You enter a hospital to get better, not sicker, which is why the doctors, nurses and other staffers work hard to make your hospital stay a safe one. But whether your hospital stay is an unexpected emergency or a preplanned visit, you can take simple steps to help make your experience trouble-free.
1. Make a list of all your medications. Every doctor who treats you should know all the medications you take—including herbal remedies, over—the-counter drugs and nutritional supplements-to ensure new prescriptions don’t cause an interaction.
2. Jot down a brief medical history. Make a list of previous surgeries, any allergies you have or any significant illnesses or injuries you’ve had in the past. A medical history is a vital piece of information that can help doctors determine your treatment course.
3. Use the safety features in your hospital room. Even if you feel strong, don’t assume you’ll be steady on your feet or that the wires and tubing around your bed won’t trip you up. If you need help, press the call button. If you want to get out of bed unassisted, ask your nurse if this is OK, then make sure to use the controls on the bed to lower it. Hold onto grab bars and handrails. And always keep things you’ll use frequently—plike the phone and TV remote—within easy reach.
4. Ask questions. When a nurse comes with medication or an intravenous drug, ask what it is and what it’s for. If it doesn’t sound familiar, ask him or her to double-check the orders with your doctor. Also ask how long you’ll be receiving the medication and what side effects it may produce. And if you have any questions about procedures or tests, be sure to talk to your medical team. Your primary care physician can serve as your point person.
5. Get test results. No news isn’t always good news. Make sure you’re informed of all test results as soon as they become available.
6. Find an advocate. If you’re unable to speak up or uncomfortable doing so, ask someone else to advocate for you. A spouse, friend, adult child or anyone else you trust is a good choice. That person should visit routinely and speak with your medical team regularly.
7. Know what to do when you get home. Before you’re released from the hospital, make sure you understand all your discharge orders-what medications to take and when, what therapies will be needed, when you should come back for follow-up care. Ask for written instructions you can refer to. A doctor or nurse will usually go over any instructions with you before you leave. Make sure you understand them fully.