Going to the hospital and being in the hospital can be very stressful. There may be a lot of anxiety whether you are there for treatment, tests, surgery or even simply visiting a loved one or friend. I’ve worked in a hospital setting for the last 22 years, and while I can’t lessen the anxious feelings you may be experiencing, I may be able help you have a better experience.
As a nurse, the most important thing I can tell you as either a patient, or friend or loved one of a patient, is that you are your own best advocate. While doctors are there to give you medical advice, you as the patient are always in charge of your own health care. You get to make the final decision.
Take someone along with you to your appointments
Not only to serve as a support for you but also to help you in taking notes. Taking notes at your appointments will help you remember things your doctor or nurse discuses with you.
Brainstorm with someone and write down questions in advance.
This will help you stay on track while you’re at your appointment and ensure that when your appointment is over you haven’t forgotten anything. There is nothing worse than getting home and remembering that one question you wished you’d asked.
Know your health history and your medications, including your dosages and how often you take them.
This includes supplements. Honesty is the best policy. Some of the things you leave out in your health history or medication list may not seem like a big deal to you but might be very important for your health care team to be aware of.
You are your own best advocate. No one cares more about you than you do. Some important questions to ask your Dr. or nurse are “What is my main problem? What do I need to do now about it? And why is it important for me to do it?” As a patient, you need to understand the rationale behind medications, treatment plans and tests.
When your doctor or nurse tells you to do something, or take something, please follow the rules.
For instance, if you eat a pizza the night before your scheduled colonoscopy, you might have to be rescheduled. Or, your doctor may prescribe you a medication and you don’t feel like it’s working or you don’t like the side effects. Talk with him or her before you simply stop taking it. There may be other options as you discuss what is happening. Remember, you are your own best advocate.
Don’t be afraid to get a second opinion.
Sometimes there is more than one option and more than one treatment plan. You need to feel comfortable with your provider and healthcare team. Seeking a second opinion might give you valuable information as well as other options.
Talk with your family or support system about your long-term health wishes.
While end-of-life discussions are often hard, they are necessary in the event that someone has to make decisions on your behalf. Take the time now to think about what you want and talk with your family about it.
Consider how much time you spend on your own self-care and health maintenance.
Knowing and being aware of your health profile and being able to communicate that to your health care team is priceless.