Surgery Success – How To Get What You Want From Your Hospital Visit –

Surgery Success – How To Get What You Want From Your Hospital Visit

With Knowledge & Preparation, a Scary Experience Becomes Life-Affirming

surgery success

Surgery Success is measured by you, the patient. Not by the hospital. Not by the medical team.

And with knowledge and preparation, you can enjoy the best possible surgery success, regardless of your medical condition.

Your Surgery Success means that:

  • You are confident in the skill and dedication of your doctors.
  • Your medical team has answered all your questions about what to expect before, during and after your hospital surgery.
  • Every nurse and doctor whom you see is fully up-to-date on your medical situation.
  • The hospital staff is conscientious about cleanliness, record-keeping and personal service.
  • You do not acquire any hospital-borne infections.
  • After your surgery, your medical condition is as good as, or better than, you were told to expect.
  • You are able to resume normal life within a time you consider reasonable, taking into account the nature of your hospital surgery.

This is the Surgery Success Cornerstone or Hub How To Page. It tells how you can arrange to have the most successful surgery, with links to related articles on about Surgery Success.

Here’s the plan for the rest of this page:

  • I. Steps To Take In Advance of Surgery
  • II. Checklists for the Patient
  • III. Two Kinds of Hospital Surgery: Scheduled, and Emergency

I. In Advance: Establish Robust Medical Care Before You Need It

Long before hospital surgery becomes likely, there are steps you can take that will ensure surgery success when you need it.

At the risk of being obvious, there are three key ingredients for quality medical care:

1. People

You need medical caregivers who are competent, explain things clearly, and who are personally interested in your good health. If you pay attention, in just a few visits to a doctor you can judge whether he or she cares about you, can diagnose what ails you, and can prescribe the right cure.

Are you comfortable with your life in this person’s hands? If not, get a new doctor! Ask friends, ask medical professionals, and don’t give up until you feel confident in your care. And make sure you see your primary doctor and any specialists on a regular basis, so they have a good baseline about your health.

2. Facilities

Someday, you may need a hospital. Whether it’s a quick visit to the emergency room or serious surgery, you should know in advance where you want to go for treatment.

How would you decide? Ask the experience of friends, and seek out whatever public data exists in your state. Check your local hospitals and learn about their hygiene programs, checklists, and medical data systems.

When hospital care is needed, you’re likely to wind up at a hospital close to where you live. Therefore, well in advance you should mentally assign quality grades to your nearby hospitals, so you can make sure you go to a facility in which you have confidence. Here are factors you may be able to gain information on:

  • Hygiene.

    Patients in hospitals carry an astounding array of bacteria and viruses, some of which cause serious diseases. Moreover, if you’re in the hospital, whatever condition put you there may also have impaired your immune system. Therefore you are especially susceptible to picking up a hospital-borne infection. A good hospital will be proud of its hygiene program and happy to tell you about it. The following article describes ongoing research to monitor and improve hospital cleanliness:

– Hospital Infection: Healing May Kill You

  • Checklists.

    The use of checklists for many hospital routines, and especially in surgery, has improved successful surgery by drastically reducing poor medical outcomes. Your local hospitals may tell you how they use checklists, and how they measure the effectiveness of their procedures. This article summarizes some victories of checklists, and some areas where they are not yet helping:

– Surgical Checklists Save Lives — but Once in a While, They Don’t. Why? – The New York Times

  • Other Hospital Data.

    Modern hospitals have medical data systems that track patients in their care. An effective data system is used by every nurse and doctor who sees you, to keep your medical record 100% up to date. And hospitals that collect and control their data can also tell you the surgery success rate of their hospital for an operation of the type you may need to have.

3. Money

Health care costs money, sometimes serious money. It’s quite risky to self-insure – after all, this is your life you’re talking about. Health insurance is a basic necessity. It should cover the most serious conditions that may visit you. Note that you may not find affordable insurance once you acquire a serious health problem. Therefore, you want to have insurance in place while you are still healthy.

These three foundations – people, facilities and money – you can take care of well before you need surgery. They will greatly enhance your chance of surgery success!

II. Surgery Success Checklists for the Patient

surgery success - intravenous

Above we mentioned how important it is for hospitals to use surgery checklists to prevent stupid mistakes from endangering patients. However, checklists are also useful for the patient.

I’ve seen two types of useful checklist. The rarest, but most useful, checklist gives a global view of what to do both before and during your hospital visit. This excellent guide from Real Simple is worth a look in advance of any hospital stay:

– Prepping for a Hospital Stay Checklist

What To Pack

The other type of checklist, the kind you usually see, advises you what to pack to make your hospital visit more comfortable. Because the checklists vary quite a bit, it’s worth reviewing several of them to see which items seem most useful to you. Here are several that looked good to me:

– Hospital Bag Checklist/ What to Pack for Surgery

– 10 Tips for Packing for a Hospital Stay

This checklist is aimed especially at women giving birth:

– 11 Items to Pack in Your Hospital Bag

The following checklist is more detailed. It was developed by a woman dealing with chronic illness necessitating multiple hospital visits:

– 30 Items to Pack in Your Hospital Bag for a More Comfortable Stay


Art’s Additional Tips

I have no quarrel with the checklists. Depending on who you are and how long you are in the hospital, any of the suggestions may be useful. But here are some additional points you may find helpful.

Things to remember about hospital surgery:

  • Connections.

    You’re going to have connections to stuff. Every patient needs their arms available for blood draws. Most patients will have an intravenous tube that interferes with clothing such as pullovers and cardigans. Some will have connections that interfere with lower body clothing.

  • Chilly.

    Patients find hospital rooms chilly. It’s helpful to have something to add warmth and block drafts. Because of the “connections” mentioned above, items of clothing may be less useful than a throw (like a stadium blanket) or a shawl. Whatever you bring into the hospital may pick up exotic germs. Therefore, you should wash or dry clean it after you return home.

  • Walking.

    Walking is very desirable, even if it’s only for ten minutes at a time. Getting out of bed and moving helps prevent blood clots, avoid bed sores and keeps your muscles in tone. Hospital gowns are notoriously high-exposure on the back side. You’ll find it desirable to have a light robe or sweatpants that you can put on, for the sake of modesty or to avoid alarming hospital visitors.

  • Knowledge.

    Knowledge is power, and knowledge helps you heal. Don’t abdicate personal responsibility. You owe it to yourself to understand what your nurses and doctors know about your medical condition. Questions will occur to you when no one is around to answer them. You should write them down so you’ll remember to ask them when the doctor next comes by.

What About Personal Electronics?

The checklists referenced above show a serious difference of opinion in one area: personal electronics.

Everyone agrees that you need some way to entertain yourself and to block out surrounding noise. If you have not managed to arrange a private room, that noise may come from the obnoxious TV program your roommate plays at top volume when you are trying to nap. An obvious solution is a pair of earphones attached to some electronics: an mp3 player, video player or online device.

However, there are two problems associated with personal electronics:

  • In some hospital settings, electronic devices are prohibited, even the ones that don’t radiate. The staff fears, rightly or wrongly, that their use may interfere with medical equipment.
  • Personal electronics can get lost or stolen, and the hospital will not take responsibility if that happens. And even if your stuff never goes astray, it will not help your healing to be worried that it might go astray!

I think the best solution is to minimize what you bring into the hospital. Certainly, no jewelry, credit cards or valuables. And if you bring electronic devices, make them inexpensive items such as an iPod or basic e-book reader. Such things are less likely to be stolen, and less likely to cause you heartbreak if they go missing.

Prep Your Phone

What about a cellphone? You need the ability to keep in touch with family and friends. Yes, you could stay in touch by preparing a list of phone numbers and using your room phone to call people. However, bringing your own phone with its address book is much easier.

However! Your cellphone contains personal and financial information that you do not want to share. You should back up the phone to your computer before your hospital stay. Make sure your phone is password-protected. And then set up the phone so that its data is automatically erased if someone keeps entering the wrong passcode. [On iPhone, go to Settings >Touch ID & Passcode and turn “Erase Data” on.] These steps are not 100% perfect, but they are reasonable precautions to take.

surgery success - hospital bed

III. Two Kinds of Hospital Surgery

There are basically two kinds of hospital surgery. One type allows you to schedule it, and prepare for it. The other comes as a surprise, as an emergency.

In 2017 I happened to have both types of hospital surgery. You may be one of those people who find checklists like the above to be boring or impersonal. They prefer to prepare by knowing what the experience is like, first-hand. Therefore, for those who find that useful, I’m happy to share my adventures with you.

Surgery Success with a Scheduled Operation

Often you have the leeway to schedule a hospital operation in advance. Sometimes the surgery is elective, a matter of choice. More frequently, it’s something you need to have done but it’s not time-urgent, you can choose the date.

When you can plan ahead for a scheduled operation, you have time to take the advice of sections I and II above. Also, you can choose dates that best fit your personal and work life. In addition, you can pick dates when friends or family are available to assist you or provide emotional support.

When I had hospital surgery in May 2017 I was able to schedule it months in advance. Once I realized that my enlarged prostate would eventually require surgery I wanted to get it taken care of as soon as possible. However, I could probably have delayed prostate surgery for six months or more if I had chosen to.

Although my prostate surgery was for a specifically male problem, I believe that my hospital stay was typical of any short-stay hospital procedure. Therefore, you may appreciate reading part or all of the following five-part blog on my experience:

– #1 Hospital Surgery: What Everyone Must Know
– #2 Hospital Surgery: That Scary Anesthesia
– #3 Hospital Surgery: Recovery & Discharge
– #4 Hospital Surgery: Prostate Enlargement Versus Cancer
– #5 Hospital Surgery: Prostatectomy Cures BPH

surgery success - emergency

Surgery Success with an Emergency Operation

Less frequently, you have no advance warning about hospital surgery. You might be injured in an accident. You might suffer a stroke or seizure of some type. Or, as in my case, you might receive a call from your doctor instructing you to check yourself into a nearby hospital without delay!

If you find yourself facing an emergency operation, you may have little or no time to prepare for it. In that case, I hope that you have previously taken care of the items in Section I above (In Advance: Establish Robust Medical Care Before You Need It). As far as Section II goes (Surgery Success Checklists for the Patient), you will have to rely on a nearby family member or friend, or just manage as best you can.

My heart surgery in November 2017 was the immediate result of tests conducted by my cardiologist. She felt sufficiently alarmed by the state of my heart valve that she wanted to correct it immediately.

The heart surgery had to take precedence over everything else I had planned or might have wanted to do. Fortunately, the surgery occurred at a time when I was not traveling for six weeks. My doctors cooperated to fit my hospital operation and my recovery into that time window, so the rest of my life was not seriously disrupted.

I had help from family members, including Nola. They were able to help me with the section II items above to ease my hospital stay.

My heart surgery was highly urgent and qualified as an unplanned emergency. I experienced another emergency surgery following my hip fracture in February 2019, as described here:
– Hip Fracture for Art: The Fall in Paradise

Emergency Operation Details

My heart surgery was typical of a serious hospital operation, one requiring a long hospital stay. [In my case, I was in the hospital for sixteen nights.] I offer the following five-part blog as representative of that type of hospital experience:

– #1 Heart Surgery – Highly Likely for You or a Family Member
– #2 Heart Surgery – What Brings Us to the Operating Room Before Surgery
– #3 Heart Surgery – Valve Surgery Operation & the Intensive Care Unit
– #4 Heart Surgery – Life Beyond: Post Surgery Recovery
– #5 Heart Surgery – Surgery Cost: Medicare Coverage and Hospital Staff

Hospital surgery is a frequent necessity in everyone’s quest to be healthy. And the steps described above can assure surgery success when you face that event. Your comments and suggestions are welcome (send me a note on the Contact page! And please register here to learn about new posts as soon as they are published:

Image Credits:
– Doctors and Surgery, by j4p4n on

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