When we go for surgery we turn over our care to highly trained doctors, nurses, and hospital staff. However, we also know that patients who understand their treatment are going to get the most out of their hospital visit. Nothing in life is guaranteed to be free from risk, and that is true of hospitals as well.
Talk to your caregivers, understand what is happening to you, and never be afraid to ask questions. Bring a friend or family member as your Health Care Advocate, when possible. Ask new and unfamiliar caregivers to identify themselves and explain their role in your treatment. Be involved, and help to make your care go well.
- Bring to the hospital:
- A list of your medications, over-the counter drugs, and herbs and vitamins
- A list of your allergies
- Your insurance card
- Any advanced directives
- A small amount of cash, but no valuables or jewelry
- Little else. Most hospitals provide everything you need, even tooth brushes, bed clothes, and slippers. Men may prefer their own razor, women some cosmetics, but not perfume.
- An I.D. band will be given to you. Hospitals may have two patients with the same name, but your number is unique to you. If the band comes off, be sure to have it replaced.
- Ask the surgeon to confirm the surgery site and mark it with ink just before the operation. You can even do that in advance.
- Many operating rooms will let you keep glasses or a hearing aid. If you need them, tell the nurse.
- Help to avoid medication errors:
- Know what medicines you are getting.
- Be able to identify the pills before swallowing. Your regular medications may have a different color or shape in the hospital.
- Do not take pills from home. They may duplicate the medications you are getting, or conflict with them. Tell your physician if you are not getting your regular pills.
- Prevent falls.
- Surgery and postoperative medicines can make the best athlete weak and unsteady.
- Some medicines and extra intravenous fluids may cause a need to empty your bladder frequently. Do not be embarrassed to ask for help. Do it early, before it is urgent. Allow time for busy staff to get there.
- Serious falls occur when patients try to be independent against instructions.
- At night many people need help more than during the day. Turn on lights, wear glasses, and use non-skid shoes if getting up.
- Wheel chairs should be securely locked before getting in and out.
- Hot water in a shower can lower your blood pressure and cause fainting.
- Know your treatment plans.
- It may help to arrange pain medication prior to physical therapy.
- Encourage visitors to hand wash before and after visits.
- Discourage visits from folks with the flu. Children are frequent cold carriers.
- If staff moves your bedside table or rolling stand, ask them to put it back before leaving. Otherwise your water, personal articles, phone, or even call button may be out of reach.
- Food servers should not just leave the tray, but help set it up to be reachable.
- If equipment in your room starts to ding or buzz this should not alarm you. It is usually something simple like your IV indicating to the nurse that it is time for a refill.
You usually receive a lot of instructions just prior to leaving. The nurse will give you the highlights in writing, such as a list of the medications you will need to take. It is hard to remember everything. Ask questions if you don't understand the instructions.
- Have a family member present to help recall what was said.
- Take notes, and specifically find out:
- When to see the doctor again
- Dates and times if home nurses or therapists are coming to you
- What to do about bandages
- When is bathing permitted
- When it is ok to be alone in the house
- When you can drive
- Advice about elevation of an operated extremity, and weight bearing on a leg after surgery
- Understand about all medicines you need. Someone will have to get prescriptions filled to you.
- As in the hospital, night time bathroom trips can be dangerous. Sleeping pills and pain medications cause unexpected balance problems. Blood loss from surgery can make you woozy when first standing up.
- Stand still at the bedside for a moment before walking
- Use eye glasses and turn on a light
- Be sure slippery scatter rugs have been removed
- Be aware that emptying your bladder can drop blood pressure and cause fainting. Men are much safer sitting down.
- If something is confusing or does not seem right, call the doctor's office for advice. His staff often knows the answer.
Your orthopaedist is a medical doctor with extensive training in the diagnosis and nonsurgical and surgical treatment of the musculoskeletal system, including bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles and nerves.
If you decide to go ahead with the surgery, check with your insurance company to see if your coverage requires you to obtain a managed care medical evaluation or clearance before the surgery. You should also verify that the surgery is covered by your policy and find out how your claim will be handled and paid.
If you participate in your own care, things always go better. Ask questions, understand treatment, follow instructions, and you will be on the road to recovery.
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
6300 N. River Road
Rosemont, IL 60018