Have a Safer hospital stay: Use a checklist

by Dr. Anita Gupta

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Thousands of patients undergo surgery every day, but many are unaware how to better ensure a safe and comfortable experience. Too often patients feel like they’re in the passenger’s seat when entering the hospital, even under the best circumstances.

When planning to undergo a surgical procedure, with or without subsequent hospitalization, I always encourage patients to use a method that is a hallmark of patient safety; a checklist.

The following is a simple checklist for patients to use before surgery to help them ease any fears about going under the knife as well as afford the feeling of being an active rather than passive participant.

1. Talk to your doctor

Everyone handles surgery and pain differently, making it imperative for your physician and care team to know your medical history. This should include a detailed list of any medications you are currently taking and any allergies you may have. Inform your care team of any medical conditions you have, even if it seems unrelated. This information could prove essential during your hospital stay or procedure.

2. Meet your physician anesthesiologist

Many hospitals offer consultations with physician anesthesiologists prior to surgery to discuss the risks of anesthesia and ways to best accommodate your needs. Take advantage of this opportunity, as you’ll want to be sure the physician anesthesiologist supervising your anesthesia care is positioned to lead and supervise the Anesthesia Care Team to provide optimal quality and safety.

3. Conduct your own research

It’s important for patients to understand their procedure and the expected after-effects. Being knowledgeable about the surgery can alleviate anxiety and improve the overall experience, which is instrumental for a smooth recovery.

4. Develop a recovery plan

While still in the hospital and under the care of your physician, ask him or her to help you create a plan for your care after you are discharged. Identifying activities or foods to avoid, tips for managing pain and even simply deciding to ask a friend or family member to be available for a few days post-op can make a big difference in the healing process.

5. Follow all preoperative instructions

Your physicians should provide you with a list of detailed instructions to follow to prepare you for surgery. These guidelines minimize risk of complications, so it’s crucial to understand and adhere to them.

By using this checklist, patients will feel as though they are in the driver’s seat—as they should be. Patients are the core of the health care team and with knowledge, awareness and engagement in the process, patients are given the best chance at an optimal surgical experience.

Anita Gupta is an anesthesiologist.