Do You Know Your Hospital Rights?

woman hospital patient sitting upright on stretcher( — As a former Nurse Care Manager for people with chronic illness, I’ve done my share of advocating while my patients were in the hospital. A large part of that work entailed teaching patients how to advocate for themselves, feel empowered within the health care system, and learn how to take charge when it was appropriate to do so.

Just recently, my wife was hospitalized for a very aggressive bacterial respiratory infection, and we were very grateful for the care and attention that she received during her 48-hour stay. Luckily, the infection was caught early enough and timely intervention prevented any serious complications.

In my wife’s case, it was not appropriate for her to make sound decisions when her blood oxygen saturation plummeted and she couldn’t think straight. But once she stabilized, she took the bull by the horns and made her needs known to the staff whenever necessary. As her husband (and private nurse!), it was then my job to sit back, observe, and chime in at opportune times, making sure that t’s were crossed, i’s were dotted, and promised care delivered.

Question Anything

The first thing to be learned about hospitalization is that you have a right to question everything that is done to you—or suggested to be done to you. When in the Emergency Department, we have to understand that, when under duress and slammed with patients, ED docs cast a wide net, ordering tests and procedures faster than you can say “Code Blue”. To some extent, this is prudent and conservative medicine that can save your life. On the other hand, many unnecessary tests are ordered in haste by physicians who simply need to cover their bases (and their posteriors!) in an efficient manner.

This is all well and good, but if you’re uninsured and come to the ED for care, you certainly don’t want to pay for a clinically unnecessary CT scan simply because your doctor was worried she might have overlooked something. Question the relative need for certain tests and procedures, and be on the look out for lazy ordering that is simply making up for a lack of time for a thorough exam and history.