Tips For a Better Surgery Experience and to Improve Your Hospital Stay

How to Have a Low Stress Hospital Recovery

11 Tips to Improve Your Hospital Stay

If you are having surgery and expecting to be hospitalized for a few days, you may have concerns about your stay. There are many ways to improve your time in the hospital, but some of the best things you can do to help yourself take some advance planning. Plan to reduce your stress and anxiety levels before, during and after your stay and you may be surprised by how quickly you feel better.

Take Care of The Financial Issues Early

If you are able to, taking care of the financial arrangements for your hospitalization beforehand can lead to less worrying. Wondering how much your insurance will pay--if at all--can be extremely stressful. Phone calls to the hospital, your insurance company and your employer can help relieve stress by helping you determine that you have crossed your T's and dotted your I's when it comes to all of the paperwork that comes along with being in the hospital. You will breathe easier if your primary concern is getting well, rather than the medical bills that you may receive later.

Be Willing to Ask Visitors to Leave

It may sound rude, but it truly isn't. Being willing to ask visitors to leave (or prearranging with the nurse to ask visitors to leave after a short visit) is just another way to take good care of yourself. Some people are great visitors, they don't engage the patient in conversation when they would rather be sleeping, they are quiet and calm and generally a pleasant person to have hanging out in the room. Other people insist on waking the patient, bringing up stressful topics of conversation, sitting on the bed even when the patient would prefer they did not, eat food in front of a patient who isn't allowed to eat and all sorts of things that the staff and patient wish they would not do. You are not in the hospital to entertain friends, coworkers and long lost family members, you are there to get treatment, get well and go home. If your visitors are wearing you out, it is time for them to head to the cafeteria or go home.

Limit Your Guest List

If your friends, coworkers and long lost family members are the type that wear a person out and make a recovery more challenging than it needs to be, consider keeping your procedure or the location of your procedure a bit of a secret. Tell the people that you would like to hear from during your hospital stay that you would love to talk to them on the phone or see them, and inform the rest of your acquaintances after you are discharged from the hospital. If anyone comments on being left in the dark, you could say that you just weren't ready to talk about it.

Plan For Help at Home

You may need help at home both during and after your hospitalization. It may be something as simple as feeding your cat for a day, or it could be something as challenging as finding child care for several days and nights. Make these arrangements well in advance so that you have the help that you need when you need it. Make a list of the things that must be accomplished during your hospitalization, and the things you will need help with after you return home. For some people who are given lifting restrictions after surgery, ordinary tasks like grocery shopping and laundry become complicated. For others, fatigue makes it difficult to complete ordinary chores like making a meal. Asking a friend to visit for an hour or two a day may be all the assistance you need to recover at home.

Arrange For Transportation

Be sure to find someone to take you to and from the hospital. You may be able to drive yourself to the hospital, but driving home is best left to someone else. Keep your driver posted on your expected date of release, no one wants to be left waiting at the hospital for hours when they finally get permission to go home.

Entertain Yourself

If you are in the hospital, the general idea is that you rest and recover until you are well enough to go home. That said, a person can only sleep so many hours a day, and that can leave many hours to fill. This may be your opportunity to catch up on the television show that you love but can never find time to watch, read a book, or even do some quiet activity like knitting.

While taking your laptop and doing all of the work you would typically do at your job from the comfort of your hospital bed is probably not a good idea, catching up on some fun activities will help brighten your day and keep the hours from dragging. You can even take some music with you, as long as it doesn't disturb anyone else. An iPod is a great way to listen to music with headphones, just don't forget to take the charger.

Be Comfortable

If you are going to be in the hospital, you may as well be comfortable. For you that may mean your favorite pajamas and bath robe. For others, it may mean their pillow from home, a blanket or their best bunny slippers. Hospital gowns are notorious for being overly revealing. If you are able to wear your own things, you may find that to be much more comfortable than what the hospital provides.

Your comfort will be very important after surgery, and pain medication can only do so much. In addition to pain relievers, you can also reduce your pain by relaxing and getting enough sleep along with other pain relieving techniques.

Pack Well

Packing well can make the difference between a boring, uncomfortable stay and a more pleasant experience. Don't forget some comfortable shoes, some clothes that won't rub against your incision and your toiletries.  If you will be staying in the hospital after your procedure, leave valuables at home but take things that will help pass the time, such as books, a laptop.

What to Take to the Hospital (leave valuables at home!)

Ask Questions Before You Go to the Hospital

Don't wait until the minutes before your surgery to ask the burning questions that you truly need answered. If you are scheduled for surgery and you have additional questions, call the surgeon's office. You don't want to get an answer you don't like immediately before the procedure when you will have to make a quick decision. Gather the information that you need in advance of your surgery so that you know you have made the right decision before you go to the hospital.

Minimize Stress at the Hospital

Stress is an inevitable part of being in the hospital, there are concerns about getting well, getting home, getting past the painful early days after surgery and so may other worries that are a normal part of the experience. Try to avoid additional sources of stress. For some, that may be avoiding the 24 hour news stations on television. For others stress reduction may mean avoiding having too many visitors, or getting frequent updates about how their children are doing with their temporary caregiver.

Identify what increases your stress level and take action to prevent those stressors from making your hospital stay any more stressful than it has to be. For some patients, just the idea of leaving their cell phone at home causes a great deal of stress, for others it is the ideal way to get some rest.

Review Preoperative Instructions

This may sound silly, but surgeries are cancelled every day because the patient didn't follow preoperative instructions. Imagine going through all of the trouble to arrange for a ride to and from the hospital, a kennel for your dogs, filling prescriptions and taking a week off of work only to learn that you won't be having surgery because you drank a glass of orange juice before you left for the hospital. It happens and it is frustrating for everyone involved. In the week before your procedure, take the time to review the instructions provided to you and plan to follow them.

The preoperative instructions are especially important when you are required to do a "bowel prep", such as before a colonoscopy.  There is a full day or two of preparation that must be done prior to this type of procedure, and a failure to do that can lead to significant fees being paid without the benefit of being able to have the procedure. 

A Word From Very Well

Your recovery will be different than what any other patient experiences, even when they are having the same surgery that you are.  Your risk of complications will be unique, as will the challenges you face while getting back to your regular activities.  Your hip replacement surgery will be different than your neighbor's, your child's appendectomy will be different than you remember from your childhood, and so on.  Each person is unique, and for that reason every recovery will be equally unique.  

Before you have surgery take the time to do your research, find the best surgeon, explore alternative treatments, make sure your insurance will be in network, and all of the other small details that will pave the way for a calm and quiet recovery.  The effort to be prepared will be well worth it when you have a seamless and fast recovery.

Was this page helpful?

Article Sources

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.