“Nurse Tips” for being a GREAT Patient or Caregiver

It’s no secret that my family has had a few major surgeries here lately… 4 surgeries between 2 patients to be exact. This year has been especially weird for me because it is my first year as a working nurse in a surgical department- so this is the first time I’ve had a legitimate working knowledge of the process, risks, side effects, etc. This is also my first time since school being a patient family member who is scared, nervous, and ready for it all to be over. The past few months have been a major learning experience and I believe nursing school has given me so much more perspective, while being a family member has made me a better nurse… *Obviously, every relationship, surgery, circumstance is different.. but overall people usually need & appreciate help, so step up & do what you can for those you care about.

Here are some random “nursey things” I think of now that I would have never even worried about before…

Before Surgery-

  • Think WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY with all plans
  • Pre Op appointments are important, who all is going to attend?
  • Make sure everyone understands the procedure & treatment plan
  • Ask any and all questions prior- the team (doctors, PAs, NPs, nurses, social workers, case managers, etc) are there to help you & make you feel safe
  • Paperwork- is everything complete & located prior- Advance Directives, Power of Attorney, Living Will, FMLA
  • How long will the recovery be? What can you plan out in advance or what services can you automate? Think- bill pay, house cleaning services, meal planning, lawn care
  • Is the house set up appropriately for recovery? Does furniture need to be moved around, extra pillows needed or even possible a lap desk or extra side table?
  • Create a week of timeline for the week of surgery- plan ahead who is driving, what time you’re leaving, know the location
  • Have an overnight bag packed for your hospital stay- robe, slippers, extension cord, change of clothes, headphones…
  • Don’t forget ID cards, insurance cards!

During Surgery-

  • Who will be there in the waiting room?
  • Who will update important family members via text?
  • Who is planning to stay the night… not much sleep goes on at the hospital & you would be amazed by how much help a family/friend can be… you know how they communicate best, what their preferences are & ways to cheer them up or motivate them
  • Runner- assign a “runner” someone who is available to drop off or pick up food/snacks, go out for coffee…

After Surgery-

  • After surgery- typically there is a limited amount of visitors, so be sure not to overwhelm the system, take turns
  • Be a patient advocate- you can respect the professionals and still stick up for the patient, encourage them to ask questions & feel heard
  • While in the hospital- utilize the call bell! This is the best & most efficient way to get specific answers or tasks completed
  • Ask the team what to look out for & what is important to monitor (surgery/patient dependent) it’s possible it can be: urine output, bowel movement frequency, pain management, infection control, bleeding, range of motion, activity levels, etc…
  • Always confirm the patient’s assigned diet- you don’t want to accidentally give them something that could upset their stomach or complicate recovery

During Recovery-

  • Upon discharge- make sure everyone is aware of the discharge instructions and future care plan
  • Know which pharmacy the medications are being sent to and clarify who is going to pick them up
  • Make sure to know the emergency healthcare contact information
  • Figure out which snacks are needed/wanted & stock up
  • Make sure you are stocked up on all recovery supplies, it could be anything, possibly: a blood pressure cuff, ice packs, heat pack, stool softeners, scale, pain relievers, assistive devices…
  • Plan a meal delivery system with those interested
  • Have comfy clothes & PJs washed & ready to go
  • Have chill recovery ideas planned- puzzle, Netflix, charge devices- tablet/laptop/phone
  • Schedule hangouts & phone calls as needed/wanted- a quick visit can make a huge impact!
  • Keep a medication schedule- typically there are a few extra/new medications to keep up with after surgery, make a chart & check off when/what was given, it will make life easier for everyone!
  • Mail a Get Well Card
  • Be patient & check in, recovery can take a very long time- don’t forget to have compassion & empathy during the process
  • Don’t write someone off either though, make future plans so they have something to look forward to!
  • Delegate & get organized- use your village to split up follow up appointments, staying the night and/or checking in

Phew! I believe that is all I have for now! This information is not to overwhelm, but to help you think outside of the box… when taking on a new project out of your element it can be difficult to think of it all! Lean on your friends/family, those who have had similar experiences, and the healthcare team… you will be amazed with all of the help! I am so thankful for my village & how we care for each other, it takes a team!

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