You won’t be at your best while you’re in the hospital and right after you leave, so try to complete as many health care-related tasks as possible before you go. If you’re given the option, fill out as many forms as possible and complete all the tests you can prior to admission day. Check your hospital’s website to find out if you can get any forms in advance.
Request a copy of your medical records. It’s ideal to have your own set in case questions come up. Make sure your advance directive and/or POLST form are in your medical record.
Consider creating an electronic personal health record, which allows you to store your health care information, history, and contacts and access the information from any Internet-enabled device. Consult the California Office of the Patient Advocate to learn more.
Before checking into the hospital, you’ll be asked to attend a pre-admission appointment. This usually occurs a day or two before your procedure. When you go, be sure to bring:
- All of your prescriptions and any over-the-counter drugs you take (including vitamins, supplements, and herbs)
- Your medical history, including lists of: major conditions with dates; prior hospitalizations, prior procedures, and treatments with dates; and allergies (drug, food, and other)
- Lab and test results, such as X-rays
- Health insurance information, pre-authorization forms, and referrals from doctors
- Contact information for your family, advocate(s), and doctors
- Copies of your advance directive, POLST, and organ donation forms
By the time you leave your pre-admission appointment, you should understand exactly what you can and can’t do before your procedure. Some questions to ask:
- Should you stop taking any of your medications before you go into the hospital? For example, blood thinners should be stopped before surgery. Also, certain herbal supplements promote bleeding, while others prolong the effects of anesthesia.
- Should you stop shaving before you go into the hospital? Cuts can increase the risk of infection to the procedure area.
- Is there anything special you need to do before your procedure?
- When should you stop eating food before your procedure?
- When should you stop drinking fluids before your procedure?
- Which medications can you take the morning of the procedure?
Restrictions on food and fluid should be taken very seriously. If you need a breathing tube during your procedure, eating beforehand could cause problems that may lead to pneumonia or even death. Remember that anything you consume may be restricted – even water, coffee, or a smoothie.
What to Bring to the Hospital
You should bring just the bare necessities to keep yourself comfortable:
- Everything you brought to your pre-admission appointment (see above)
- Eyeglasses or contact lenses, hearing aid, dentures
- Comb, brush, shampoo, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste
- Pajamas, bathrobe, slippers
- Sweats, loungewear, comfortable clothing
- Books, magazines, puzzles
- Quiet, battery-operated clock (since you should leave your watch at home, and your hospital may not allow electronic devices)
It’s best to leave any valuables at home, such as large amounts of cash, jewelry, credit cards, your cell phone, and other electronic devices.