(WICHITA, Kan.) — It's one place where you usually don't want to go but at some point in your life, you may need to stay in the hospital. When that happens, the quality of your experience is not just up to the hospital or your doctor. The responsibility also falls on you, and there are things you can do to prepare now in case of an emergency.
Nurses call it the most vulnerable time of your life, when you're sick and in the hospital. "It's so hard being a patient," says Angie Gragg who works as Via Christi St. Francis' patient case manager. She says there are ways for you to make it easier to navigate in and out of the hospital. And she says now is when the planning should start.
"You would be surprised how many patients come here with no family members or no one they can contact for help," says Gragg. She recommends choosing someone to act on your behalf, or putting your wishes in writing in case you're not able to communicate them. It's called a durable power of attorney.
Durable power of attorney forms can be kept on file, for years, in case of emergency. If you keep it at home make sure someone knows where it is. Hospital staff says it's important to have the information because you don't want to make decisions all "doped up" on medicine. They say it can be especially helpful for parents who have a child going to school out of town.
But what if you don't have anyone?
"It is kind of a new profession," says Simone Kahn, an independent patient advocate. Kahn has been a nurse for more than two decades but a year ago got her license as an advocate. "An extra set of eyes and ears is invaluable to that patient, to catch things to ask questions they might have not thought to ask," says Kahn.
A patient advocate can also research treatment options for a patient's diagnosis. "If they need somebody in the hospital to insure their safety and rights then that is what we will do for them, or at the doctor's office to help reinforce things for them," says Kahn.
Once you're in the hospital, Wesley case manager Fran Bue tells patients to keep a note pad and paper close by because there may be questions you think of when the doctor is not around and can't remember once he visits your room.
Other things you can do to improve your stay is ask about insurance coverage quickly. Some plans only cover your stay if you've been admitted as a patient, not just for observation. Also have a list of all the medication you are taking, including the dosage with you. Or giveit to a family member to hold.
Carol Stricker is a liaison to patients at Wesley. She says patient satisfaction with a hospital is more important than ever. "Patients don't want to say anything because they feel like someone is going to take it out on them. But we try to assure them that, that is not going to happen," said Stricker.
Two years ago Wesley introduced the patient action line, where people can voice their concerns. They can be anything from your meal is too cold to you can't get a call light to work. It encourages patients to speak up. For example, if you don't feel uncomfortable asking all staff who touch you to wash their hands first because it prevents infection.
Today patients are viewed more as a consumer and hospitals recognize they have to do more to get your business and make your experience a good one. And a little planning ahead can improve your road to recovery.