Hospitals are expected to be a place of healing, leading to wellness and a return home. However, the longer a patient stays in the hospital, the greater the risk for a health care-associated infection (HAI) from a catheter or surgical site, or a health care-acquired condition (HAC) such as a fall with fracture. With an HAI or HAC, not only does your time in the hospital increase, but it can also lead to further injury or worse. 

In my articles, I will always speak of patient advocacy. For example, did you know that you are not responsible for charges that increase your time and treatment due to an HAI or HAC? Having an informed and active advocate involved throughout your hospitalization, whether that is a capable friend, family member or professional, can keep you safer. It will help you get discharged sooner to a less intensive, more healing environment such as a nursing care center or better yet, home. 

Besides having an involved advocate, here are the top five ways to stay safe if you’re in the hospital.

Wash hands. Keep your hands washed, especially if sharing a bathroom with another patient, and make sure all hospital staff wash their hands when entering your room and before touching you. Don’t be afraid to speak up. Hospitals teach their staff to prevent infection with handwashing, so don’t be afraid to remind them if they forget.

Do not get up alone. Especially if you have had recent surgery or are in a weakened state. Even younger adults can be unstable after a serious infection or surgery. Call the nurse for help. Sometimes they can be very busy, so make sure you have a urinal or bedpan at your bedside in case they can’t respond when you need them.

Know your medications. Ask what medications are being given to you before you take them. Medication error rates are estimated to occur up to 25 percent of the time, and a high number of these occur in children. 

Guard your dentures. Make sure the staff knows you have dentures when you are admitted to the hospital and be sure they mark it on the white board in your room. Take a denture case with your name and phone number on the case and clearly mark it with a “DENTURES” label. Have staff check for them every time you leave your room for a test or procedure and keep them with you if you can. Better yet, hand them off to your family or advocate. Losing your dentures affects your nutrition/eating which impacts your body’s ability to heal – putting your health at risk.

Keep moving. Stand up daily if possible. Blood clots and bedsores can develop quickly and can be deadly. Ask staff to help you to a chair or walk in the hall daily. If you must stay in bed, move your arms and legs, turn often from side-to-side and wear the inflating leg braces if offered.

With the war on COVID continuing for two years now, hospital staff can be rightfully tired and overwhelmed. Help them to help you and do your part to stay safe for a speedy recovery.

Dr. Porter is CEO/Founder of MyHealth.MyAdvocate in Palm Desert and an experienced health care professional with 30 years of nursing practice dedicated to unraveling the mysteries of health care processes and advocating for patients, families, and caregivers. For more information visit www.myhealthmyadvocate.com or call (760) 851.4116.

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