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Healthcare: Hospital Medicine & Anesthesiology

FAQs About Safe Hospital Stay

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Safe Hospital Stay

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You are an important part of your health care team. You can help make your time in the hospital as safe as possible. Try to take part in every decision about your care. Ask a family member or friend to help you keep track of the details of your treatment. When you are having a surgery or are very sick, having another person who can ask questions for you is of great help. You have the right to question anyone involved with your care. Do not be afraid to ask. If you do not understand a procedure, ask your care provider to explain it to you. Do you have questions about medicines or your treatment? Go ahead and ask. It’s okay to speak up if you have concerns about your safety.

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Preparing for Your Hospital Stay

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Not all hospital stays begin in the emergency room. Sometimes you have time to prepare for a schedule hospital stay. But even when you do not have an emergency medical problem, getting ready to go to the hospital may leave you feeling overwhelmed and even a little stressed. By taking steps to prepare for your stay ahead of time, you can get control of some of that stress and save that energy for feeling better as soon as possible.

  • Plan ahead for medical bills. Most insurance plans require that you let them know ahead of time about your hospital stay. If you do not, there is a risk that the plan will refuse to cover your stay. You will also want to make sure that the hospital you are going to is covered under your plan.
  • Call the hospital’s billing department if you have no insurance.
    • Ask them what they can do to help you. Many hospitals have financial counselors. They will likely arrange a payment plan for you.
  • Make your wishes known to loved ones.
    • Before you go into the hospital, fill out a living will and medical power of attorney. It is wise to have these documents ready and make sure your loved ones know where they are, because in the unlikely event that they are needed, they will be a huge help to your family.
      • Living will. This is a document that states your wishes about end-of-life medical treatment if you are unable to speak for yourself.
      •  Medical power of attorney. This document names a health care agent, someone you choose who will make medical decisions on your behalf when you are not able to do so.
  • Take care of pre-hospital tasks.

    Check that you have arranged for things to be taken care of while you are in the hospital, like child and pet care, yard care, collecting your mail, and paying your bills.

    If possible, ask a relative or other loved one to be your helpers, to go with you to the hospital and be with you as much as possible during your stay. This person can keep an eye on you, alert care team when needed, make sure your questions get answered, and take notes when the doctor visits you.

  • Make a hospital packing list.

    • Fill out and collect all your paperwork, including:

      • Your insurance card.

      • A list of emergency contact names and phone numbers.

      • A list of all medicines.

    • Decide which personal and comfort items you want to bring, such as:

      • Your eyeglasses.

      • Your cell phone and charger.

      • Toiletries, like soap, shampoo, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, hairbrush, and a shaver.

  • Make a last-minute checklist.

    • Shower or bathe before you leave. If you are having surgery, do not shave the surgery area yourself.

    • Remove any nail polish or makeup.

    • Remove all jewelry, including wedding rings. Not only can these things get in the way of some tests and treatments, they can also be places where germs collect and multiply.

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What Should You Bring to the Hospital?

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Fill out any important paperwork and bring it to the hospital. This includes:

  • Your ID and insurance cards.
  • A list of emergency contacts, including names and phone numbers.
  • A list of any procedures or health problems you have had in the past.
  • A list of all medicines you take, including vitamins and supplements.
  • A list of any allergies you have.
  • Copies of your living will and medical power of attorney.

Remember to take any personal items you will like to have. This may include:

  • Eyeglasses.
  • Your cell phone and charger, if the hospital allows cell phone use.
  • Clothing, pajamas, and bathroom items.
  • Reading material.
  • Earbuds or headphones
  • Earplugs or a sleep mask to help you sleep.
  • Your pillow.

It might help to bring a notebook and pen. You can write down questions or make notes when you talk to your doctor.

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Sleeping Better in the Hospital

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Sleep is an important part of healing and recovery, but hospitals are busy, noisy places. It is not easy to get the rest you need. Along with basic sleep tips like limiting naps and caffeine, you may want to try these ideas.

Bring personal items that will help you feel more at home.

For example, you might bring:

  • Your favorite pajamas, robe, and slippers.
  • Your own pillow and blanket.
  • A favorite photo for your bedside table.
  • Make your room dark, cool, and quiet at night.
    • Pull the blinds or curtains, turn out the light, and close the door if possible. Using a sleep mask may help too.
    • If there’s a thermostat in your room, turn it down a few degrees at night. Ask a nurse for a warm blanket if you need one.
    • Use earplugs to block out noise. It may also help to play soothing music or use a white noise machine.

Manage your visitors.

  • Ask people to visit during the day or early evening and leave by 8 p.m. (depending on each hospital’s visiting guidelines).

Get some sunlight during the day.

  • This helps to reset your body’s sleep and wake cycles. Open the blinds or curtains in the morning. If possible, sit by the window or go outside if you are permitted.

Be as active as you can in the daytime.

  • This may help you sleep better at night. Walk if you can or do light exercises in your bed or chair. Ask your healthcare provider for recommendations.

Work with your roommate.

  • If you have a roommate, see if you can agree on some nighttime practices to help you both sleep better. For example, you might agree that by 9 or 10 p.m. you will:
    • Turn off the TV.
    • Silence your phone.
    • Use headphones or earbuds to listen to music.
    • Have no visitors.

Use the toilet before bedtime.

  • This may help you avoid getting up at night to go.

Discuss your medicines with your doctor.

  • If you take medicine that could disturb your sleep, ask if you can take it during the day instead of at night.
  • If you take pain medicine, ask if you can take it at night to help you sleep.

Ask your care team for help.

  • Ask your nurses if they can limit how often they wake you. They may be able to adjust your monitoring and medicine schedules.
  • Ask your care team any questions you may have and additional information for making your stay the safest and pleasant possible.