First and foremost, use preventive health measures. Eat right, exercise, stay away from simple carbohydrates … all that good tasting stuff that is killing you slowly but surely. That will help to keep you out of the hospital. If you are admitted, here are 12 steps that can get you home as soon as possible.
1. Keep someone with you during your stay as much as possible. The nurses, doctors and hospital administrators may squawk. Hold your ground and respectfully insure, because that is the person that's going to help and protect you the most. They will be there to help you to the bathroom timely, keep your sheets clean, and you clean. Remind hospital personnel of their great reputation for patient care and community outreach and they certainly would not want that reputation tarnished. As a consumer, especially with insurance, you wield great power!
2. Know your health history and that of your immediate blood relatives. Big things, like diabetes, heart attacks etc. and little things, allergy to bee stings, lanolin etc.
3. Know your medications: name, amount, route (mouth, injection etc.), with / without food, time you take it normally. DO NOT say, “You know, doc, that little green pill.” Because different manufacturers make the same pill in different colors. Also, they change colors to help track their inventory. As healthcare professionals, we encourage you to be proactive in your own healthcare. Knowing your medications is a giant step in that direction. Just write it on a piece of paper and carry it in your wallet.
Guess why it's important to know your meds. Because you'll be given all kinds of medications during your hospital stay and many, many, many times they are the wrong medication, or the wrong dose or you have an allergy to it! BEWARE. Know what you are taking. That's another reason to have a loved one with you, they can check for you … and argu with the nurse when she does not want to tell you. Often it is because she or he does not know.
When a friend of mine was admitted to the hospital, she had a big orange bracelet placed on her wrist styling she had an allergy to iodine. She had a procedure done that required a sterile field and before she knew it she was swabbed with iodine. She went into anaphylactic shock and almost died.
Know what drugs, medications or elements (tape, iodine etc.) you're allergic to. Many medications have similar sounding names. Be sure you know exactly which one (s) you are allergic to and how to spell them … even if you can not pronounce the name.
4. Write down questions you or your family have on a piece of paper. Ask what time the doctor makes his rounds..and do not be surprised if it's 3:00 AM. Keep in mind the doctor has a lot of patients to see and he will bless you if you keep him moving by having your questions organized and direct. Keep a diary of your questions and any answers you get from doctors or nurses. It's allowed and OK. Might even keep us on our toes a bit.
5. Order pizza for each shift. (Every pizza place near any hospital will delivery. Every shift is busy and / or staffed and meals are often skipped. So be generous, order plenty of pizza to go around. It's worth the investment. They'll remember you and if you ever come back, fight over who gets to take care of you. Forget the candy until you're discharged … candy makes people grumpy (messes with the glucose levels).
6. Drinks lots of water, unless you are on a water restriction. It keeps everything flowing and aids in recovery. Ask for a bedside commode, if you can not easily get to the bathroom. Another reason you want a loved one with you.
7. Unless your doctor has told you otherwise, get up and walking as soon as possible to gain strength and endurance. Use the spirometer (if you get one, you'll know what it is … USE IT)
8. Even though the staff annoys you, use kind words. It pays off in extra attention.
9. Know who you are talking to, since everyone dresses like these days. When I was working in the hospital I found a young janitor dressed in scrubs giving advice to a patient. The patient did not know she was there to mop the floor and asked her a nursing question and the janitor was answering it, giving all the wrong advice. Ask: are you the nurse on duty? Also, check their identification badge, their position will be identified.
10. Keep your family at bay. One or two visitors at a time, please. When the room gets loaded down with friends and family, staff (nurses, therapists, doctors) can not do their job. We appreciate and honor your privacy and we are not allowed to ask family to leave the room … used to be able to do that, but not anymore. You can ask them to kindly step out of the room for a few minutes, though.
11. It's best if you keep personal belongings at home. I know it's nice to have your own pillow and blanket, maybe a picture or four of the kids and grand kids. The rooms are small and crowded anyway and often items get broken or that favorite pillow gets pulled off with a quick linen change and accidentally tossed into the hospital laundry, never to be found again. I remember tripping over a cozy comforter that was too big for the patient's bed and hung over onto the floor. My knees landed on a cold, hard tile floor and in addition to losing several days of work, it hurt! Beside, if all the flat surfaces are covered with picture frames, there is no place for us to work! I tried suspending supplies for a dressing change in midair once but it never worked.
12. Save the most important one for last. Be SURE every staff person that Touches you, or your clothing, or your water pitcher, or any equipment in the room WASHES THEIR HANDS FIRST! The number one complication to a quick recovery and going home is noscomial infections … infections gotten in the hospital. The number one way to prevent noscomial infections … WASHING OF THE HANDS.
Forgive the “he” and “him” reference for doctors and the “she” and “her” reference to nurses. That was my world, generally, and that's just an easier way to read and write rather than using “she / he.” The medical field is populated by both sexes, as is the nursing field. Viva la difference!
Finally, this is not intended to be a slam to the hard-working and limited healthcare workers of the world. Most hospitals are under staffed and that puts an incredible strain on everyone. However, things are as things are. My intention is to give you a few points to make your stay as easy as possible. There are many factors that go into recovery, so take my words for what they are worth and no more.
More to come with future articles. Until then, stay full of health and vitality.
Frances Gollahon, RN
Life Purpose Facilitator – Coach