A hospital stay can be a daunting experience. Our GP, Dr Melanie Wynne-Jones, gives her advice on how to make it successful and safe
Thinking ahead about a hospital stay can help make it a more pleasant experience – whether it’s a prearranged stay or we find we have to be rushed in.
This is usually easier, as you will have time to think and the hospital should provide information about what will happen and the things you’ll need, such as home adaptations, for example, after a hip replacement, or ambulance transport.
If you’re having an operation, you’ll be asked to attend the ‘pre-op clinic’ beforehand to check your general health, allergies, heart and blood, and for swab tests in case you’re carrying MRSA (a superbug that needs treatment first).
You’ll need nightwear, dressing gown and slippers, changes of underwear and extras – see ‘7 Items You’ll Need When You Go In,’ right. You’ll also need things to do once you feel well enough, as hospital can be boring. Check whether you can use your mobile phone (remember it could get stolen) or whether your bed has its own pay-as-you-go TV and/or phone, and how to arrange this.
Tell people who matter that you’ll be away. Perhaps trust someone with a key, but consider locking away confidential and valuable items. And make sure you sort out urgent bills and tasks, arrange transport and stock your cupboards and fridge, in case you don’t feel up to shopping or cooking when you come home.
If you’re a carer, and relatives or friends can’t ‘cover’, ask social services about help. The Cinnamon Trust fosters pets whose owners are in hospital. Call them on 01736 757 900, or visit cinnamon.org.uk.
If you have any queries or concerns about your care, speak to your ward manager (nurse in charge) or doctor first. If you’re still worried, ask to see someone from your local Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS). Emergency admission
Many conditions that strike suddenly or unexpectedly (severe pain, a stroke, breathlessness and so on) can make you too weak to sort out what you need.
So if your health means an emergency admission is a possibility, it’s a good idea to keep a bag packed.
Even if you’re normally fit, you could keep a bag packed ready or make a list of items you’ll need and where to find them, which could help a relative or friend (who may also be upset, or uncomfortable about ransacking your cupboards) to get a bag of essentials together quickly. In fact, you may need one list for ‘just overnight’ and another for ‘kept in longer’.
Ideally, you’ll have a ‘planned discharge’, to foresee and sort out potential problems (although pressure on beds may mean you get discharged earlier). So think about whether you’d need to ask anyone to collect you, do some shopping, switch the heating on, and so on.
Speak to the hospital social worker if you’ll need help at home, temporary residential/nursing care or financial assistance. The hospital should give you any medication you’ll need at first, such as painkillers or new medication, and a copy of your discharge letter.
It should also arrange district nursing care or an outpatient appointment, if necessary, and advise on whether you should phone the ward or your GP first if you have problems after you get home.
Follow any instructions carefully (for example, about diet, rest or exercises). It’s a good idea to keep all your health paperwork in one folder for future reference.
7 Items You’ll Need When You Go In
1 Washbag containing your usual toiletries, perhaps in travel sizes to keep it compact.
2 Box of tissues and packet of antiseptic wipes.
3 A small amount of money (the hospital can store valuables safely in an emergency).
4 Your regular medication (in its original packaging) and/or repeat prescription slip.
5 A list of essential contact phone numbers.
6 Bottled water, cordial, sweets and snacks. Don’t chew gum before an op as it increases tummy fluids.
7 Pen, paper, book and/or magazines.