Things Every Hospitalized Patient Should Know

Recently, Prevention Magazine contacted the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses (AMSN) to ask for suggestions relating to what every hospitalized patient should know. The Board of Directors brainstormed and came up with the following list. This information was originally published in MedSurg Matters! with the goal of improving the overall quality of health care, particularly in the acute care setting, where Medical-Surgical nurses frequently lead change for quality improvement.

When you or a loved one is hospitalized, the following tips can improve your hospital stay.

  1. Ask everyone - even your provider - to wash their hands before providing care to you or a loved one.
  2. Don't wait until your pain is out of control to ask for pain medication because then it takes longer to get the pain under control.
  3. Never try to climb over the bedside rails. If the nurse says to call for assistance when needing to get out of bed, please call for help. Falls often happen on the way to the bathroom when patients think they are steadier than they really are.
  4. When you come to the hospital (or ANY medical visit) have a list of the names and dosages of all of your medications, as well as the names of those who prescribed them. If you have a smartphone, you can easily keep this information handing in your phone.
    IDEAS:
    • When caring for my grandmother, we kept all her current medications posted on the fridge, so in case of emergency, we could grab them and go.
    • As a family, we also put her medication list in the computer so we could print several copies for multiple members of the family to have - just in case we needed it for her.
    • When hospital personnel are talking about your medications, remember that it is important to include ALL medicines - even over the counter (OTC) medications as well as alternative therapies such as herbal supplements.
  5. Have the names and phone numbers of all your health care providers (doctors and nurse practitioners) that you see available.
  6. Leave all valuables at home. The nursing staff is focused on taking care of your health needs, and it is hard for them to always keep track of your personal items. Do not bring jewelry, money, special objects or electronics to the hospital if possible.
  7. Bring a copy of your advance directive or durable power of attorney (DPOA) with you to the hospital, and give your nurses a copy for your medical record.
    TIP:
    • Along with the DPOA and advance directives, talking to your family about your wishes ahead of time is very helpful. For example, if you know your mom will refuse any surgery, you can head off unnecessary pre-surgical appointments while helping her to navigate the parts of the medical system she would prefer to utilize.
  8. Before any surgeries, ask how many tubes to expect following the procedure. It helps to give an idea of what your recovery will be like and to set expectations.
  9. If you are going to the hospital for surgery, be ready to begin moving and walking soon afterwards. The best way to heal after surgery is to move as much as you can to regain your strength and reduce your pain.
  10. When you are in the hospital, many people from different areas will be taking care of you. Your nurses coordinate all the communication and plan of care with these individuals. If you get confused about what is being said to you, your nurse can help clarify the situation and answer any questions about your health care team.
  11. Ask lots of questions. Nurses want to help you in any way they can. They want you to understand the hospital experience and your health. Don't hesitate to use them as a resource.
  12. When you are discharged from the hospital, make sure you understand what you need to need at home and what follow up appointments may be needed. If you need help making appointments, let your nurse know. They can help you coordinate your care or ensure that you are assigned to the correct case manager who can assist you.
  13. Make sure you understand your medications and take them as prescribed. Nurses can explain your medications to you and reasons that you should take them.
  14. When you leave the hospital, make sure that you know what signs and symptoms should cause you concern and how to seek care should you experience any of them.
  15. Listen to your body. If you ever get the feeling that "something is not quite right," bring it to your nurse's attention right away.

Hopefully by understanding and following these steps, the hospital experience and overall quality of the health of the patient will be enhanced. Remember: when in doubt, wash your hands and call a nurse.

Copyright MedSurg Matters!, 2017, Volume 26, Number 1, p. 8. Information provided as a courtesy of the publisher, Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses (AMSN), East Holly Avenue, Box 56, Pitman, NJ 08071-0056. For more information, please contact AMSN by phone at 866-877-2676 or by email at amsn-info@amsn.org.

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