A hospital stay should be a time of healing. But all too often the experience erodes a patient's personal dignity.
Here's how to ensure that your needs are met and your dignity stays intact during hospitalization...
- Ask about everything. Let your doctors and nurses know that you plan to play a major role in your care. Ask about treatments and prognosis.
Don't worry that your doctor will think you lack confidence in him/her. Or that asking questions will cause resentment among the hospital staff, producing worse care.
Hospital patients who ask questions receive better and more respectful treatment, studies have shown. Questions encourage the medical staff to pay more attention to you. If medical personnel use jargon, ask them to explain it.
Always inquire about the medication you are given. If you receive a new drug, ask: "Why is this different from what I was getting before? Who ordered it?"
Asking questions also helps prevent medical mistakes.
- Know who is treating you. Hospital staffing levels have been drastically reduced. A person in a white uniform is not necessarily a doctor or nurse. In fact, it may be someone with almost no training, such as an orderly.
If you are concerned that the person is not fully trained in the procedure, refuse it. You'll be surprised at how quickly you receive treatment from someone more qualified.
- Don't be shy about seeking help. If no one responds to your call button within a few minutes, pick up the phone. Call the hospital operator and ask to be connected to the nursing station on your floor. When the phone is answered, say you need help in your room—immediately.
IMPORTANT: If you have a complaint, you have the right to a response in a reasonable period of time. If you're not getting one, ask to see the hospital's "patient representative" or "ombudsman," who mediates between staff and patients.
If there is no patient representative or the representative isn't helpful, ask to see the medical director or the hospital administrator.
- Have someone with you at all times. If you are seriously ill or undergoing surgery, you probably won't have the energy or mobility to protect your rights. So have someone with you 24 hours a day. As long as your "advocate" is not interfering with the delivery of care, he/she has a right to be there.
- Make sure the food is appetizing. Notify the hospital dietitian if fresh fruits and vegetables aren't served...the food doesn't arrive hot...the meals are served at unusual times for the convenience of the staff...or you lack sufficient time to eat.
BETTER: Have visitors bring food to supplement hospital meals. Make sure they are aware of any special dietary restrictions you have. Tell the doctor or nurse that this is what you intend to do.
- Know your rights. You have a right to say "no" to any medical procedure. You have the right to see your medical records. You have the right to check yourself out at any time, even against the advice of hospital personnel. You have the right to fire your doctor. You have the right not to be treated by a medical student, if you so choose.
--Charles B. Inlander, founding president, People's Medical Society, and author of more than 20 books, including Take This Book to the Hospital with You.
Not super pleasant (to put it mildly), but educational . . . - *I originally published the following post in my personal blog. I am now (in 2016) republishing here those articles from my blog that have to do with the f...
3 years ago