beth israel deaconess medical center a harvard medical school teaching hospital

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Tips from Fellow Patients

As you navigate the discharge process, you are not alone. The advice below from fellow BIDMC patients and family members who have been through the process may be helpful and reassuring.

Erin:

Once you are given the okay to leave, it will likely take some additional time before they come in with a medication list and discharge instructions. The process may take even longer if you are headed to a rehab facility—your discharge team needs to secure a bed for you.

If you are able to leave right away, you may feel like your discharge team is rushing through the process. If this is the case, ask them to SLOW DOWN! Take notes or ask whoever is with you to take notes. Why rush this part of your care? You'll certainly feel better and more confident about your next steps if you have understood all the appropriate information. If you're anything like me you'll feel empowered with the knowledge you need to stay out of the hospital and on the road to recovery.

The medication list is important and can be confusing. Ask questions of your providers, and have them repeat the instructions. I'd also suggest repeating it back to them. Any special instructions are essential too: for example, things the doctor or nurse would particularly like you to do or refrain from doing.

Find out when your follow up appointment will be. Ask whoever is coming to get you to bring your calendar to ensure you get a day and time that works for you. If possible, arrange your transportation to the appointment then.

Make sure you understand any warning signs your discharge team may tell you to look for. For example, how often should you check your temperature? Is there a temperature or other sign that might be a trigger a call or return to the hospital?

Kathy:

Expect it to take hours for discharge paperwork to be complete. Even if staff tell you you're going home, remember that it won't be for hours so you should order a meal, tell your ride home not to rush to the hospital, and prepare to do a lot of waiting.

Ask a family member to be there when the nurse goes over the discharge instructions, and don't let the staff start giving instructions until that family member arrives.

Ask lots of questions about medications, home care like the Visiting Nurses Association (VNA), and who to call if you have questions about discharge.

Make sure staff are aware of challenges at home (e.g., other people you care for, stairs, and who's around to care for you).

Jennie:

If you're wondering about something, then ask. It will help you understand what's going on and may help you feel more in control of what is usually a highly out-of-control situation.

Make sure you know who to contact when questions, concerns, or unexpected events arise. In the case of my family member (a cardiology patient), we were given a "heart hotline" number, which we called once or twice during his first week home.