A patient checklist can be a simple and efficient tool to help you better understand and manage the realities of complex, often confusing care in a busy hospital setting. An informed and involved patient is a safer patient because care today is often fragmented and rushed. Ask questions. Speak up. Trust your instincts — you know yourself best. Bring a friend or family member with you if you can to advocate for you. However, whether you have an advocate or are on your own these practical suggestions can help you partner more effectively with your doctors and nurses for better, safer care during a hospital stay.
1. Get to know your nurses and aides.
- Nurses are the human face of technology-driven care. Your nurse is your day-to day point person and coordinates your daily care plan. She or he can be a powerful ally and helpful guide in navigating the foreign terrain of a hospital and its system and ways.
- Aides handle many of the daily personal-care issues that are crucial to your comfort but they generally do not dispense medications or perform other nursing duties.
- Eash hospital has a different nurse/patient ratio, but nurses can always use more help. Understand that your nurse is caring for many sick patients but don't hesitate to ask for help when you need it.
- Make sure you have the phone number for the nurses' station in case your call bell is not answered in a timely fashion and you really need assistance, especially at night, when there is less staff on hand.
2. Make names a must in all hospital interactions.
- Names are the first thing to go in the hospital setting: "Oh, that's Bed 19, the bypass." Using names is the best defense you have against feeling anonymous and dehumanized. Names are a reminder to everyone that you are a person first and a patient second.
- Using names encourages the essential human connection — the key to collaborating with your care team. Get to know your doctors' names — don't let them remain strangers to you at this most crucial time.
3. Consider your hospital room your temporary home.
- Find out how to work the TV, the phone, the bed and the call button. Make sure that everything actually functions properly.
- Climate control is essential to your comfort. Being cold slows healing and increases vulnerability to infections by suppressing the immune system. Make sure you have enough blankets to stay warm.
- Real estate is everything in a hospital. Just a modicum of sunlight, a quieter room or a sliver of privacy can make a world of difference to a patient. If you're going to be in the hospital for more than a day, and you're very uncomfortable with your room or bed assignment, ask for a change.
- You might want to bring a portable entertainment device such as an iPod containing music or audio books. However, keep in mind that hospitals are not responsible for personal effects so keep track of items like this.
- Place multiple sets of earplugs and a sleep mask on the bedside table within easy reach.
- Put pens and a notebook in an easily accessible place so you can make notes and write down observations.
- Place a bottle of hand sanitizer on your bedside table within easy reach for your own use. You may be bedbound and not able to wash your hands very often. Facial wipes and mouthwash or mints are also good items to have on hand.
Patients should prepare for their doctor visits. Know the medications you're taking and ask questions about them.