Tips For a Better Surgery Experience and to Improve Your Hospital Stay

Low Stress Hospital Recovery

before surgery, patient before surgery, patient hospital gown
Patient Before Surgery. Image: © Getty Images

11 Tips to Improve Your Hospital Stay

If you are having surgery and expecting to be hospitalized for a few days, you may have concerns about your stay. There are many ways to improve your time in the hospital, but some of the best things you can do to help yourself take some advance planning. Plan to reduce your stress and anxiety levels before, during and after your stay and you may be surprised by how quickly you feel better.

Take Care of The Financial Issues Early

If you are able to, taking care of the financial arrangements for your hospitalization beforehand can lead to less worrying. Wondering how much your insurance will pay--if at all--can be extremely stressful. Phone calls to the hospital, your insurance company and your employer can help relieve stress by helping you determine that you have crossed your T's and dotted your I's when it comes to all of the paperwork that comes along with being in the hospital. You will breathe easier if your primary concern is getting well, rather than the medical bills that you may receive later.

How to Pay For Surgery

Be Willing to Ask Visitors to Leave

It may sound rude, but it truly isn't. Being willing to ask visitors to leave (or prearranging with the nurse to ask visitors to leave after a short visit) is just another way to take good care of yourself. Some people are great visitors, they don't engage the patient in conversation when they would rather be sleeping, they are quiet and calm and generally a pleasant person to have hanging out in the room.

Other people insist on waking the patient, bringing up stressful topics of conversation, sitting on the bed even when the patient would prefer they did not, eat food in front of a patient who isn't allowed to eat and all sorts of things that the staff and patient wish they would not do. You are not in the hospital to entertain friends, coworkers and long lost family members, you are there to get treatment, get well and go home.

If your visitors are wearing you out, it is time for them to head to the cafeteria or go home.

How to Be a Good Visitor

Limit Your Guest List

If your friends, coworkers and long lost family members are the type that wear a person out and make a recovery more challenging than it needs to be, consider keeping your procedure or the location of your procedure a bit of a secret. Tell the people that you would like to hear from during your hospital stay that you would love to talk to them on the phone or see them, and inform the rest of your acquaintances after you are discharged from the hospital. If anyone comments on being left in the dark, you could say that you just weren't ready to talk about it.

Plan For Help at Home

You may need help at home both during and after your hospitalization. It may be something as simple as feeding your cat for a day, or it could be something as challenging as finding child care for several days and nights. Make these arrangements well in advance so that you have the help that you need when you need it.

Make a list of the things that must be accomplished during your hospitalization, and the things you will need help with after you return home. For some people who are given lifting restrictions after surgery, ordinary tasks like grocery shopping and laundry become complicated. For others, fatigue makes it difficult to complete ordinary chores like making a meal. Asking a friend to visit for an hour or two a day may be all the assistance you need to recover at home.

Ten Things to Have at Home After Surgery

Arrange For Transportation

Be sure to find someone to take you to and from the hospital. You may be able to drive yourself to the hospital, but driving home is best left to someone else. Keep your driver posted on your expected date of release, no one wants to be left waiting at the hospital for hours when they finally get permission to go home.

When is it Safe to Drive After Surgery?

Entertain Yourself

If you are in the hospital, the general idea is that you rest and recover until you are well enough to go home. That said, a person can only sleep so many hours a day, and that can leave many hours to fill. This may be your opportunity to catch up on the television show that you love but can never find time to watch, read a book, or even do some quiet activity like knitting. While taking your laptop and doing all of the work you would typically do at your job from the comfort of your hospital bed is probably not a good idea, catching up on some fun activities will help brighten your day and keep the hours from dragging. You can even take some music with you, as long as it doesn't disturb anyone else. An mp3 player is a great way to listen to music with headphones, just don't forget to take the charger.

Be Comfortable

If you are going to be in the hospital, you may as well be comfortable. For you that may mean your favorite pajamas and bath robe. For others, it may mean their pillow from home, a blanket or their best bunny slippers. Hospital gowns are notorious for being overly revealing. If you are able to wear your own things, you may find that to be much more comfortable than what the hospital provides.

Your comfort will be very important after surgery, and pain medication can only do so much. In addition to pain relievers, you can also reduce your pain by relaxing and getting enough sleep along with other pain relieving techniques.

9 Ways to Improve Your Pain Management

Pack Well

Packing well can make the difference between a boring, uncomfortable stay and a more pleasant experience. Don't forget some comfortable shoes, some clothes that won't rub against your incision and your toiletries.

What to Take to the Hospital (leave valuables at home!)

Ask Questions Before You Go to the Hospital

Don't wait until the minutes before your surgery to ask the burning questions that you truly need answered. If you are scheduled for surgery and you have additional questions, call the surgeon's office. You don't want to get an answer you don't like immediately before the procedure when you will have to make a quick decision. Gather the information that you need in advance of your surgery so that you know you have made the right decision before you go to the hospital.

Questions to Ask Before Surgery

Minimize Stress at the Hospital

Stress is an inevitable part of being in the hospital, there are concerns about getting well, getting home, getting past the painful early days after surgery and so may other worries that are a normal part of the experience. Try to avoid additional sources of stress. For some, that may be avoiding the 24 hour news stations on television. For others stress reduction may mean avoiding having too many visitors, or getting frequent updates about how their children are doing with their temporary caregiver.

Identify what increases your stress level and take action to prevent those stressors from making your hospital stay any more stressful than it has to be. For some patients, just the idea of leaving their cell phone at home causes a great deal of stress, for others it is the ideal way to get some rest.

Coping With Surgery Fear and Anxiety

Review Preoperative Instructions

This may sound silly, but surgeries are cancelled every day because the patient didn't follow preoperative instructions. Imagine going through all of the trouble to arrange for a ride to and from the hospital, a kennel for your dogs, filling prescriptions and taking a week off of work only to learn that you won't be having surgery because you drank a glass of orange juice before you left for the hospital. It happens and it is frustrating for everyone involved. In the week before your procedure, take the time to review the instructions provided to you and plan to follow them.


Stress Management. Medline Plus. Accessed September 2013.

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