How to Survive a Stay in the Hospital


There seems to be good reason for that common but little publicized condition known as “nosocomephobia” — the fear of hospitals. And it goes beyond those oh-too-revealing patient-issued gowns.

Consider a new study indicating that an average of 195,000 people die each year in American hospitals due to potentially preventable medical errors. This alarming statistic comes after researchers reviewed records of 37 million hospitalizations. In fact, the report, by Health Grades, Inc., which assesses hospital safety, finds that one in four medication errors occur in nearly one in five doses administered at the typical hospital or skilled-nursing facility, according to a September 2002 study in Archives of Internal Medicine. That research indicated that in nearly half those errors, the dosage was given at the wrong time; in 30% of cases the drugs weren’t given; and in 17% of cases, the issued dosage was wrong. About one in 25 patients got the wrong drugs altogether, say researchers.

Of course, there are other potential problems: Designated menus that contain food that is prohibited for your condition, such as a vegetable-rich diet for patients being treated for biopsy report before the patient, to ‘spare them bad news.’ But we can’t do that; it’s illegal to not first inform the patient.”

  • Consider the calendar. If you’re having an elective procedure, summer may be a good time to head to the hospital. Medical students traditionally start their internships in July “so you may get more attention,” says Marchello. “But it may be also more hectic when they first arrive.”
  • Notify staff before you need them. When you notice you IV bag has about 2 inches left, call the nurse. “If it gets too low, the blood will clot and you may wind up with an infection or the IV may have to be started again,” Davis tells WebMD. “Never wait until the last minute because you never know how long it may take the nurse to come.” This is especially true as shift changes occur, typically between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m., 3 p.m. and 4 p.m., or 11 p.m. and midnight. Hospitals with 12-hour shifts (more common these days) usually change between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m., and 7 p.m. and 8 p.m.
  • Make sure you’re identified. The reason patients have those wristbands? To make sure they are getting the correct treatment. “It’s a red flag if a nurse comes in with medication and never asks your name or checks your wristband,” says Davis. “If this occurs, make sure she knows who you are.”
  • The bottom line: The best way to survive the hospital is to practice good survival skills. “Never take anything for granted,” says Davis.