Staying Safe During Your Hospital Stay

By Lucy Lawrence

In a previous article, we covered some preparations and what to expect when going to the hospital for surgery. Staying in the hospital can be an uncomfortable affair, but more importantly, it can be dangerous. Going to the hospital for any length of time, exposes you to a variety of diseases that your immune system may not be up to handling. Medical mistakes are also commonplace, making up the third leading cause of death in the United States. There’s only so much you can do to prepare, prior to your hospital stay, to protect yourself from infection and medical malpractice but you can minimize the risks by being proactive. There are a couple of pointers that you should keep in mind, during your visit, to ensure that your recovery goes smoothly.

Pay Attention to Medications

Often, you’ll be placed on several different drugs when staying in the hospital. It’s not uncommon for pills to look alike or have similar names, leading doctors and pharmacists do make mistakes in prescriptions. Staffers may also make mistakes in dosages, reading micrograms (mcg) as milligrams (mg) or vice-versa. Before taking any medication, it’s a good idea to ask your nurse what it does, why it’s necessary, and what dosage you need. You should also ask about any side effects that you may experience.

Keep an Eye Out for Unnecessary Tests

Sometimes, hospitals order tests that aren’t entirely necessary for patients. Even when insurance covers a portion of the cost, excessive medical testing can be expensive. What’s more, it can expose you to dangerous substances and radiation. If your doctor orders a test, don’t be afraid to ask why. You should understand the purpose of any test and why it’s necessary.

Minimize the Risk of Infection

Staying in a hospital, exposes you to pathogens from other patients, but luckily, there are some steps that you can take to protect yourself from getting sick. Although the hospital environment is cleaned frequently, it’s essential that you wash your hands frequently and request that staff and visitors who touch you, to do the same. You should also ask your nurse to remove catheters, ventilators, intravenous lines or other tubes, as soon as possible, as the entry site is prone to infection. You should also avoid surgical shaving whenever possible, as nicks from a razor can become infected too.

Evaluate Need for Blood Transfusions

Red blood cell transfusions, are one of the most common procedures in hospitals in the U.S. According to this 2011 study, over 60 percent globally of transfusions, were considered inappropriate. Other research shows that a transfusion can increase your risk of infection so it’s imperative to be informed and an advocate for yourself.

Communication is Crucial

We have all heard the horror stories of the wrong knee operated on or the wrong limb amputated. Even though this is rare, it CAN happen so make certain that you, your doctor and surgeon, are all on the same page. Make a point of mentioning it to the health care professionals working with you while waiting for surgery.

No one likes staying in the hospital, but sometimes, it’s unavoidable. By being careful and taking precautions during your stay, you can have a positive, successful experience and avoid leaving the hospital worse off than when you arrived. It’s important to remain vigilant and communicate with your doctor and professionals, in order to have a smooth and speedy recovery.

About the Author: Lucy Lawrence, whose sister uses a wheelchair for mobility, is a professional freelance writer with many years experience. While she writes about a wide variety of sectors and topics, she feels particularly strongly about the needs of those who live their lives in difficult or challenging circumstances due to illness and injury.

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