Planning for a Hospital Visit

Helpful Hints for a Productive & Healing Hospital Visit

Medical Author: Maureen Welker, MSN, NPc, CCRN
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

Here are a few suggestions to help you create a hospital visit that is productive, pleasant, and healing.

There are several topics that will be addressed, beginning with issues to consider before you are admitted to the hospital and concluding with tips during hospitalization.


Determine which hospital is covered by your medical insurance company. If this is a planned visit, you will be directed to the hospital your medical insurance company is contracted with.

If you know ahead of time that you will be in the hospital, arrange for a hospital tour or request information from the hospital regarding the hospital and the services they provide.

Please note, if you are in distress and in need of immediate medical help, call 911 immediately. Most medical-insurance companies will pay for emergency care at any facility. Do not delay your emergency medical needs based on a particular hospital designated by your medical-insurance company. The paramedics will initiate immediate medical lifesaving treatment and transport you safely to the nearest emergency department for further treatment. After you are medically stable, you may be transferred to another hospital. Emergency departments have reported tragedies of people who drove to the hospital designated by their medical insurance for fear the insurance would not pay. If they were taken to the nearest hospital by the paramedics, risk of life-threatening illness due to the delay in emergence health care would be minimized.

If you don't already have a primary-care physician, then obtain a family practice physician or internal medicine physician. It is helpful to have physicians that know you and your medical history.

Find out ahead of time if your particular physicians are on staff at the hospital that you are directed to go to by your medical-insurance company. You will also want to find out if your primary-care physician will see you each day while you are in the hospital and help to direct and organize your health care. Today, some physicians are not on staff at hospitals and will not see you while you are in the hospital. Your care will be turned over to a team of physicians called hospital-based internists referred to as "hospitalists." The hospitalists will be in telephone contact with your primary-care physician as needed to discuss your case.

Hospital care

While in the hospital, obtain an organizer or spiral-bound notebook with pockets inside to store loose papers. You may want to add a few paperclips to secure papers or business cards in your notebook.

Have a pen and or pencil handy for writing any pertinent medical information. This can be done by you or a family member who is at your bedside.

If you are unable to obtain a notebook, ask your nurse for some lined papers stapled together and a pen. You will find the nursing staff happy to assist you to feel organized during your stay.

Ask for business cards of each and every physician who is involved in your care while in the hospital. Make notes of any additional information about that physician that is helpful to you. The business card will provide the physician's name, address, phone number, and usually the specialty of medicine the physician practices.

Secure or paperclip the physicians' business cards in your notebook. This will help you keep track of everyone.

Many times, for example, your designated cardiologist may have a day off and one of the partners in the medical group of cardiologists may see you, so you will want to make note of which doctors are associated to avoid confusion.

If tests or diagnostic procedures are going to be done, you may want to write the name of the procedure and the purpose of the test in your notebook. The medical or nursing staff may be of some assistance with this task.

If it will be of some help and add clarity to your hospital stay, don't be afraid to ask of a copy of your laboratory test or diagnostic tests when they are available. You will want to add these results into your notebook.

You may want to write the date and time of each entry to give you clarity regarding what will be happening when. Ask questions if you are confused and unsure. Most hospitals can provide pamphlets with detailed information regarding your particular procedure or illness.

Many times medical words are confusing and difficult to understand. Ask the medical or nursing staff help you to translate medical words into simple English. For example, pulmonary refers to the lungs, and nephrology refers to the kidneys, etc. When you are ill, it is even more difficult to understand medical terms.