What To Expect When Hospitalized – On Caring and Grief
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What To Expect When Hospitalized

  posted on:  June 14, 2017

Regardless of the reason, being hospitalized can be scary. It can also be extremely frustrating. Often, a lot of that fear and frustration has to do with the fact that many people don’t know what to really expect when hospitalized. Sure, you’re packet from the hospital welcoming you to your hospital stay gives you an idea, but it’s a…glorified idea. We touched on this topic before when I recommended Katie Kleber’s book, Admit One:  What You MUST Know When Going to the Hospital, But No One Actually Tells You. This book is a must read if you are expecting or face the possibility of being hospitalized in the future. However, there are many things about being hospitalized that are often left unspoken, leaving patients and future patients with a false understanding. Having a solid understanding of what being hospitalized is really like, in my opinion, is something everyone should have.

To help with this topic, I asked a dear friend of mine, a nurse practitioner who we will call NP A, for some tips nurses wish their patients and their families knew at the start of their hospitalization to help ease their frustration, much of which is taken out on nurses.

It’s Not Unusual for Nurses to Take Care of Three to Six Patients At a Time…

…and depending on the state, possibly more. If this sounds concerning to you, well, it should. It is concerning to many nurses, too. However, this is the reality in a healthcare system in which hospital organizations care more about keeping costs low (some will say to pad CEO salaries) than making patient safety their top priority. This means that, while nurses understand that whatever you or your loved one has going on is scary and terrible, sometimes, there are patients under their care who are sicker than you or your loved one, and the nurse has to prioritize care. So sometimes, whatever you are requiring from your nurse may have to wait. It doesn’t mean whatever your need is is not important, and the nurse isn’t being mean, but sometimes there are other things to attend to before they can get to your need.

Speaking of Prioritizing Care…Your Nurse Is Not Going To Do Everything. Some Things Will Be Done By a CNA or PCA

Unless you’re in the ICU, your vitals, I/Os, etc. will most likely be taken by a CNA (certified nursing assistant) or a PCA (patient care assistant). Nurses carry out doctors orders throughout the day, get you your medication in a timely fashion, monitor your condition in order to report changes to the doctor as soon as possible, and get you feeling as well as you can. All of that takes time so smaller tasks are better left in the capable hands of CNAs/PCAs.

Utilizing CNAs or PCAs to take on some of the…mundane tasks is not a new practice. And while it may seem concerning to you at first, keep this in mind: many CNAs and PCAs are nursing students. Not all, but many are.

Nurses Cannot Do Anything Without an Official Order

This is for your safety. If you or your loved one has been without eating or drinking for a few days, and the doctor just said it is ok for you/them to have some ice chips, in that moment, waiting for those ice chips may feel like life and death to you.  Nurses get it.  But just because the doctor told you that, does not mean they took the time to write an order for that.  If there is no order, the nurse CANNOT give you ice, or anything else for that matter.  Many times doctors round first thing in the morning, verbalize what the plan is, and leave.  They may have left your room, but that doesn’t mean they are finished with rounds. They will typically round on ALL their patients, in the ENTIRE hospital, before they sit down and write orders for each one.  So whatever they outlined for you for the day, is not going to happen right away, and it does you no good to get upset with the nurse.  Nurses hands are tied until there is an order.  It’s the law.

Hospital Food Sucks

However, you cannot have outside food or drink brought in without clearing it with the nurse or doctor.  Nurses appreciate that your grandmother swears by this miraculous tea that has been passed down generations as a cure all, BUT there are things that can interfere with the medication you are receiving and actually cause problems.  Don’t just assume because the doctor has said you can eat and drink, that this means anything and everything.  Run it by the nurse first.  If it’s mom’s home cooked meal, chances are it will be ok, but please ask first.

The Good News Is: You CanTrust Your Nurses, They Got Your Back

Nurses spend most of their time with you/your loved one.  You may only see the doctor for a few minutes during rounds.  You can ask us to page the doctor later in the day, but there is never a guarantee that they will come back to talk to you.  Trust that we are in constant communication with them, we are their eyes and ears, and even though you may not see them often, they know what is going on with you.  Trust what your nurse is telling you.  We are in the know and we’ve got your back.


I am not a healthcare professional. I am not a doctor. I am not a nurse. I am not a social worker. I am simply sharing the information learned from my own experience. Your experience is going to be different. 

By reading, and if you chose, utilizing any information, tips, etc. found on On Caring and Grief you are doing so at your own risk.

Opinions expressed here on On Caring and Grief are mine and mine alone.