Take Charge of Your Care

Other Ways to Take Charge


Choose a Support Person

A trusted friend or family member can be a big help during your hospital stay. Select one key person to be your healthcare advocate. If you become stressed or your ability to communicate changes, this person can stand in for you—and stand up for your care.

A support person can:

  • Ask questions you might not think of and write down information
  • Double-check your medicines and treatments
  • Watch for signs your condition is getting worse and ask for help
  • Check IDs
  • While you are here, many people will care for you (doctors, nurses, aides) and these same people will care for many patients. To prevent errors in your care:

Ask to see the ID of everyone who comes into your room, so you know the name and job of the person caring for you. If you do not see an ID badge, contact your nurse immediately.

Speak up if hospital staff does not check your ID. Any time staff enters your room to give you medicine, transport you, or perform procedures or treatments, state your name and birth date.

This may seem repetitive at times, but it helps ensure you receive the correct care.

Pay Attention To Your Care

  • Tell your nurse if something doesn’t seem right.
  • Know what time you normally get medicine, and tell your nurse if you don’t get it.
  • Request drawings or illustrations to help you learn about your condition.
  • Read and understand all medical forms before signing. Ask if you need information explained.
  • If your treatment involves medical equipment, practice using it with your nurse before you leave the hospital.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for a second opinion. The more information you have, the better you will feel about making decisions.
  • Talk to your doctor and family about whether you want life-saving actions taken.

And Remember, Take Charge of Your Communication

Ask About Jargon: If you hear a medical term you don’t understand, ask what it means.

“Teach Back”: After you get instructions or an explanation, repeat back what you thought you heard so you can double-check that you understood.

Take Notes: Write down any key facts your doctor tells you so you won’t forget.

Prevent Falls

While you are here, you may feel dizzy or weak. Illness, procedures, medicines or even just lying down for too long can all make you less steady on your feet. To keep yourself safe:

  • Use the nurse call button for help getting out of bed.
  • Ask for help going to the bathroom or walking around. (And use hospital handrails when they’re available.)
  • Wear nonslip socks or footwear. n Keep often-used items within easy reach (glasses, remote, tissues, etc.).
  • Make sure your wheelchair is locked when you get in or out of it. Never step on the footrest.

Patients of all ages are at risk for falls. It’s better to be extra careful than risk another medical problem.

Prepare for Surgery

Before your procedure, make sure you and your surgical staff confirm:

  • Your name
  • The type of surgery you are having and the body part to be operated on. In fact, hospital staff will mark the correct spot on your body. Make sure you or your support person checks that it’s correct.
  • Take simple steps like these to help prevent medical mistakes.