In an earlier blog post, we talked about effectively communicating with your medical providers in the hospital. In this post, we offer more tips to help you through your hospital stay.
- The Emergency Room – You may be surprised and a bit put off if you end up in the emergency room waiting area, on a hallway stretcher, or in an overflow section. If properly triaged, consider yourself lucky. The patients getting immediate attention have life-threatening conditions. Think gunshot and motor vehicle crash victims, ongoing heart attacks, strokes, and expanding brain bleeds. Your ankle sprain or fracture can wait for an orthopedic consult (which will be called in). While serious, painful, and of course upsetting to you, medically, it is not life-threatening. So this is one place where you don’t want to be at the front of the line. The medical providers are not ignoring you. They do care about you. They are just focused on treating the patients that need immediate medical care to survive.
- You may may be restricted from eating or drinking in a hospital by a doctor’s order. This can be frustrating and uncomfortable. However, doctors rely on MRIs, CT Scans, Barium Swallows, and other tests to diagnose you. Eating or drinking before some tests can delay or ruin their results. That is why doctors order “NPO” or nothing by mouth before the tests. It is for your benefit. You may also have surgery scheduled, or suffer a condition such as an intestinal perforation that does not allow an unrestricted diet.
- Doctors write orders for your hospital stay. The medical and nursing staff carry them out. Such orders include your medications, whether you can get out of bed, and if so with assists, or not, what tests you will have, how often you will be monitored, what other doctors will see you, and how often bloodwork will be done. It helps to know these orders. Ask the nurses about them. Then, if something is missed (neuro checks every two hours, or a certain medication not being given, or a specific test not being completed), you can respectfully inquire, and keep the treatment plan on track.
- Know the medications ordered for you or a family member and when they are to be administered. You can be the last safety check to prevent medication administration error. If your family member per order gets .5 mg of a medication, and the nurse tells you she is giving 5.0 mg, speak up. No one wants to make this mistake, especially the nursing staff.
- Know the shift change. When nurses go off shift, they will usually dictate patient summaries for the incoming shift. Doctors also go off shift, so it is important to know who is covering and for how long. Your care team will also differ on the weekend. Knowing these staffing changes can help you decide if you need to be at the hospital for a loved one.
- Keep a daily journal of your hospital stay. This can fill in gaps of your medical history when a new nurse or doctor comes in, or there is a question as to earlier treatment. You can also track the names and contact information of the hospital staff caring for you, medications, orders, the working diagnoses, upcoming tests, the treatment plan, test results, and any meeting takeaways.
- If you or a family member have issues with hospital care do not get angry, or belligerent. Remain calm. Keep your statements specific and factual. Ask to speak to the charge nurse, the attending physician, the patient advocate, or the social worker.
- Finally, remember your hospital medical providers work a difficult, high stress job with heavy patient loads. So show kindness and appreciation. Be polite. Ask how their day is going, and “How can I be a good patient?” You are all on the same team pulling for a successful result.
That is it for now. Our next blog post will talk about incidental findings on hospital tests, and why they can be important to you.
PJH 11/7/2022 10:39:12 AM