Want to get out of the hospital sooner? Your best bet is to find a team consisting of a doctor, nurse educator and a dietitian, all of whom specialize in diabetes. At the very latest, do it as soon as you enter the hospital. Make sure the people who will be caring for you in the hospital work with your diabetes team.
According to a study published in the July 1995 issue of The American Journal of Medicine, “The average length of stay of diabetes-team patients was 56 percent shorter than patients in the no-consultation group and 35 percent shorter than patients who received a traditional individual endocrine consultation.” The length of stay also depended on how soon the diabetes team saw the patient and indicated “that each one-day delay in consultation resulted in a one-day increase in length of stay.”
Tips for Surviving Your Hospital Stay
- Study diabetes as though your life depended on that knowledge.
- Don’t assume the doctor overseeing your care in the hospital will contact your diabetes specialist. Do it yourself.
- Have your doctor write orders saying you can test your own sugar and take your own diabetes medications.
- Have a pre-arranged meal plan. Call a “patient’s advocate” if you have problems getting the menu you want or, says Karen Chalmers, take a note on your endocrinologist’s letterhead saying you can have a “house diet.”
- Be prepared to educate every health care provider you encounter. You probably know more about diabetes than they do.
- Ask your doctor if any of the medications you are taking, for diabetes or for any other condition, will affect your diabetes control.
- Don’t limit your questions about medications to diabetes. Do you have drug allergies? Speak up when medications are offered to you. Ask: “What are you giving me? Will it react with any of the other medications I’m taking? Do you remember that I am allergic to X drug(s)?”
- Make sure drug allergies are listed boldly on the front of your chart. You’re allowed to see your chart. While you have it, see that important information is included.
- Always wear medical identification in case of emergency. Emergency room personnel will usually find a necklace or a bracelet during a full-body check. Less obvious identification may be overlooked.
- Insulin pumps are not yet widely recognizable. If you wear one, carry a letter with you detailing its use and listing the name and number of your diabetes specialist. Your diabetes center or pump manufacturer may have a sample letter.
- Give the anesthesiologist and the recovery room personnel written instructions on what to do with your pump, including how to make adjustments.
- In all cases, it’s a good idea to write down your regimen, including ratios and correction factors, to give to those who will be caring for you.
- Use the hospital’s resources. Ask to see the diabetes nurse educator and dietitian for updates and tips on control. If you’re on a scheduled diet with constant carbohydrates, use the opportunity to fine-tune your regimen. Remember, however, that your sugars will be affected by the stress and relative inactivity of being in the hospital.
- Find out why you are being asked (or told) to do certain things. Knowing the “why” can help increase your knowledge.