January 2, 2013

January 2, 2013
Patient Checklist for Your Hospital Stay

Welcome to another day in my life. Today is Wednesday and we have almost made it through the middle of another work week. I hope your new year is off to a beary safe and great start. It is another busy week for Dab the AIDS Bear and me as we start off the year on the run.

One of our good friends has been readmitted to the hospital because of her advanced breast cancer fight. She is used to being in the hospital and knows what to do. But do you have your checklist ready if you should be hospitalized? If not, I will blog some suggestions today and tomorrow for your list.

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.

4. Make cleanliness in your room a priority.

Hospital rooms are really dirty, period. Three-quarters of patients' rooms are contaminated with bacteria that can cause staph infections. Use disinfectant wipes on "high-contact surfaces" that you might touch the rolling table surface, chair armrests, bed railings, the phone, the call button and the TV remote. These are the things that are often overlooked by the janitorial staff. Disinfectant wipes are available on every hospital floor and your aide can probably help you with small tasks like this.

If your room is really dirty, ask for someone from the hospital's "environmental services" to come clean it.

5. Consider whether a visit from your pastor, priest, minister, imam, rabbi, shaman, guru, monk or any other type of spiritual counselor will offer you solace, support and guidance.

6. Create a master medication list use the notebook you have brought.

Keep a numbered list that includes drug name, prescribing physician, schedule with dosages, what day you started and stopped and why you are taking every drug, for example, "blood pressure." This list will be the record of ALL medications you are prescribed during your stay and can be used to check against hospital and insurance bills. Your nurse can help "translate" instructions and abbreviations into plain language so that you understand exactly what is going into your body and why.

Tomorrow I will blog about more tips for your checklist. Hope you have a beary great day!

Until we meet again; here's wishing you health, hope, happiness and just enough.

big bear hug,

Daddy Dab