Navigating the Hospital

It’s understandable to feel overwhelmed at the hospital. Simply finding the way from a patient’s room to the cafeteria may require a map. They are also intimidating — full of high-tech equipment and people who seem so busy that you hesitate to ask a question.

Follow these practical suggestions to help you feel more comfortable and confident when visiting the hospital.

Learn Your Way Around

One way to defuse your anxiety is to make yourself at home. Once you get your loved one settled, walk around the ward, locate the cafeteria and find a pleasant waiting area. Add a few personal touches — like flowers or photographs — to your loved one’s room and make sure you have enough reading material to pass the time.

Switch to Hospital Time

Hospitals are highly regimented places in which the staff adheres to a strict timetable. Part of making yourself at home in a hospital is learning that routine. Find out when meals are served and when shifts change. Make a point of being present when a new team comes on duty.

Ask Questions

Nurses expect to answer questions when making their introductions, so take the opportunity you have with them. If a medical staff member says something you don’t understand about a procedure or diagnosis, it’s OK to ask for clarification. No question is too small: ask about the day’s schedule to find out when your loved one’s doctor is expected on the floor or when a test is to be administered. You can also satisfy your curiosity about the purpose of the equipment that might be unfamiliar.

Get to Know the Staff

Use every interaction with the hospital staff as an opportunity to build a relationship. Greet staff members by name, find out a little about their interests outside the hospital and let them know how much you appreciate their caring for your loved one. When you treat staff members as allies rather than adversaries, you’ll find yourself more at ease making your loved one’s needs known. You will also increase the chances that hospital staff will respond in ways that you will appreciate.