10 Things You Should Know Before a Hospital Stay

{viewing the solar eclipse outside the hospital}

The weekend of the solar eclipse we had planned a little getaway, but we had to cancel since my dad was in the hospital for 4 days.  Hospital stays are never planned which just adds stress to an already stressful situation!  My family has been blessed with good health so this was our first hospital experience involving a parent with an extended stay.  It was definitely a learning experience as the medical community has their own way of doing things (and in their own time).  I hope you don't find yourself or one of your loved ones in the hospital anytime soon!  But if you do, here are a list of 10 things that I think you should know!

1. Show up early to check on the patient.  When my mom told me my dad was at the hospital she said they were going to do a test.  I planned on stopping by after the procedure, but then got another call that the situation had escalated.  In the future, I would go immediately to the hospital just to check in.  The patient and family members are probably trying to stay calm and positive and sometimes the seriousness of the situation is lost through a text message.  If someone goes to the ER, it's worth an early visit to check up on them in person.

2. Never leave a loved one alone.  This can be hard if you don't have a lot of family members close by.  But when possible always try and switch out so that one person is with the patient at all times.  It's hard for the patient to keep up with the diagnosis, procedure information, and results when they aren't feeling 100%.

3. Leave a notepad at the hospital to take notes.  So much happened on that first day at the hospital that by the second day everything was running together.  My sister suggested leaving a notepad at the hospital so that my mom, sister and I could all be on the same page whenever it was our turn to be up at the hospital.  The notepad was very helpful in keeping up with all my dad's stats as they check them multiple times a day.  And it can be helpful for the patient to have after the hospital visit to keep with their medical records.

4. Be present at shift change to update the new nurse.  Every 12 hours the nurses change shifts.  It is helpful to introduce yourself, give the new nurse a run down of medications and symptoms, and let them know what your expectations of the day are.  Whether it is waiting to talk with the doctor or scheduling a procedure, it's important to remind the nurse so nothing falls through the cracks.

5. Try and be there when the doctor makes his/her rounds.  This can be tricky as the doctor only comes by once every 24 hours.  But in a critical situation it's so important to have clear communication with the doctor.  If you cannot be there, leave your cell phone number with the nurse and tell the doctor to call you when they stop by.  The patient needs to be resting and cannot be expected to remember every question that needs to be asked.

6. Be aware that weekends are slow.  This caught me off guard as I didn't expect there to be less doctors on call over the weekend.  But that is the way it is.  Be prepared that you might not see the doctor every day on the weekend and any procedures that need to be done will have to wait until Monday.

7. Know the chain of command.  I've heard it said that nurses can make or break your experience.  For the most part, nurses are very helpful and communicative.  But if you happen to feel like there's an issue that your nurse is not taking care of you have options.  You can ask to speak to the floor nurse, nurse manager or head nurse.  I spoke with the floor nurse twice on our hospital visit and both times my issue was resolved immediately.  If you don't feel like the head nurse is helping, you can ask to speak with the house supervisor and finally the hospital administrator.

8. Send updates to family and friends.  It was so encouraging to receive texts, phone calls and visits from friends that were concerned and praying for my dad.  Also, consider sending flowers, a card or bringing food for the family that is staying up at the hospital.

9. Remember to take care of yourself.  The hospital staff is there to take care of the patient so as the patient's caregiver or support person you need to take care of yourself!  Try and eat three meals a day, drink plenty of water, and take several walks in the hospital throughout the day.  My dad wasn't able to eat during his stay so I didn't realize that I was skipping meals too.  I ended up losing three pounds in four days!  It's important to stay as healthy as you can so your body can absorb the stress of the situation and you don't get sick from being run down.

10.  Don't be afraid to speak up.  You are the only advocate your loved one has.  Trust your gut.  If something seems off, speak up until you are heard.  Everyone makes mistakes even nurses and doctors.  Be nice but firm when you communicate your expectations.  You both want the same thing - the best care for your loved one!


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