. It's important to remember that anything you have to take off could be lost." Mary Hanley, manager of the Post-Anesthesia Care Unit and Patient Care Center at North Memorial Hospital, Robbinsdale, MN
Lots of credit cards or cash. Instead, take one card or a small amount of necessary cash.
The Admitting Process
Often called an "entry point assessment", the hospital admitting process can vary from a few minutes to a few hours.
Be prepared to give detailed information about
- your medical history;
- current medications;
WHN Tip: Be honest.
Examples: "I didn't fill the medication because it was too expensive." Or, "I didn't exercise as much as I should have." Doctors can work with you to find solutions. There are many alternatives and they can find one that works for your lifestyle and medical needs.
personal and cultural preferences: diet, routines, religious beliefs or requirements; and
advance directives (i.e., medical power of attorney, living will) if applicable.
your health advocate—someone who will act as the mediator between you and your health care team.
WHN Tip: An advocate isn't required, but he or she may help improve communication between all parties involved. If you do not have an advocate but have a family or friend as a point person, tell the staff that person's name. This person can also be the main contact for family and friends and the go-between for the patient and hospital team. Be sure to tell other family members who this person is.
WHN Tip: Communicate your preferences.
If you have cultural preferences, beliefs or any habits or routines, tell your medical team. Preferences can range from food, clothing or room temperature to placement of furniture. However, know that they won't do something that could interfere with treatment.
Keep a Log or Diary
WHN Tip: Keep a detailed record of tests, medications and procedures. Feel free to ask doctors and nurses to review your records with you, though be respectful of their time as well.
What to record:
- The names and titles of your health care team, contact details and who to contact when off-duty
- Information about diagnosis and conditions
- Your medications: what they are for, dosage, frequency, time taken, any reactions
- Your tests and procedures: ordered by what doctor and why, what the expected results could be, when the results are expected, who to consult about those results
- The instructions to follow after receiving care or surgery, such as medications, exercise and activity, foods and liquids to avoid.
- Bills, paperwork, receipts: your advocate can also meet with the hospital's billing officers to discuss finances.
- Any referral information
Keep Friends and Family Updated
Establish a consistent or timely update for the family. It is often easiest to tape record each doctor's visit as well as your questions, and then transcribe the main developments in an e-mail to appropriate family and friends.
You can also use an online networking tool called CarePages - it's free and allows families and friends to share information about a loved one's condition. Learn more here.
WHN Tip: Explaining the Diagnosis
The doctors might ask the family or friends to deliver medical news or explain diagnoses to the patient. You do not have to do this if you don't want to. That is the doctor's job.
Identify one nurse per shift and a doctor to be your family's key contact. Ask when the shift changes are.
The Discharge Process
Before you are discharged, your doctors and nurses will talk to you about treatment, medications, lifestyle modifications, and other types of care that you may continue at home.
Make a detailed list of:
- your doctor's contact details
- who to contact should complications arise
- your medication schedule and instructions
- a list of instructions to follow after surgery - when and what to eat/drink, restrictions, exercise, etc.
- dates, times and locations of follow-up appointments
WHN Tip: Prep Time
"We educate the patient to care for themselves. We teach them about the drugs they will be taking, and we make sure that the drugs they take don't interact with each other poorly. We discuss how they will feel afterwards, how to use crutches if necessary, what is okay to eat and what it'll be like going back to work." Mary Hanley, manager of the Post-Anesthesia Care Unit and Patient Care Center at North Memorial Hospital in Robbinsdale, MN
When you're at home, continue your record-keeping. Keep tabs on your progress:
- pain levels
- side effects
- any other important details.
These notes will be very helpful when you follow up with your primary doctor.
Click here [WHN page link TK] for helpful forms related to this topic!
The information provided here is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical or legal advice. These tips are from doctors, nurses and people who have shared real-life advice; always check with a doctor, lawyer or appropriate professional you trust before making any legal or healthcare-related decisions.
Thank you ...
A special thank you to the industry professionals, lawyers, insurance agents, doctors, nurses, patients and families who gave us their time, insight and real-life advice.
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