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During a Hospital Day

By Oren Traub, MD, PhD

What typically happens during a day

Often, the day begins with a nurse or technician drawing blood, typically between 5 and 8 am. Blood is drawn early so that the hospital team members can review the results relatively early in the day.

Doctors' rounds are done at least once a day. During these visits, a doctor does the following:

  • Asks people about their symptoms

  • Does a physical examination

  • Tells people about any tests scheduled and changes in the treatment plan

  • Updates them on their overall progress

These visits usually occur in the morning. The doctor may see people several times a day if their condition is serious or is getting worse.

To prepare for these visits, people (or their representative) can do the following:

  • Write down questions throughout the day to help them remember what they would like to ask their doctor during rounds

  • Take notes during rounds because the amount of information can be overwhelming

  • Have family members and friends present during rounds (especially when a person cannot communicate or comprehend the situation because of dementia or another serious disorder)

  • Designate one family member to tell other family members and friends what is occurring so that the doctor or other hospital team members do not have to repeat information

Because emergencies may occur in the hospital, the timing of the doctor's rounds can be unpredictable. People can ask their doctor to give them a 1- to 2-hour time frame for the visit. Having some idea when the doctor is coming can be useful if family members or friends wish to be present. Surgeons may do their rounds very early in the morning (between 6 and 9 am) if they are scheduled for surgery in the morning.

Other staff members usually come in several times a day and provide most of the daily care in the hospital. They include the following:

  • Nurses, who usually give people their drugs

  • Physical therapists and occupational therapists, who may come in regularly to help with exercise

  • Patient care technicians, who provide help with eating, getting to the toilet, and doing other self-care tasks if people need such help

Family members may help with care in the hospital.

Nurses and other staff members encourage all people staying in the hospital to get out of bed, unless a doctor requires them to stay in bed because of their medical condition. Staying in bed for long periods of time can cause many problems, including weak muscles (see Problems Due to Bed Rest). To prevent these problems, people can walk in the hallways several times a day and eat in a chair beside the bed rather than eating in bed. People should check with their nurse to see whether they can do these activities on their own or whether they need supervision or help from a staff member.

Meals are delivered to the hospital room. After a diet is prescribed to meet a person's medical needs, the person can order meals in advance from the hospital menu. If a person has problems communicating, a staff member can help them order food. If a meal is not ordered, a preselected meal that meets the person's medical needs is sent. If a special diet (such a low-sugar diet for a person with diabetes) has been prescribed, the person may not be able to order some of the items on the menu. Because some medical conditions require specialized diets, people and family members generally should not bring food from home or from a restaurant to the hospital.

What may happen during a hospital stay

If a test or surgical procedure is scheduled, people may not be allowed to eat or drink for a period of time (often beginning at midnight on the day before the test or procedure). During this time, people are given fluids through a intravenous (IV) line, which is typically placed when they are admitted to the hospital. The scheduling of tests and procedures may change suddenly if an emergency occurs. In such cases, people can become frustrated if their food or water has been restricted.

Transfers from one room to another (sometimes to a different floor) may occur for many reasons. For example, people may be transferred to an area on the hospital with less monitoring equipment if their condition is improving. Or if their condition worsens, they may be transferred to an intensive care unit, which has specialized equipment to support them.

* This is the Consumer Version. *