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Consumer Health Resources: Preparing for Hospital Stays & Procedures

Resources and tips for patients and health consumers


Whether they are unexpected or pre-arranged, planning for a hospital stay (inpatient) or day surgery (outpatient) procedure can be stressful and worrisome.

Here are some practical tips and resources on navigating planned and unexpected visits to hospitals, ERs or day-surgery (outpatient) facilities.

"Keep Cool" using the ICE technique!

Create ICE (ICase of Emergency) contacts & documents IN ADVANCE

  • Current medication list, medical conditions/medical history, insurance & healthcare provider contact information--print, electronic, flash cartoon graphic of booksdrive
  • Emergency contacts (e.g. print or electronic document or programmed into cell phone)
  • Also includes medical alert jewelry, wallet cards, etc.
  • Create Living Will, Power of Attorney for Health Care, and/or "5 Wishes" documents and share with providers, facilities, friends/family
  • HINT: Bring MULTIPLE copies!

Use the "Buddy System"

Don't try to navigate the healthcare system alone. Have a trusted partner, friend, relative or professional service provider accompany you for support and advocacy!

  • Buddies provide stress relief and companionship
  • Buddies can serve as another "set of eyes and ears," advocates, questioners, representatives of your wishes, communicators (to family/friends and health professionals)
  • Many procedures, surgeries, facilities will REQUIRE patients to be accompanied by an adult that can drive or escort patients home and be present during a procedure in case of emergency

Know Your W5H1s!

Check with insurance & healthcare providers, hospitals & outpatient facilities to find out the Who, What, When, Where, Why & How (W5H1)

If you are not clear about any aspect of the process, ASK and continue asking until you've been given an answer

Don't be rude--be empowered and understand your role and responsibilities in the process

Rely on your advocate (buddy or buddies) to ask on your behalf if you cannot!

Buddies, it is YOUR job to look out for your patient--little things mean a LOT!

Patients Are Responsible For:

  • Providing proof of insurance and understanding plan coveragecartoon woman looking at a poster that says I see
  • Providing a comprehensive list of medications (including prescription, over the counter, herbs & supplements)
  • Following directions regarding eating and drinking prior to any procedure or surgery
  • Asking about and following directions regarding taking (or refraining from taking) medications prior to procedures or surgery
  • Notifying health professionals if you come down with a fever, cold or any other illness prior to a scheduled procedure
  • Asking questions when unclear about any step in the process
  • Understanding diseases/conditions and treatment options (medications, procedures)

Waiting Room Tips

  • Be patient, considerate, respectful and responsible
  • Be aware that families deal with waiting, stress, illness, and anxiety differently
  • Be respectful of patients' rights to privacy when communicating
  • Be prepared (or know what to ask for) during the long waits or when supporting a patient!

Additional Resources


10 Items to Pack in Your Hospital Bag (U.S. News & World Report)

Hospital Survival Guide—Consumer Reports

When Your Child Has Surgery (Nemours
Prepare for your child's surgery by learning about different procedures, anesthesia, and more

American Society of Anesthesiologists: Made for This Moment
The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) patient website designed to educate about anesthesia, surgery considerations, pain management, and the medical experts committed to patient safety and high-quality care during surgery, procedures, and other treatments

The Night Before Your Surgery (MedlinePlus encyclopedia article)

Preventing Infections When Visiting Someone in the Hospital (MedlinePlus encyclopedia article)



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  • Last Updated: May 14, 2024 10:50 AM
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