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Serving families in Palm Beach, Martin and Port St. Lucie counties

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How to Stay Safer During Your Hospital Stay

Judie Rappaport
March 6, 2011


"I took Mom (78) to the hospital for admission and watched them write "diabetic" in her record. On the very first day they forgot her insulin and gave her ice cream that wasn't sugar free."

"When I asked Dad's (88) nurse when his doctor would be in, she said, "He won't. We use hospitalists." Hospitalists are generalists without specific credentials. They're managing my Dad with advanced Parkinson's?  How safe it that? "

1. Speak Up

Hospitalizations can be very disconcerting, if not downright scary. We rely on nurses and doctors because they're our medical team. Listen up: you are the head of your medical team. If you perceive a problem, tell someone.  Don't accept "Don't worry, we know what we're doing" as an answer. Tell someone else until you get a respectful, informative reply.

2. Stay Informed

Every study or lab test is performed to answer a specific medical or diagnostic question. Is your heart functioning properly? Is your bone broken? Do you have gall or kidney stones? Staying informed helps avoid problems when your hospital team changes.  Always ask "why am I having this test?"  Make sure you understand the answer and write the information down. After the test, ask for the result and a copy of the report.

3. Bring An Advocate

Ask friends and relatives to take shifts staying with you in case you need help: they can spot changes that go unnoticed by the staff (pain, breathing difficulties, nausea) or medical orders that aren't followed: example, snack for patient with orders "nothing by mouth." Bring a list of your home medications and share it with your physician and nurse. Ask about potential negative side effect of new medications. Call immediate attention to adverse medication reactions (dizzy, nauseous, blurred vision, stomach pain, dry mouth, leg pain, etc.).

4. Avoid Infection

Do not accept treatment with any item that has touched the floor; insist on a new replacement. Make sure visitors and those who care for you wash their hands with soap and water or wear fresh gloves before touching you, the remote, or other items.  

Don't be intimidated by hospital surroundings or personnel. Doctors and nurses value informed patients and involved patient advocates.


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