10 Tips: Packing for a Hospital Stay

Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stoppler, MD
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel, Jr, MD, FACP, FACR

If you know you're being admitted to the hospital, taking some time to plan and prepare can make your stay more comfortable and less stressful. The following checklist can help you decide what you need to bring with you and ensure you haven't left anything out.

  1. Documents and paperwork. Ideally, you should bring all the necessary paperwork in one folder, preferably the kind with a tie or snap closure to guarantee that important documents will not be lost. Don't forget insurance cards, a list of all the medications you are currently taking, and a list of telephone numbers of family and friends. If you have a written power of attorney or living will, always bring those along with you too.
  1. A small amount of money for newspapers, vending machines, and such. Bringing credit cards or large amounts of cash is not recommended, since theft can occur in hospitals. It is also a good idea to leave all jewelry at home, it is one less thing to worry about losing or being stolen.
  1. Clothing. You may want to bring comfortable pajamas or lounging clothes, if you'll be able to wear your own clothing. Bring a supply of loose-fitting underwear and comfortable socks. Nightgowns or nightshirts are better for women than pajama sets with pants, and short-sleeved shirts are best to accommodate any intravenous (IV) lines you may require. A cardigan-style sweater or bed jacket can help ward off the chills. Make sure you have slippers to walk around in the hospital and one pair of regular shoes (in case you're allowed to walk outside, and you'll need them for the trip home anyway).
  1. Eyeglasses, if you require them.
  1. Writing paper and pen, for making notes or recording questions you want to ask your doctor.
  1. A prepaid phone card for calls from your room telephone.
  1. Toiletries. You can bring your toothbrush, toothpaste, lotion, deodorant, soap, shampoo, a comb or hair brush, and other toiletries from home, but avoid perfumes and any highly scented products. Lip balm is also a good addition to your toiletries kit.
  1. Something to occupy your time - Bring books or magazines to help pass the time. If you enjoy a craft that is fairly portable (like knitting or crochet) that doesn't involve glue, paint, or lots of small pieces, bring those supplies along too.
  1. Photos or small personal items. Many people enjoy having a couple of small framed photos or mementos from home to personalize their hospital space.
  1. Finally, check the hospital's policy about electronic items before you pack your laptop, portable DVD player, MP-3 or CD player, or cell phone. In particular, cell phone use is forbidden in many hospitals since it may interfere with electronic patient monitoring equipment. Don't forget that high-end electronic items can also be targets for theft - if you are allowed to bring them, make sure that a relative or friend takes them home or that they can be safely stored when you're sleeping or not in your room.

Last Editorial Review: 3/10/2006



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