Know Before You Go: How To Improve Your Hospital Experience
Tips to improve your time in the hospital
Being admitted to the hospital, whether for a planned procedure or unexpected illness, can be frightening. You're out of your comfort zone, surrounded by strangers using unfamiliar terminology and intimidating equipment. Having a basic understanding of how a hospital operates before you're admitted goes a long way in helping ensure the best possible experience.
Keep Updated Medication Information
On admission to the hospital, you will be asked many detailed questions about medications you are currently taking, your past medical history, and social factors such as smoking and exercise. Be honest and thorough in answering all questions, as these variables can play a big part in how your medical team designs your treatment plan. If you take a lot of medications, don't rely on your memory. Keep an updated list of all medication names and dosages in your wallet or on your phone so that you can easily provide a complete list. Don't forget all over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements, as these can sometimes interact with prescribed medications.
Provide Vital Documentation
Along with a list of current medications, bring a list of all your regular healthcare providers, including names and phone numbers. The hospital staff needs to communicate with your primary care physician and other specialists during and after hospitalization. If you have advance directives or durable power of attorney, be sure to bring copies of those documents as well. If possible, discuss your wishes with your loved ones ahead of time. Knowing that your family can advocate for you while you're undergoing surgery or sedated during recovery can be very reassuring.
Know the Different Players
When you're in the hospital, you will be cared for by many people from different areas of the hospital. Some of the professionals you may encounter are doctors and nurses, of course, but also respiratory therapists, x-ray technicians, social workers, nutrition and housekeeping providers, and hospital registrars. It can be hard to keep track of all the people coming and going throughout your hospitalization. Keep in mind that your nurse is the central point of communication. If you are confused by anything that happens while you are inpatient, ask your nurse for clarification. Your nurses want you to have the best possible patient experience, so don't hesitate to ask any questions that arise about your plan of care.
Understand Your Healthcare Plan
One of the most important things to understand about being hospitalized is the critical role healthcare payers play in the process. Whether you're covered under Medicare or a private health insurance company, or both, you'll be billed based on the fees the hospital and your payer have agreed on. Knowing your policy's benefits is one of the best ways to empower yourself. Don't be afraid to ask your provider to double-check whether the procedures and treatments they are prescribing are covered under your plan.
Follow Safety Guidelines
It's important to understand and follow basic hospital safety protocols. Insist that anyone who enters your room wash their hands. To avoid falls, call for assistance before attempting to get out of bed. If you're showering or using the bathroom and begin to feel unsteady, don't hesitate to pull the emergency alarm cord. And finally, if you have an intuition that something feels off, tell your nurse about it right away. As they say, it's better to be safe than sorry.
Heed the Discharge Instructions
When it's time to be discharged from the hospital, you'll likely be anxious to get home to familiar surroundings. However, this is a critical time in your hospitalization experience. Your nurse will walk you through the medications you should be taking, what you need to do to support your recovery at home, what follow-up appointments you should schedule, any special dietary restrictions, and what potentially dangerous symptoms you should watch out for. Pay close attention to all the instructions and, if possible, have a loved one present who can ask questions and take notes for you. The follow-up care after your discharge plays an important part in your successful outcome.
Being hospitalized can be stressful. Empower yourself by understanding and following some basic hospital practices; this knowledge will go a long way in helping to ensure a positive patient experience.