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Patient Checklist for Your Hospital Stay

Advice on how to prepare and be a proactive patient

8. Create a daily journal with the notebook you have brought.

  • Record how you are actually feeling day to day. How you feel matters! You know yourself best, what feels normal to you. A daily journal is a good place to make notes of any questions for your doctors and nurses as a reminder to yourself since you may have only minutes with them at a time.
  • Make a note to ask every day if catheters, IVs or other invasive devices are ready to be removed — that can help prevent infections.

9. Wash your hands frequently if you can or use a hand sanitizer whenever or wherever one is available. Hand washing saves lives.

  • A small homemade sign that reads "All Visitors — Please Wash Your Hands" reminds everyone that you want to be diligent about this yet takes the onus off you always having to ask. Always remember that the most common way a hospital-acquired infection is contracted is person to person via hands or touch.

10. Keep hydrated. Water is essential to life. Patients can easily forget to drink water.

  • Hydration is key to recovery. Dehydration can have dire consequences. Make sure you always have your water pitcher filled and try to sip water throughout the day.
  • Sucking on ice chips can be a good alternative if you are unable to drink water.

11. Express thanks to your doctors, nurses and aides for their help in caring for you. An "attitude of gratitude" goes a long way towards fostering meaningful human connections with your care team.

12.  Find out who in the hospital — patient representative, case manager or social worker — can help you with questions and concerns like getting medical records, discharge planning and executing health-care proxies or advance directives.

13. Speak softly. Be considerate of your roommate.

  • The decibel level on a hospital floor can reach that of a busy street. Don't add to the noise pollution.
  • Music via headphones or simple, foam earplugs can help you cancel out the constant hospital din.

14. Start a CaringBridge.org entry.

  • This is a great free site (http://www.caringbridge.org) where you can update family and friends and stay connected without making a million calls or having too many visitors in the hospital. It is also a terrific outreach tool if you are on your own and need some specific outside help or guidance.

15. Try to laugh every day! Easier said than done in the hospital but laughing actually releases the body's natural painkiller — endorphins — and so helps speed the healing process. Bring a funny book or audio download, watch a comedy on TV, talk to a friend who makes you laugh — it's good medicine.

Adapted from The Patient's Checklist: 10 Simple Hospital Checklists to Keep You Safe, Sane & Organized Copyright © 2011 by Elizabeth Bailey. Excerpted with permission from Sterling Publishing Co Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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