You or your loved one are hospitalized. You’ve provided a battery of information to the admitting nurse, the first of several nurses you will have over three working shifts. Each has his/her assigned duties. You watch them come and go and take vitals and check the flow of fluid in the IV drip inserted into a vein to ensure hydration.

But, you have questions. Who should you ask?
The on-duty nurses and aides are there to fulfill your doctor’s directives for your care and answer questions. They want their patients to understand clearly the basics of the patient’s condition, the tests and treatment choices and potential risks, especially if the patient is confused or anxious.

Nurses will tell you their name and schedule, and that information probably will be posted for you to see easily. The name of the aide might also be there. If not, make notes you can refer to. When the nurse comes in, don’t hesitate to ask every question you have.

  • Write out a list of questions in advance. Ask about tests, test results, and medication. Is physical, occupational or speech therapy required before hospital discharge?
  • If you don’t know or understand, ask. Your full understanding is essential to your care.
  • Ask for any available materials written for patients and that may have illustrations.
  • If you think more pain medication is needed, then ask to see the doctor. A nurse cannot give more pain medication than the doctor has ordered, even if the patient is insisting on it.

What can a Caregiver do?

  • Your family caregiver can get water or adjust your pillows and sheets.
  • Caregivers can offer the nurse personal tips about the patient who, for example, might prefer to take a pill with a soft drink.
  • Caregivers can lift spirits, entertain and encourage rest.

How to make the most of your hospital visit.

  • Be tolerant of the staff. The nurses are attending many patients at one time, and these are the people that can save your life, if necessary.
  • Understand that the hospital is nothing like a hotel. There will be some noise, inevitably. Nothing will be entirely comfortable. It is not your own bed and it won’t feel right. You will have to wake up for blood tests and more.
  • Accept that the food is bound to be different. Try to find something you like about the food. You might even ask if you are allowed to have any foods available from outside the hospital, such as snacks brought from home.
  • Show your appreciation. A thank you and smile are always welcome. You might jot down the names of nurses and staff whose help you especially appreciated. Send a thank you note or even a gift like flowers and candy.