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Contrary to what many people believe, a stay in the hospital is not like riding that well known bus with the dog on the side (“leave the driving to us”). You can’t leave your care entirely in the hands of health professionals. There can be risks in a hospital stay. But you can greatly reduce the risk by being aware of the following concerns and taking the appropriate steps.

Infection Alert
Many of the patients in a hospital are there because of various types of infections; urinary, respiratory, etc. Infections spread, and ten percent of patients contract one after being admitted. Another 300,000 patients contract pneumonia each year in U.S. hospitals.

What can you do?

* Make certain all hospital personnel wash their hand before they touch you - don’t be afraid to question them, it’s your right.
* Make certain these employees also put on a fresh pair of gloves before touching you.
* If you have a catheter - make certain it is monitored at least three or four times a day. A faulty one can invite infection.

Someone to Watch Over Me
If you are a patient, you probably are not at your most alert, so you might not always be aware of the treatment you’re receiving.

What can you do?
Have friends or family stay with you (around the clock, if possible) to watch out for you. Doctors and nurses will be more careful just by their presence. Don’t worry about visiting hours. As long as you don’t interfere with treatment, a hospital can’t legally make someone leave.
Also, leave your valuables at home. Too many people have access to your room.

Medication
Medication is almost always a part of treatment these days. Hospitals dispense thousands of drugs each day. Is this any reason to expect a mix-up? The average error rate is 2% to 3%. In a 300 bed hospital, that’s six errors an hour!

What can you do?

* Dispensing - when you are given your medication, make certain it’s what you should be taking. Question the nurse if it’s not.
* Changes - If it’s not supposed to be the same medication, find out why it was changed.
* Question your doctor - be fully advised about each medication prescribed for you, including side effects. Make certain that if more than one doctor prescribes medication he is aware of other prescriptions by other doctors and that they are compatible.

Reject the Unknown
If you don’t understand a procedure or treatment, don’t permit it until you do. You are under no obligation. If you suspect that a staff member is incompetent, bring it to the attention of someone in authority.

Surgery
If yours is a surgical admit, make certain:

* Everyone knows what procedure you are supposed to have, including all nurses, technicians, anesthesiologists. If someone attempts something on you that does not seem to fit, question it.
* Choose a reliable surgeon, preferably one who has performed the procedure successfully many times. Don’t be afraid to question the doctor’s credentials.
* The same is true of anesthesiologists. Meet with him beforehand so he’ll know who you are.

You have a right to know and understand. If you don’t take the time to learn it could affect your health.