Hospitals can be a scary place. For most people, like me prior to July last year, they are fortunate enough to have never stepped into one before, as either a patient or a relative of someone in hospital. For some, hospitals are reminders of death and can be quite harrowing places. We all have different feelings towards visiting hospitals, however, sometimes life can throw curve balls at us and we can end up having to go to hospital whether we want to or not.
Last night I was admitted into hospital for the fifth time, in the past nine months, due to my endometriosis. I’m currently writing this from my hospital bed, as I’ve been up at the crack of dawn and visiting hours haven’t started yet. I’ve had a lovely bowl of porridge and jam, I’ve had a cocktail of medication this morning (which means I’m feeling slightly loopy!) and right now I’m contemplating whether to go for a lap of the ward, to stretch my legs.
You see, three out of the five visits have been overnighters which have resulted in me becoming pretty nifty at packing an overnight bag and knowing exactly what to expect from a stay at hospital.
Whether you have surgery coming up, have a chronic illness or have had an accident that means you have to stay in for observations, here is what you can expect from an overnight stay in hospital.
I am only basing this on my own experiences of hospital and understand that not everyone will have these exact experiences. The aim of this post is to ease anyone’s fears that they may have if they ever have to take a visit to the hospital.
When you arrive
This will be different depending on the reason you are visiting, but if we take the example of being in pain, or having an accident, you would either take yourself to A&E or call an ambulance. If you are able to get to A&E by yourself, then it is advised, however depending on when you go in, there can be upwards of a four-hour wait to be seen by a doctor. I once went in at 8pm on a Sunday night and it still took over two hours to be seen.
If it is more serious, calling a paramedic is a quicker option for pain relief. They are limited to what they can give you, however they act like your advocates for when you arrive at the hospital, explaining to the nurse exactly what has happened and how they have treated you.
Whether you have arrived via ambulance or went straight to A&E yourself, the first person you will see is a nurse, who will take your observations (blood pressure, heart rate etc) and some blood. Depending on why you have gone in, a doctor would then come around and assess whether you need to be admitted.
This is what can take the most time because, as you can understand, hospitals are busy places and operate on a triage system. The doctors may need to do more tests and/or x-rays before taking you up to the ward, or the ward may just not be ready for you yet. Having beds available is one of the biggest problems facing the NHS, so a lot of your time may be spent in the assessment unit waiting for a bed to become available.
Arriving at your ward
When the ward is ready for you, you will be taken up by the nurse who treated you in A&E and ‘handed’ over to the nurse in charge of that ward who will be given your notes and an explanation of everything from your A&E nurse. You’ll be taken to the assessment unit on that ward before being given a bed and, again, this can take time as paperwork needs to be completed. During this time you may be seen again by another doctor, this time to come up with a plan for treatment.
Eventually, you will be given a bed in a ward, or, if you are lucky, your own separate side room. Now it’s time to be looked after! The nurses and healthcare assistants are there to administer pain relief, give you food and water and check on your observations every few hours. Out of all of my visits, I have always had a positive experience, with the nurses always been incredibly helpful and just badass at their jobs.
Twice a day, doctors will also come around to do their ’rounds’ (it’s very Grey’s Anatomy!), to check up on all the patients and see if anything has changed. Therefore you are constantly monitored and can be kept in the loop of what is going on with your treatment.
What to pack for an overnight stay
Usually, when you go into hospital you haven’t packed an overnight bag in anticipation, so it’ll usually be a partner, friend or relative who will be running back to yours to fetch you some bits. It’s nice to have some home comforts, but it is important not to bring *too* much as you could get moved and you’ll have to pack it all back up again.
With that in mind, this is what you should tell them to pack:
Entertainment Hospitals are boring so you need to be able to keep yourself occupied. Kindle, iPod, Phone, Laptop – bring all your gadgets and their chargers so you don’t get bored!
Toiletries Looking good is no-ones top priority when visiting hospital but you do want to feel *human*. A toothbrush, toothpaste, facecloth and deodorant is all you really need for an overnight stay, but if you are staying for longer, some shower gel, a nice fluffy towel and some dry shampoo will be your saviour. Also, if its needed, bring your own sanitary products. The products they use in hopsital are cheap and nasty and look like something out of the 1950’s. Save yourself and pack your own tampons or towels.
Comfy clothes The comfier the better. I actually have a dedicated set of pyjamas that I use just for hospital! Fluffy socks, slippers and a big hoody or dressing gown is good and if you can bring your own pillow, even better!
Snacks Fruit, popcorn, biscuits or some nuts are great hospital snack food.
After having a few stays in hospital, I’ve picked up a few things that I didn’t expect to discover…
Hospital food is not that bad I mean its no 5* restaurant quality stuff but it’s not as bad as everyone makes out either.
It can be quite relaxing It’s probably all the drugs talking, but an overnight stay means you don’t have to lift a finger. You have medication on tap, food delivered, water next to you at all times and a button to press if you need anything. By no means do I want to dismiss anyone’s pain, but having the nurses being able to look after you 24/7 is better than being ill on the sofa!
It’s better to keep your curtains open When I first stayed in hospital I closed my curtains, wanting my own privacy. Now, I keep them wide open, interact with the other ladies on the ward and watch people come and go. Sometimes, its a nice distraction for the pain you are in!
A Final Note
I couldn’t write a whole post about hospitals and not give a mention to the *incredible* staff that work in them. Quite simply, NHS staff are superheroes. I don’t know how they do the job that they do, under the pressures that they face and still keep on smiling. It is remarkable.
Every single time I’ve ever visited, the staff have been lovely. My illness reloves around sensitive issues and I’ve been in some pretty embarrassing situations. The staff have always maintained my dignity and level of comfort. I understand that it is their job but the level of care they give really is outstanding.
It’s normal about being apprehensive and scared to go to hospital, but the level of care that the staff give can make the whole experience less scary. I promise.
I hope you find this little guide useful and has put your mind at ease if you ever have to go to hopsital. I’ve talked about my endometriosis story here, but if you have any questions don’t hesitate to send me a private message on Twitter or on Instagram.