Preparing for Your Hospital Stay

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Not all hospital stays begin in the emergency room. Sometimes you have time to prepare for a scheduled hospital stay. But even when you don't have an emergency medical problem, getting ready to go to the hospital may leave you feeling overwhelmed and even a little stressed. By taking steps to prepare for your stay ahead of time, you can get control of some of that stress and save that energy for feeling better as soon as possible.

  • Plan ahead for those medical bills.

    Most insurance plans require that you let them know ahead of time about your hospital stay. If you don't, there's a risk that the plan will refuse to cover your stay.

    You'll also want to make sure that the hospital you're going to is covered under your plan.

  • Call the hospital's billing department if you have no insurance.

    Ask them what they can do to help you. Many hospitals have financial counselors. They will likely arrange a payment plan for you. They may even offer you a discount.

    Your hospital may offer a larger discount if you pay all or some of the bill ahead of time. You may also be able to negotiate with various care providers to lower the cost of your stay and treatment.

    If you have little or no income, you may qualify for a hospital's charity care program or government assistance.

  • Make your wishes known to loved ones.

    Before you go into the hospital, fill out a living will and medical power of attorney.

    It's smart to have these documents ready—and to make sure your loved ones know where they are—because in the unlikely event that they're needed, they will be a huge help to your family.

    • Living will. This is a document that states your wishes about end-of-life medical treatment if you are unable to speak for yourself.
    • Medical power of attorney. This document names a health care agent, someone you choose who will make medical decisions on your behalf when you're not able to do so.
  • Decide about banking blood.

    If you are going to have surgery and expect to need a blood transfusion, you may want to bank your own blood a few weeks before the surgery. If you do need a transfusion, doctors can use your own blood.

    Many people consider this choice to protect themselves from the risks of disease or mismatched blood that are linked to blood transfusion. Talk to your doctor about your risks.

  • Take care of pre-hospital tasks.

    Check that you have arranged for things to be taken care of while you're gone—like child and pet care, yard care, collecting your mail, and paying your bills.

    If possible, ask a relative or other loved one to be your helper, to go with you to the hospital and be with you as much as possible during your stay. This person can keep an eye on you, alert nurses when needed, make sure your questions get answered, and take notes when the doctor visits you.

    If you're going in for surgery, follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking.

  • Make a hospital packing list.
    • Fill out and collect all your paperwork, including:
      • Your insurance card.
      • A list of emergency contact names and phone numbers.
      • A list of all medicines.
    • Decide which personal and comfort items you want to bring, such as:
      • Your eyeglasses.
      • Your cell phone and charger or a prepaid phone card.
      • Toiletries, like soap, shampoo, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, hairbrush, and a shaver.
  • Make a last-minute checklist.
    • Shower or bathe before you leave. If you're having surgery, don't shave the surgery area yourself.
    • Remove any nail polish or makeup.
    • Remove all jewelry, including wedding rings. Not only can these things get in the way of some tests and treatments, they can also be places where germs collect and multiply.


Current as of: August 6, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.