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.
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?
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).
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.