Surgery and your safety

Photo of a kiwi

There are several things you can do to help your surgery be as safe as possible, and to protect your health and the health of others.

You are the most important part of your health care team

Here are some ways to work with your surgery team.

Ask questions

Write down any questions you have about your surgery and bring the list to your appointments. After your questions are answered, be sure to repeat the information in your own words. This helps your doctor ensure that the information is clear to you. It's a good idea to ask questions:

  • before you are given a medical test
  • when your doctor prescribes medication
  • before you begin a medical treatment

Bring a friend

Invite a friend or family member to come with you. He or she can help you ask questions, remember answers, and help out if you're having trouble communicating.

Help us stop the spread of infections

Wash your hands

Photo of a surgeon washing his handsAsk us if we've washed our hands. Cleaning our hands, before and after contact with every patient, reduces the risk of infection.

Remember to wash your hands after you use the bathroom and before you eat. You can use soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Cover your cough

If you sneeze or cough, turn your face away from others and cough into your elbow or use a tissue. Throw the tissue away and then clean your hands with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth to prevent spreading germs.

Be sure that visitors and family members who come to see you are not sick with a cold or the flu, and that they wash their hands before and after their visit.

Be safe

Sometimes, you may have an infection or other condition that requires extra precautions so it isn't spread to other patients. If so, your caregivers may use gowns, gloves, or masks to care for you. You and your family will be given further instructions about this if needed.

Tell your team about your medications

Bring a list of all your medications to your appointments, including over-the-counter medicines and any vitamins or herbal supplements.

Make sure you understand what your medications are for and how to take them. Ask about side effects and which activities, foods, drinks, nonprescription drugs, or herbal supplements to avoid.

Be patient with your team's questions

Different members of your medical team may ask you the same questions several times, such as your name or whether you have allergies. Asking these questions is one way we make sure that you're getting the right care.

Understand your test results

If your surgery includes medical tests, you can view test results online and learn what they mean. If you don't see your results online, ask your doctor how to get them. Call your doctor or nurse if you have any questions.

Talk about your expectations

Talk to your doctor about the results you expect from your surgery. Discuss what your recovery time might be and ask if your expectations are realistic.

Call for help right away

While you are in the hospital, we want to respond to changes in your condition quickly. Contact the nurse in charge or the supervisor if you or your family member has concerns about your condition, treatment, services, or safety. You'll get additional information while you are in the hospital on how to get immediate help.

Create an advance health care directive

An advance health care directive is an important legal document that describes your treatment wishes. It allows you to choose someone to make decisions for you if you are unable to make decisions or speak for yourself.

Learn to care for yourself at home

Make sure you know which medications to take and how often, when your follow-up tests or appointments are, and when you can go back to your regular diet and activities. If you are unsure about anything, ask any member of your medical team.

If you have concerns about your safety or your care, please talk about them with your health care team. If you don't understand the answers you receive, always ask for more information. Our goal is to provide you with the safest care possible.

Learn about our quality of care and patient safety

Patient safety is one of our top priorities, and it's a critical component of all our quality-improvement programs. We have many systems in place to help keep patients safe and reduce the possibility of errors.

Learn more about quality of care and patient safety at Kaiser Permanente.

Reviewed by Kaiser Permanente in 2018

Surgery and your safety

Learn about the steps you and your surgery team will take to ensure your safety.

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