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How to Make Your Hospital Stay a Safe One

A hospital stay can be frightening, confusing and intimidating. Everyone seems to know what they're doing, but often they don't stop to explain things to the patients they're caring for. That's why it's essential to maintain some level of control, ask questions and understand what is being done. If you're not in a position to do that because you're too ill or injured, ask a family member to do it.

Ask questions of doctors, nurses and other medical professionals who are involved in your care. Don't hesitate to write things down. However, do this when they can give you their undivided attention. Don't distract them while they're preparing your medication or something else that requires their focus.

As we discussed in a recent post, it's best when nurses can do a "bedside shift change." This allows you to hear the information they're sharing and can prevent miscommunication (or lack thereof) that can have dangerous consequences. It also gives you the opportunity to ask questions or seek clarification.

Another issue we discussed recently is that sometimes surgeons operate on two or even more patients at the same time. Often, the overlap involves only the beginning or end of the procedure. However, you have the right to ask if your surgeon will be working on anyone else during your procedure and/or what other doctors will be present. If possible, it's best to schedule your surgery early in the week so that you can be out by the weekend, when there tend to be fewer and less experienced staff members on hand.

We all want to assume that hospitals are sterile places. However, in fact, many people are harmed and even killed by hospital-acquired infections every year. Request alcohol wipes to clean any surface that you touch. Wash your hands as frequently as possible.

When you're being discharged, take copious notes, tape record the doctor's instructions and/or get a printout of all aftercare instructions. This includes detailed information regarding medication dosages and the dates of follow-up appointments. Get as much documentation as possible of everything that was done during your stay.

All of these things can help you prevent becoming ill or injured during your hospital stay. However, if you do, you may have legal recourse against the hospital and specific medical personnel. An experienced Miami medical malpractice attorney can provide advice if this happens to you or someone you love.

Source: Reader's Digest, "50 Secrets Hospitals Don’t Want to Tell You (But Every Patient Should Know)," Michelle Crouch, accessed Jan. 22, 2016

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