8 Questions to Ask Your Nurse While in the Hospital

May 07, 2019
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A smiling female nurse checks in on her senior patient in the hospital.

Nurses are advocates for patients in vulnerable times

Nurses play a greater role in patient education than ever before. Healthcare is increasingly complex, and it is often a nurse who is asked to explain confusing concepts to patients.

Baystate Medical Center (BMC) nurse Melissa Tuomi put it this way: "As the most trusted profession, nurses play an important role in shaping the patient experience. We are advocates for our patients, a calming force at the most vulnerable time in their lives, whether they are facing a serious illness or a minor medical procedure."

"Oftentimes patients arrive full of questions and fearful about what is going to happen to them, and with one goal in mind – to return home as soon as possible," says Tuomi, the director of professional practice, nursing research, and quality at BMC, where she has been a nurse for 15 years.

Maximize the nurse-patient partnership

When preparing for your annual check-up, it's always a good idea to make a list of things you want to ask your doctor about.

The same holds true for your nurse while you're in the hospital.

Tuomi offers 8 topics for patients to talk with their nurse about while in the hospital:

1. Have you washed your hands?

Always ask your nurse if they have washed their hands. Handwashing is one of the most important actions a caregiver can take to prevent the spread of germs.

2. Who is my doctor?

Upon arriving in your room, ask your nurse about your healthcare team. Who will be your primary physician? What specialists and other nurses will be taking care of you?

3. Am I making progress?

Ask your nurse about the progress you're making and how you can facilitate your recovery. Tell your nurse about what is important to you. Nurses know that patients recover best when they feel comfortable and safe. If you prefer to sleep with ear plugs, or if you might enjoy a visit from a dog in Baystate’s pet therapy program, let your nurse know.

4. What is my care plan?

Ask your nurse about your plan of care throughout your stay. Nurses want to make sure you are aware of the plan each day and what has to happen for you to go home, such as test results, goals or milestones. If you're not sure, your nurse may be able to offer suggestions for things you can do to get better, such as eating solid foods, drinking, or walking a certain distance.

5. Tell your nurse about your pain.

Nurses ask about your level of pain by number and type, but it’s also helpful to know if pain increases with certain activities. Tell your nurse if you have suggestions for ways to help you to manage pain, such as a certain position that alleviates pain, creating a calming environment, prayer, or distraction.

6. Share your concerns.

If you have any concerns about the care you are receiving, ask to speak to the nurse manager or charge nurse who will serve as an intermediary. Nurses want to address care concerns as soon as possible.

7. Ask your nurse to explain medical terms.

Ask your nurse to serve as an “interpreter.” Your doctor may have given you a lot of information about your illness, diagnosis, or operation, and might have used confusing medical jargon. Ask your nurse to help you understand. Your nurse can always ask the provider to return to clarify anything with you. 

8. When do I need to do before going home?

Ask your nurse in advance of the day you will be leaving what you will need for discharge. What time should someone should arrive to drive you home? Are there any new prescriptions or other items you will need to go home with? If you have not received any discharge instructions, ask your nurse about them. Nurses want everything to go smoothly for their patients on discharge day.

4 Million Reasons to Celebrate Nurses

National Nurses Week, sponsored by the American Nurses Association, is May 6-12. This year’s theme is “4 Million Reasons to Celebrate” – a nod to nurses’ sheer numbers.

We invite you to thank a nurse with the hashtag #BHNursesRock on any of your social channels.

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