Just because you're in the hospital doesn't mean you're safe from disease and potential infections. In fact, if you overstay your welcome at any hospital, you may be putting your health at risk.
The hospital is a surprisingly dangerous place. Last year nearly two million people went into the hospital because of one illness and never made it out because of a bug they caught while they were there. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is well aware of this frightening statistic. Here are some suggestions from the CDC on how we can protect ourselves in the hospital:
•Clean hands are a must. The CDC reports about a third of all hospital-acquired infections could be prevented if patients, visitors, and staff were more vigilant about hand washing. So make sure everyone has clean hands . . . including you. The rule is that all doctors, nurses, and orderlies must wash their hands between each patient. But it doesn’t always happen!
If you haven’t seen a healthcare professional washing his or her hands before coming near you, don’t be shy about asking them to wash their hands. And notice whether your doctors and nurses are wearing gloves when examining you. If not, ask why not. Also, keep a bottle of hand sanitizer next to your bed for visitors. Finally, do not touch your wounds or IV sites without scrubbing up first.
•Ask questions . . . lots of them. Sure, doctors, nurses, and other hospital professionals can be a little intimidating when you’re lying there in your paper gown. They might even act annoyed that you’re asking. Don’t worry about that. It’s your health we’re talking about, and it’s okay to hold hospital professionals accountable. So, ask questions like “Why are you about to examine me without wearing gloves?” “Why do I need these lab tests? Explain it to me.” “Why are you giving me THIS medication?” Asking questions and getting clarification keeps you informed about your situation. And if you ask your doctors and nurses to repeat out loud what they are doing, they might catch themselves if they are making a mistake.
•Pay attention to your medications. According to Prevention magazine, your best bet for safety when it comes to getting the right meds and dosages is to choose a hospital (if you can) that uses a computerized medical data-entry system. According to Harvard research, hospitals that employ these systems have 85 percent fewer instances of medication mix-ups than those hospitals that keep track with pen and paper. But no matter what the computer or the attendants say, ask your doctor to give you a complete list of the medications you are taking, including dosages and frequency. Then, when the nurse hands you a pill, you can check it against your list.