It dawned on me, sitting across from my husband, that I had an excellent medical resource right at my fingertips. I think my eyes were bulging out of my head in shock that it had taken me this long to ask him to post for me. I was certain he would have some very valuable information for my readers considering his credentials. He has a bachelor’s degree in nursing and is currently hitting the books to acquire his master’s in nursing informatics. Did I mention he is also a certified registered nurse in infusion therapy, was a previous IV peripherally inserted central catheter specialist, and most currently is the manager for IV therapy and infusion services for two reputable hospitals? Can you tell I’m a little proud?
So, what could he write about that would appeal to my readers? Just when I thought it was going to be a long night of brainstorming, my husband, Bob, suggested tips for surviving a hospital stay.
The word brilliant came to mind. With a good percentage of the blogosphere pregnant (I’m convinced there is something in the water), I thought this post couldn’t come at a better time. Don’t get me wrong, his tips are generic meaning they apply to everyone and all types of hospital stays (not just for mama’s delivering babies). Whether you are going in for surgery, testing, treatment, etc., I’m confident you will find his tips helpful!
10 TIPS FOR SURVIVING A HOSPITAL STAY
- Bring someone with you when possible, better known as an advocate. If you have a friend or family in the medical field, I would recommend bringing them. If not, bring someone that has your best interest at heart. Your advocate should be able to act as a liaison between you and your healthcare provider. They are also used to assist with communication issues, misunderstandings, and decision making.
- Bring a journal and take notes. First, make a note of your case manager’s name. This is the person responsible for overseeing your care during your admission. Secondly, write down the names of your nurses. And since it’s common to have a team of physicians working on you, be sure to jot down their names and specialties as well. Additionally take note of which treatments you’ve received, when and, most importantly, by whom. Not only will this information be helpful when you need to ask a question, but can also be used as a reference if a medical error has been made.
- Bring an accurate and complete list of medications, herbs, vitamins, minerals, etc. that you are currently taking. This list should include the dose and quantity for each medication. Before you can take new drugs, your healthcare providers must know what you are currently taking to prevent the possibility of overdose, underdose, omission, and/or dangerous drug interactions. Additionally, some medications may increase your risk for complications. For example, something as common as a vitamin E supplement or fish oil pill might increase the chance of excessive bleeding.
- Know your medications. Chances are you’ll be taking a number of them, so I recommend familiarizing yourself with each one. Have the nurse open all medication in front of you and give a brief explanation of what they are. The last thing you want to do is swallow a Dixie cup of pills and assume they are correct. To understand the importance of this survival tip, a recent article by Tzeng, Yin, and Schneider (2013) reports “An estimated 98,000 people die every year from medical errors in U.S. hospitals, and a significant number of those deaths are associated with medication errors (p.13). So before taking any drug, ask what it is, the dose, and why it's necessary.
- Make certain each healthcare provider checks 2 out of the following 3 identifiers before performing a procedure and/or administering medications. A portion of medical errors that occur is because the wrong patient was treated.
- Full name
- Medical record number
- Date of birth
- If you have an intravenous (IV) catheter in place to receive medications, make sure the nurses always scrub the cap with an alcohol pad prior to each use. This will significantly reduce your risk of infection. If your IV becomes infected, the bacteria could potentially enter your blood, which could be life-threatening. Current data shows that 12% – 25% of patients that develop a bloodstream infection acquired in the hospital will die.
- Ensure all healthcare providers wash their hands before they examine you. Proper hand hygiene is the single most effective way to prevent the spread of infection.
- Know which tests are being done and why. Your physicians should discuss this with you ahead of time. Make sure they provide you with information such as the risks, benefits, alternatives, and outcome. If you are confused and indecisive, speak up and ask questions. You should never feel pressured and are certainly not obligated to consent (refer to tip #10).
- Move. Move. Move. For extended hospital stays, bed sores and blood clots can be quite common that’s why it’s necessary to maintain movement. Have a nurse, friend, or family member help you out of bed and, when possible, take a walk. If you have to remain in bed, your nurses can provide you with special pads or pneumatic stockings to prevent bed sores and blood clots.
- Know your rights, otherwise know as the patients' bill of rights. Most importantly, you have the right to a copy of your medical records and to refuse treatment.
While this information may be overwhelming and even scary, these tips are to educate you and keep you safe.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
- Benjamin Franklin
“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”
- William Arthur Ward
“Good luck is a residue of preparation.”
- Jack Youngblood
Tzeng, H., Yin, C., & Schneider, T. E. (2013). Medication Error-Related Issues In Nursing Practice. MEDSURG Nursing, 22(1), 13-50.
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