What do I need to prepare for hospital?
With so many other things to think about, it can be daunting to decide what you need to get ready for hospital if you are going to have surgery. It’s a good idea to ask the doctor how long you are likely to be in hospital for (depending on the surgery, they can usually give you some idea!).
Here’s some things that might be useful in your kit :-
- Prepare a “Health CV”. What’s that?! It’s a basic summary of your medical history; what you have been treated for in the past, any allergies, medications etc. You will be asked lots of times in the coming months for this type of information and it’s good to have it at your fingertips
- An extra layer. Hospitals get cold at times and you might want the snuggle factor of a warm wrap or snuggly socks
- Think about what is practical for you type of surgery. Where drains may go, how firm the fabric is over a wound area. Can you lift your arms? No-one needs to be Houdini!
- Wet wipes. You may need a bit of a refresher, but showering is not always possible.
- Hand and body cream. Air conditioning and heating is drying and the fragrances of body lotions give that little bit of luxury.
- Lip Balm. Lips get dry so easily, especially if you have been nil by mouth
- Something to do. You might not feel like it on day 1, but hospitals get boring (at day and night). Magazines, puzzles, a book, colouring in. Simple things.
- There might be some restrictions but most hospitals allow your phone or ipad, mp3 player etc (download things to watch, read and listen to on the devices)
- Enough said – how many times have we all forgotten the charger? Irritating.
- Earplugs and an eye mask. Sadly, the hospital is not a hotel and nurses need to do observations at night and work at the nurse’s station (oh, and people snore and make all sorts of noises you could do without listening to). Plus, they are not Florence Nightingale by candle light; the lights will be on in the corridors.
- Hand sanitizer. You can disinfect between meals, after the toilet and remind visitors (including children definitely and staff if you need to) to do the same.
Here’s some other ideas for you, and the people who care about you, to think about
- Know when the ward round is. It’s a good chance to have the team there (which may include other professional like a physiotherapist, speech therapist, psychologist, social worker or dietician) and you may meet the consultant who is ultimately managing your care
- Ask people who they are and what they do. It helps to know who’s who in the zoo. You will normally have a nurse that is primarily responsible for you and a group of other patients (this will change from shift to shift) but the medical team (which, in order or seniority is usually the intern, resident, registrar, senior registrar, and consultant) is often the same. The junior doctors may, frighteningly, look about 12 years old but, rest assured, they are not!).
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Staff are busy but they care about you. They might not be able to answer everything you need, but should be able to find out who can. If you have the information you need early on, it’s a bit easier to cope.
- Ask visitors to help. They can be a great resource to ask questions for you or let staff know if there is something you are concerned about that you feel reluctant (or embarrassed!) to say. They can be a helpful advocate too if you need that.
- Before people leave, get your tray, food and call bell where you can reach it. If not, an episode of Mr. Bean quickly develops.
- Before you leave ask senior staff about your discharge. It’s important that you understand who is following you up (medical appointments scheduled or community nursing), where to go or what to do if there’s a problem (like unexpected pain or a temperature, especially on a weekend). It’s OK to ask the specifics like “should I change the dressing? What with?” Don’t ask a random staff member not on your team, ok?!
- Have a plan for who will help at home. Finally, you have the trump card to ask others to pull their weight at home. Use it! If you live at home (or the chances of them pulling their weight is zero) then have a plan to ask friends to help out with practical things.