6. How to Get Better Care In A Hospital
Keeping Your Body As Good As It Can Be
There is a lot that you can do to make your hospital stay safer and less scary. Doctors and nurses care a lot about your health and well-being. But they are taking care of many patients at any time. You and your family are taking care of YOU. You may notice things your doctors and nurses do not notice. You may have ideas that your doctors and nurses do not. You need to know you can and should talk to your doctors and nurses about your concerns and about your ideas.
Make sure that you show the doctors and nurses the form "Communication for Better Hospital Care" that was made when you completed the HowsYourHealth survey.
You have every right to ask questions and to get answers. You know more about your body and about what you have been through in life than the doctors do, and the doctors need to know what you are thinking and feeling. The doctors need to know if you aren’t doing well with one of the medicines or if you are having more pain or if you otherwise feel unwell.
If you are not able to help the doctors, it is very helpful if someone who knows you well can “represent you.” Some people have healthcare power of attorney forms—forms which say who should speak for them if they cannot speak. If you do not have a healthcare power of attorney, you can designate someone at the time you are admitted to the hospital.
You and whoever is helping you make decisions should keep a list of questions that you think of during the day. This way, when the doctors or nurses come into your room, you don’t have to remember the things you thought of during the day. You should feel free to ask questions about what is happening, why tests are ordered, the results of tests.
You, and whoever is with you, can also help make certain that you are as safe as you can be in the hospital. You should know who is taking care of you. If your doctors and nurses do not introduce themselves, ask them who they are. Many patients have more than one doctor. It is helpful to know what kinds of doctors are seeing you, who they are, and who the person is who is responsible for your overall care. It can be helpful to keep a list of the doctors who have seen you. Because there are so many doctors, it is very important that you talk to them. Do not assume that they know everything you told the last doctor who saw you.
With so many people coming and going, it is easy to catch an infection in the hospital. You should ask every caregiver who comes into your room to wash their hands before they touch you. This helps to decrease the risk of infections that you might catch in the hospital.
When nurses come to deliver medicines, it is important to know what the medicines are and what they are for. This way, you can be sure you are getting the medicines that you should be getting (for example, the doctors might have forgotten one of the medicines you take at home, you can make sure you are not getting a medicine that you are allergic to).
Keeping Your Body As Good As It Can Be
Laying in bed can make you weak and make you at risk for infections. It is important to ask if you can get out of bed or if you can have help walking. It is important to remind the doctors and nurses if you aren’t eating enough---doctors can give nutrition through a tube into the stomach or they can give nutrition by vein you have had several days without enough food. You can go a long time without food, but you shouldn’t. Going without food makes your muscles weaker and will make recovering from the hospital harder. Going without food can also decrease the strength your body has to fight infections. This can put you at risk for getting new infections or having a hard time recovering from the ones you already have.
If you aren’t moving in bed, it is good to make sure your doctors are preventing blood clots with medications or stockings...preferably inflated stockings. It is important to ask if you can get out of bed and when you get out of bed, that you have someone help you until your are sure that you are strong enough to walk safely on your own.
The stress of being in the hospital can have serious results and can cause you to get a stress ulcer which can cause internal bleeding. This risk is the most for patients who are on a ventilator or on medicines to keep the blood pressure up. To prevent ulcers, doctors should put patients on medicines to prevent ulcers caused by stress. These medicines are the same medicines used to treat people who have bad heartburn, or reflux. There are very few risks of taking these medicines, but a lot to gain from preventing ulcers.
Finally, if you are laying in bed a lot, you are at risk for pneumonia. It is important to take deep breaths every hour to prevent the bottoms of the lungs from collapsing. Your doctors and nurses can order a small machine, called an incentive spirometer, to help you know how deep your breaths are. If you have an incentive spirometer, you should use it whenever you can (for example, everytime commercials come onto the television). If you do not have one, and are laying in bed and not getting up, you can request an incentive spirometer.