Recent studies show that the more actively involved a patient is in their own healthcare, the better the outcome. According to Jeannie Dew, Director of Surgical Services at Yavapai Regional Medical Center (YRMC), this active participation is vital when a patient is preparing for an upcoming surgery.
“When patients are optimized for surgery, they have the best chance of an excellent outcome,” says Dew. “And that’s our goal. We want our patients to be informed and have ownership. We want them to feel empowered to ask questions of any of the care team along the way. It’s a team effort, and it includes the patient.”
Dew indicates that there are steps that we can take that can help the preparation for surgery, the surgery itself, and recovery go more smoothly. She stresses that the steps mostly entail “thinking ahead and asking questions.”
Prior to surgery, Dew says that making an effort to be in good physical shape can make a difference. She notes however, that this can be difficult, depending on the type of surgery that is scheduled, but emphasizes that there are other things a patient can do, such as quitting smoking, controlling one’s diet and staying hydrated. You can ask your healthcare provider for specific recommendations. Getting enough sleep and limiting your exposure to sick people is also key.
Preparing the Home
“In the days or weeks prior to the surgery, make sure your home is conducive to recovery,” states Dew. “Find out what you’ll need once you’re home, such as a walker, cane, or commode seat, and make sure you have these things ahead of time. Eliminate throw rugs and other tripping hazards, and make sure you have a comfortable chair that you can get in and out of.”
It’s important to know that setting up safe transportation home with a responsible friend or family member is required when you are discharged after your procedure, and arranging assistance at home is recommended for the first 24 hours while you are recovering from the anesthesia, and maybe beyond.
Make sure that the hospital has your medical history, as well as a current medication list and information regarding any issues you may have had with anesthesia in the past. You’ll want to provide your insurance information as well.
Talk to your physician about how to take your medications before your surgery. Certain types of medications may need to be discontinued for a period of time until after the surgery is completed. Similarly, know when to stop eating and drinking prior to your surgery. Your procedure may need to be rescheduled if these steps aren’t followed.
If you develop a fever, cold sores, rash, or any symptoms of a virus or infection, let your healthcare provider know immediately.
Make sure that you have completed all lab testing as recommended by your physician.
Go over your post-operative care instructions with your healthcare provider ahead of time. This may include how to take care of your incision and when you can begin eating and drinking fluids. It’s always recommended to have a friend or family member listen in as well, as you may not remember every detail. Many patients bring a notebook to jot down notes and questions that might arise.
Prior to your surgery, you’ll receive a phone call from the hospital with important instructions. Following these instructions will help ensure that your procedure will go ahead as scheduled. Make sure you ask any questions that may arise.
Olivia Marsh, Nurse Manager of Pre-Op and PACU at YRMC, offers these additional tips:
- Find out when and where to check in the day of your procedure. At YRMC, this is typically at Registration on the first floor. Check-in is usually done two hours prior to surgery.
- Know when to stop eating and drinking. This information is provided during the pre-admission phone call.
- If a red armband (indicating blood typing) has been placed on your wrist within 24 hours of the procedure, leave it in place. Do not remove it.
- Have your medical history, surgical history, and home medication list handy.
- Leave all unnecessary items at home, such as jewelry, electronics, and money.
- Wear loose and comfortable clothing. Make sure the clothing you choose is easy to put back on when getting ready to go home.
Think of ways that may make the process easier for you, such as:
- Whether you’d like to watch TV to help you relax before the procedure.
- Whether you want family members with you in recovery when it is appropriate.
- Setting goals for your pain management with your healthcare provider. For example, what level of pain are you expecting and what medications or non-medication interventions would you prefer?
Once you return home, your job will be to rest and heal. Taking the steps above to pave the way before, during and after your surgery will help ease your recovery and minimize stress. Make sure you follow the instructions your physician has given you and continue to ask questions when they arise.
Marsh reminds her patients that being an active member of one’s care team throughout the process is an important role. “Educate yourself. Write down questions as they come to you. Have a notebook and bring it with you. Taking care of all the little pieces adds up to your total healing ability,” she states. “This goes hand-in-hand with our Vision of a Total Healing Environment at YRMC.”