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Tips for Choosing a Hospital

Updated on May 31, 2017
PegCole17 profile image

Peg Cole serves as caregiver and patient advocate for senior family members and others.

Intensive Care Unit or "I See You"

Post-surgery in the Intensive Care Unit
Post-surgery in the Intensive Care Unit | Source

Even if you've never personally been a patient in a hospital, you likely know someone else who has. Whether you are a patient or a visitor, however, there are many things that are important to notice—from the reception area to the surgical center. Not all hospitals are created equal.

You can learn a lot about a hospital from the first minute you walk in the doors. For those who have spent many hours there, either as a patient or a visitor, there's plenty of time to look around and make some important observations.

Little things, like a torn carpet, ragged furniture, and dirty floors, can tell you a lot.
Little things, like a torn carpet, ragged furniture, and dirty floors, can tell you a lot. | Source

Admissions Department

Take note of the way the receptionists act when you walk in. Do they look up and smile when you arrive? Is their phone ringing off the hook unanswered? Are they paying attention to your needs, or are they chatting with their coworkers?

Once you've been shown the way to the admissions department, watch how the staff greets you and how they handle the massive amount of paperwork involved. Is there an organized system in place to notify patients of their turn to do paperwork?

Do they have a respectful attitude and take care to preserve your identity? Do they care about customer service and care about how their hospital is perceived? The attitude of the admissions staff can often indicate the underlying philosophy of the institution.

Make sure you're pleased with how you're treated when you first arrive. If not, turn around and go somewhere else.

Is the X-ray area child-friendly? Are the floors and area clean and orderly?
Is the X-ray area child-friendly? Are the floors and area clean and orderly?

Hospital Check-In

Most modern hospitals use an automated process to get you into the database through which they can keep track of every action that goes forward from admission through discharge. Even in an emergency, staff members collect your insurance numbers, medications list, allergies and ask about prior ailments and past hospitalizations and surgeries.

Many hospitals offer a data entry system where the patient enters their own information through a computer terminal. Later in the admissions office, staff will verify the paperwork and have you sign the stack of forms and releases. Most facilities attach a patient identification wristband to help ensure your safety while in the hospital.

Good hospitals will check this wristband every time they interact with the patient to give medications or schedule procedures to be sure they have the right person.

Modern equipment is essential to good care
Modern equipment is essential to good care

The Power of Observation

While we waited to be called to the X-ray area, we watched housekeepers buffing the floor to a dazzling shine. One was on his knees scraping off a small imperfection in the otherwise spotless hallway floor.

Cleanliness and attention to detail is key to a safe environment to prevent the spread of germs and infection. Debris and dirt is not a good sign when it comes to hospitals. A quick look at the public restroom can provide clues to the cleanliness of the rest of the facility.

Is there adequate seating and privacy for your answers to the initial questions?
Is there adequate seating and privacy for your answers to the initial questions?

What About the Surgical Staff?

A large clock on the wall ticks down the long wait as various technicians pop in and out of the curtained surgical waiting area. The first nurse starts an intravenous drip. She is well trained and does a good job inserting the needle with minimal pain inflicted.

Another staff member arrives and says they will be monitoring neurological readings while the patient is under anesthesia.

The anesthesiologist asks questions about things already answered, then, the scrub nurse who will be assisting comes in and asks more of the same questions. They each check the patient's arm band and ask his birth-date before they begin any treatment.

Things move rapidly once the surgeon steps in the room.

"I'll just give you a quick shot," the anesthesiologist says, shooting a stream of liquid into the air from a syringe "to make you relax." It's something that takes away your concerns and sends you into surgical dreamland.

Are hospital staff members courteous and careful to preserve the patient's privacy and dignity? Do they treat you with respect and concern? You are in their hands at this point.

Before the Surgery

Waiting to be called into the operating room can be tedious
Waiting to be called into the operating room can be tedious | Source

The Doctor is In

But far more important than a clean environment and friendly well-trained personnel, you'll want to get a top-notch surgeon, one with your best interests in mind. And in the case of our doctor this was definitely true. His prompt attention to an ongoing issue of debilitating back pain got the patient into surgery within seven days of the first consultation.

It isn't brain surgery, or is it?

Neurosurgeon Dr. Stephen Neece visiting my spouse in the hospital after performing 3-level spinal fusion surgery.
Neurosurgeon Dr. Stephen Neece visiting my spouse in the hospital after performing 3-level spinal fusion surgery.

When it comes to major surgery, the hospital staff plays an important part in the patient's recovery from administration of medication to caring for dietary needs and personal rehabilitation. A well-trained staff will strive to get the patient back on his feet quickly. After three-level spinal fusion surgery, it was a long road to recovery for this patient.

Getting physical therapy after back surgery was key to recovery. The staff was persistent, yet patient in getting Jim back on his feet.
Getting physical therapy after back surgery was key to recovery. The staff was persistent, yet patient in getting Jim back on his feet.

Closing Up

At 6:30 in the evening, the other patients' families and friends who started the day here are long gone. The lucky ones who were in for day surgery are resting comfortably at home while the others have been taken to their assigned hospital rooms.

Twelve hours since our arrival, I saw the doctor heading in my direction wearing a big smile. That was a good sign after major surgery. The end of the day looms brighter in the darkened hospital as I listen to his carefully chosen words.

"I hope you got some lunch while you waited," he said. He demonstrates care not only for his patient, but for their family members.

"Yes, I did, thanks. Did you?"

"No. They don't let me take a lunch," the doctor says. He laughed, then, explained the procedure he performed over the past dozen hours in the operating room.

Hospital Food

Hospital food should be appetizing, healthy, and fresh. Unfortunately the patient was too groggy to eat his lunch in the ICU.
Hospital food should be appetizing, healthy, and fresh. Unfortunately the patient was too groggy to eat his lunch in the ICU.

Thoughtful kindness is something else to look for in a hospital; finding people who actually care. And to say the patient in this case had good care is an understatement. Each action the staff member took was explained carefully and thoroughly what was being done. From the moment I walked into the ICU amid the scream of a thousand electronic beeping devices, I was included as part of the whole medical picture of those caring for my family member.

Nurse's Station Waiting Area

Waiting area on the 4th floor
Waiting area on the 4th floor

Professionalism

Throughout the experience I gained a new respect for the professionals who serve in the medical field. This hospital staff provided an atmosphere where the patient was treated with courtesy and respect including the extended family members. It takes a lot of dedication and training to be able to handle what these professionals do for a living day in and day out. It truly is an amazing place where they work.

Safe and Convenient Parking

Safe and convenient parking can be an issue when visiting friends and family members. The security guard escorted me to the parking garage when I left the hospital at midnight.
Safe and convenient parking can be an issue when visiting friends and family members. The security guard escorted me to the parking garage when I left the hospital at midnight.

Five Key Things to Consider

  1. Phones answered promptly, no long delays on hold
  2. Organization, courtesy, respect, and caring
  3. Modern technology, attention to detail, good records management
  4. Cleanliness, sanitized and orderly equipment, no visible debris or dirt
  5. Knowledgeable staff and well-trained professional attitudes

© 2012 Peg Cole

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    • PegCole17 profile image
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      Peg Cole 4 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Oh my dear Colin, I'm so sorry to hear your day was spent in the ER. Wow, I can certainly relate to that ordeal. Never a favorite place, yet, as you observed, never a dull moment. I'm glad to hear that you had some professional medical types to care for you and sorry to hear that you are having these serious heart difficulties. Never a good thing. My dear 93 yo Auntie has just been diagnosed with possible "Angina" and from what I'm seeing now, and recognizing the symptoms, it is quite scary. Please know you are in my thoughts and hopes for a speedy recouperation and total recovery. Loved hearing from you. All the best, Peg

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 4 years ago

      Good morning dear Peg from Colin and his cats Tiffy and Gabriel and it was so nice to hear from you once again and receive your good wishes.

      I spent most of the day in the ER yesterday with a heart condition but all went well although they sent me home with a heart monitor and I have to go back tomorrow for more x-rays. All of the staff were very professional and thorough and they were all women even the head doctor.

      I managed to do a lot of people watching - I think it's just in a writer's DNA to do so. And yes I read this hub story with great interest and most importantly your other story on this page about your dear mum.

      Hospitals are certainly never my favorite place, duh, lol lol lol but it's good to know if you need one - and luckily in Canada we have one of the best health care systems in the world

      Sending you my very good thoughts and a high five from Colin, Tiffy and Gabriel at lake erie time canada 11:59am

    • PegCole17 profile image
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      Peg Cole 4 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Thank you Integrity. Kind of you to say so. Hope you're finding your way around HubPages with ease.

      Peg

    • profile image

      IntegrityYes 4 years ago

      Great one,Peg.

    • PegCole17 profile image
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      Peg Cole 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Mar, Thanks for the good news. I feel much better knowing that things are happening to take that site down. Great! See you at the cafe?

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 5 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

      Peggy Sista,

      Just came from FB/ and a hub from LORD de Cross that Bigezine (essentially a 20yo punk is now defunct)... go read for yourself, honey, and feel better...Hugs, Maria

    • PegCole17 profile image
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      Peg Cole 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Hi Sista, I was having a great day until I found this hub copied word for word with pictures of my husband and my dogs on that thieving copycat site which I will not give them the publicity of even mentioning their name. For now I will just shut down since I'm also crashing every time I try to file a DCMA complaint through Google. I'm sure they're being bombarded with claims as these characters are quite cagey and keep changing the urls to protect the guilty.

      Anyhow, on to happier thoughts and watching a movie or something else less frustrating. Smiles and happy Easter to you. THANK you so much for the darling card. You are so very thoughtful and sweet. Love you.

      Peg

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 5 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

      Sista,

      I gotta tell you Rod makes me cry every time... much better song rendition, in my humble yada yada...

      Hope you are having a HOPPY day. Love, Maria

    • PegCole17 profile image
      Author

      Peg Cole 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Hi Maria,

      Thank you for the thoughtful comments about this hub. You would certainly know first hand that people who work in hospital environments are a reflection of those responsible for hiring and training. I often quote Leona Helmsley who said this.

      "I don't hire people who have to be told to be nice. I hire nice people."

      I believe that's the key to a caring and professional staff. Techniques and procedures can be learned, but it's harder to teach people to care.

      PS. I changed out the video of "The First Cut is the Deepest" to the Rod Stewart version, my favorite. April 2012

      Thanks for the kind thoughts and for the Votes too!

      Love to you my sista,

      Peg

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 5 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

      Oh Peg,

      This review of your experience with Jim and the resultant comments just have me in tears. I am so pleased to read of all the positives... it is heartening to know that respect and caring are still the hallmarks of some treatment centers. Even the photography of the meals is attractive, displaying pride and a desire for patient satisfaction. That is why most of us become nurses/ or work in the health care field.

      But to read about the experiences of improper treatment and ridiculously long waiting times is so disheartening. And the reasons can indeed vary from negligent or uncaring practitioners to a gross shortage of staff, as caring and committed as they might be...

      In Jim's experience, I love your sense of humor, which always helps. No matter what the outfit, I think you selected a perfect song for the 'occasion'...! Hoping he is feeling better by the day...

      Voted UP & across the board. Love, Maria

    • PegCole17 profile image
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      Peg Cole 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Thanks again Rosemay!

    • Rosemay50 profile image

      Rosemary Sadler 5 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

      We all need to rant now and then Peg, its just nice to have a friend that we can rant to. :) See you at the cafe

    • PegCole17 profile image
      Author

      Peg Cole 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Hi Rosemay, Thank goodness your son's kidneys recovered (mostly) after that incident. Things could have been so much worse if he had to have a transplant. I understand that people are only human and mistakes happen, but in this field a mistake can be deadly. Many times I have questioned the medical staff who took blood sugar readings after the patient had started eating food, then they came in to administer insulin due to high readings! Even I know that those readings must be taken before meals. This is the most consistent area of noncompliance that I've seen happen in multiple facilities. We turned down insulin shots at the rehab hospital as well when I watched them draw the blood after a meal started.

      You can only imagine how difficult I was when it came to the staff in the case of my Dad. He was neutropenic (highly suceptible to disease and infections) and I had to remind staff to wash their hands and put on a mask before approaching him to do standard monitoring. When they wheeled him down to xray without putting a mask on him, then they left him lying out in the hallway for 45 minutes to wait, I was knocking on their closed doors and insisting they take precautions to protect his health. Another rant. Oh my. I thought I was past that but maybe not.

      Thanks, Sweet Rosemay, for sharing your personal experience here and for letting me vent. I'm so glad I met you at the Emerald Wells Cafe. Hope to see you there later.

      Kindly

      Peg

    • PegCole17 profile image
      Author

      Peg Cole 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Hello b. Malin, You are so sweet and thoughtful. It seems that hospitals would staff up since so many people have out of town guests and extra stress over the holidays that can lead to illness. You know it, visitors only at the hospital - never as a guest. Seeing first hand that people do make mistakes makes me even more diligent when it comes to receiving care. Years ago I would have been reluctant to question medical care but not any more. I'm sure you have some learning experiences of your own when it comes to this. Thank you so much for stopping in today. Your comment was really uplifting! I needed that. Hope you are well. Peg

      Peg

    • Rosemay50 profile image

      Rosemary Sadler 5 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

      Fancy leaving your father like that, where did common sense fly out of the window. But don't blame yourself, they are SUPPOSED to be in an environment where there are caring staff to look after the patients, it wasn't your fault you cannot be with them every minute of the day.

      My son's kidneys recovered 90% which is a great relief after they were once talking about a transplant, not needed thank goodness. But it has left him with high blood pressure. He is now a member of the NZ police force, the fact that he takes his medication to control it and the doctors reports helped his acceptance along, but it was a year of uncertainty.

      I know just how you feel it gets me going too, so rant away my dear friend

    • b. Malin profile image

      b. Malin 5 years ago

      Thank you my Tour Guide for a very Enlightening Hub on Hospitals. A place we only want to visit. Thank God your Mom pulled through. I've heard the worst time to be at a Hospital is over a Holiday, when there is a Skelton Crew on...and I've learned over the years to Question Everything... This Hub was quite a learning experience...You are the Best PegCole, thanks for sharing.

    • PegCole17 profile image
      Author

      Peg Cole 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Hi Rosemay, Yes it was a near disaster with Mom. It was New Year's Eve and the ER was understaffed but that was no excuse. There were families and children coughing and crying and people with the flu that we shared space with for hours. We arrived about noon and at 8pm they finally called us back to the exam room. When the Doctor jumped on me about the dehydration I lost it and blasted back with the ice chip story and the fact that she had been up all night with diarreah. She was 76 at the time. I learned that day to call an ambulance rather than walk in since those patients were treated first for some reason.

      I'm so sorry about your son getting the wrong medication. That seems to happen frequently. I've gotten to the point where I question every pill or shot they try to give the patient but it is difficult to stick around 24 hours a day. Eventually you have to go home and rest. I stayed at the hospital for 3 days straight when my Dad was critical. Then I left the room for five minutes and someone sat him in a chair and left him there to go get a bedside commode and he promptly fell out and hit his head and shoulder on the corner of the bed. I was furious at myself for leaving the room and at the apathy toward someone who was nearly comatose.

      Sorry for the rant. This stuff gets me going. I do hope your son recovered fully and that there were no lasting effects of the ibuprofen.

    • Rosemay50 profile image

      Rosemary Sadler 5 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

      That is so bad about your mother, How could they be so careless. Both you and your Mom and THEY were so lucky that it didn't kill her. That is absolutely shocking Peg. 8 hours to wait in emergency is way too long. Not surprising that she was dehydrated but then to lecture you as to why, that was way out of line.

      I blew my top at our GP once for perscibing my son ibuprofen when he knew that this was the likely cause of my son's kidneys collapsing. He did come to the house to make a personal apology, but that is not the point.

    • PegCole17 profile image
      Author

      Peg Cole 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Understandable and it's good to hear a man say that. It takes away from the classy impression a woman wants to make when her outfit speaks louder than her words.

      Yes, it was really scary surgery. Amazing what they can do now medically. Incredible really. Following two years of agonizing pain he is finally feeling much better despite some complications of the feet swelling up like balloons. But that is improving and typical of injury, surgery or medication or so we're told. He's still in physical therapy and uses a walker. We're quite pleased that Dr. Neece only had to go in through the back. Some doctors still go in through the front and the back which would have been more difficult for recovery.

      Hope to see you again, James.

      Peg

    • SubRon7 profile image

      James W. Nelson 5 years ago from eastern North Dakota

      Just to clarify, Sheryl Crow looked good in her Olympic outfit...it just seemed to me that she didn't have to dress that way, that she had too much class to dress...I guess the word is "slutty."

      I glad your husband is doing better. It sounded like a scary surgery to me.

      Nice to see you too,

      James

    • PegCole17 profile image
      Author

      Peg Cole 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Hello SubRon7,

      I missed the show with Sheryl Crow at the Olympics but it sounds like she had her own Olympics going! Sometimes less is definitely more when it comes to older kittens. I just liked the title of the song in relation to the surgery story.

      Anyhow, I hope your Dad's bypass was successful and am glad to hear that good care was available. It's a shame when they are good and change hands. The place where my Mom was hospitalized for 30 days was terrible, then it changed hands a few times. I would hesitate to ever go back there.

      Thanks for the kind wishes for Jim's recovery. It's a long process but he is doing better every day.

      Nice to see you today, James.

      Kindly,

      Peg

    • SubRon7 profile image

      James W. Nelson 5 years ago from eastern North Dakota

      Beautiful job, PegCole. I've said it before, anyone but you I would have bypassed this hub, but I knew you would make it good. The last memorable time I was in a hospital was during several days of my dad's heart bypass operation, in the late 80s. The hospital at the time was St Luke's in Fargo, ND, and the care was as you described in your hub. Then it became MeritCare, and then Sanford came along and bought it, and following the story, Sanford appears to be wanting to take over the "world." (Just a little sarcasm there.) At the end I went back and watched Sheryl Crow. I still like her singing and I still "kind of" like her. (Way back in the beginning she was one of the celebrities I was in love with.) Then I saw the outfit she wore at a recent Olympics. And the media--of course--gave us a rear shot. (On a starlet sex-kitten I would have appreciated that shot, like any other red-blooded male.) Maybe she didn't mean to show herself to the world. I don't know. But I instantly lost my love for her, as I had always seen her as a woman with class. Her outfits in your video show her as very, very, sensual, but her Olympics outfit...anyway, I still like her, I just don't "love" her. Thanks for a good hub, as usual.

      At the end I hope your husband is doing good.

    • PegCole17 profile image
      Author

      Peg Cole 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Hi Rosemay, Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I understand completely about checking yourself out of the hospital early. Sometimes you just have to stand your ground. We left the rehab hospital (not this one) early because of snafoos that were happening with medications. It can be pretty scary.

      When my Mother was in the hospital they nearly killed her with insulin shots that she didn't need. She went into convulsions etc.. That hospital was one of the worst with angry staff members who had bad attitudes. We waited 8 hours in the Emergency Room for treatment. Then I got lectured on why was my Mom dehydrated! They wouldn't even let me give her ice chips while we waited. I should have written a hub about it. Hahaha, I always say that.

      It sure makes a difference when the staff pays attention and makes you feel as if they genuinely care, like the anesthesiologist and surgeon when you were in the hospital. Jim had a visit from the chef (he doesn't remember much of anything) who was so sweet and thoughtful that she made a special trip back to the room to bring me a toasted bagel. I'll never forget her kindness and sweet smile.

      Thanks for the nice words and hope all your medical difficulties are resolved now. Hugs, Peg

    • Rosemay50 profile image

      Rosemary Sadler 5 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

      Hello Peg. Sorry you had to go through this in the first place, but it sounds as though the time in hospital was made as stress free as possible for both your husband and you. It ceratinly does make a big difference.

      I have experienced the worst and the very best. The worst I recovered quicker than than I should have done simply because I discharged myself and couldn't wait to get out of there. I had never seen hospital staff so uncaring. The best was complltely the opposite, even the anesthesiologist came to see me a couple of times after surgery, both he and the surgeon were kind and gentle and thoughtful, and the nursing staff could not have been more pleasant, you know I even had a visit from the chef because I hadn't eaten much... how is that for care.

      I am so pleased that the surgery went well and smoothly and hope now that Jim is recovering nicely.

    • PegCole17 profile image
      Author

      Peg Cole 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Hello Mck, Nice to see you here today. Thanks for your sweet thoughts. I bet you knew this one was coming eventually. Yes, thankfully, the treatment was exceptional at this hospital. There have been many other places where the treatment nor the outcome has been as good. As the years pass I seem to spend more and more time at hospitals. If I were to write a review of the others they wouldn't hold a candle to this place. Even the food was incredible.

      After waiting two years for this operation, we were unbelievably glad to go to a place like this one.

    • mckbirdbks profile image

      mckbirdbks 5 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Peg, sorry you had to go though this. Glad it had such a positive outcome. You appear to have been well treated. Your husbans seems to have been well cared for. All-in-all if you have to go through something like this, having a positive experience sure must be helpful.

    • PegCole17 profile image
      Author

      Peg Cole 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Hello Snakeslane,

      Reviewing these pictures has made me really grateful for the exceptional care that the hubby received while he was a patient in this hospital. They set the standard for other hospitals to achieve this level of performance.

      Thank you for reading about this subject which I know must have been so difficult for you to do. I truly hope this has lifted you in some small way. Know that you are in my thoughts and prayers, friend, and thanks for the well wishes for his recovery. I will be adding more pictures to this one soon.

      Kind regards,

      Peg

    • snakeslane profile image

      snakeslane 5 years ago from Canada

      Hello Peg, what an ordeal to have to go through in any hospital, but to find yourself in this one must have been comforting. I have had some hospital experiences lately (as a family advocate) that have been pretty horrendous, so much so that it's very hard to think about it. Your experience has reassured me that it is not all bad. I'm wishing you and your husband all the best in his recovery. Really appreciate you sharing this awesome personal story. Regards, snakeslane

    • PegCole17 profile image
      Author

      Peg Cole 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Hello Pamela99, Thanks. We were amazed at the way the staff of this hospital treats their patients. It really was a good experience. I've been in other places where the attitudes were quite different.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 5 years ago from United States

      I am so glad you had a positive experience at the hospital. This hospital appears to be a cut above some others and it certainly makes a surgery more tolerable for the family, as well as, the patient.

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