Insider tips to surviving your hospital stay

Hospital stays can be traumatic for patients and their family members. I give you the top 10 ways to survive a hospital stay while maintaining your sanity.

10. Bring your own pillow. Trust me.

9. Bring a laptop computer or request one from the hospital. Hospitals all have free wireless these days and many will actually provide you with a laptop if you just ask.

8.  Bring an accurate and updated medication list with you. Nothing leaves you more vulnerable to hospital errors than to have your doctor give you medication you haven’t taken in months or for you to miss medications that haven’t been updated by your five outpatient doctors since they bought their worthless EMR three years ago.

7. Write down all your questions early. Your doctor will only come to your room once a day (because they only get paid by Medicare to come once in a day) and any unanswered questions will have to wait until the following day.

6. Be patient. There is no clock in a hospital. Nobody knows when any of your tests are scheduled to be done. Not the cleaning lady. Not your nurse. Not even the doctor doing the procedure knows when you’re up. You’ll know when you’re up when they cart you away. Believing anything otherwise will just make you frustrated.

5. You’re going to be told things that contradict each other multiple times a day. That’s normal. Accept it. All your doctors and nurses carry their own perspective and experience. There is no right answer to many of the questions you will seek. In order to feel the best, simply pick the answer that makes you feel the best and run with it.

4. Being sick is highly unpredictable. If hospital care was easy and straightforward, we would be monitoring you from home with our Skype account. But we aren’t. You may be stable one hour and unconscious the next. That’s not your doctor’s or your nurse’s fault. That’s why you’re in the hospital.

3. Your doctors and nurses are not dumb or uncaring because they don’t do things exactly as you wish or respond to your every need or request with immediacy. We see thousands of patients a year who all carry their own life baggage in one way or another. There is no protocol for making everyone happy. The closest we can come is to provide you with our AIDET process, which does an excellent job of preparing you for #4, 5 and 6, but it won’t make you happy.

2. Be nice. If you are mean to your doctors or nurses, they will consciously (or subconsciously) avoid interaction with you and your family. There are many safely guarded methods handed down through centuries of medical and nursing training that have prepared doctors and nurses for the difficult family. We know all the methods by heart.

1. Request a hospitalist. We’ll get you out quicker and less sicker. Less sicker does not mean healthy. You are in the hospital because you aren’t healthy. The best we can offer is to make you less sick. Any doctor claiming otherwise is …well … see #5

Bonus tip

Here is one last hospital survival tip that will shed hours off your day of uncertainty:

When you are admitted to the hospital, request the highest hospital floor for your room. Most doctors will take the elevator to the top of the hospital and do gravity rounds. That’s because doctors, like most Americans shun stairs in favor of elevators. That means doctors will start at the top of the hospital and work their way down from floor to floor until they are done seeing patients. If you don’t want to be last, make sure you get to the top of the patient list hospital.

There you have it folks. A hospitalist’s guide exclusively for patients on how to survive a hospital stay while maintaining a sense of sanity.

-“Happy Hospitalist” is a physician who blogs at at his self-titled site, The Happy Hospitalist

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