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How To Maximize A Stay In A Hospital

You Do Not Have To Put Up With Unnecessary Pain

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There is no need to feel unnecessary pain.  Adequate pain management promotes healing and helps prevent stress and depression. 

  • Your doctor can leave what is known as a "standing order" for pain relief. With a standing order, the staff does not need to check with the doctor each time you need relief.
  • Assess whether you are getting relief from a pill or injection at suitable times after each intervention. For example, if you are given pain medication by mouth (Oral administration), assess the relief after an hour. If you are given pain medication any other way (parenteral drug therapy), you can assess relief within 15 to 30 minutes.

If you are in pain, speak up. The staff will not always anticipate your needs. If you don't speak up, the staff may believe that your pain is being adequately treated. 

Some doctors are very conservative in their approach to pain management out of fear you will become addicted, even though studies indicate that the fear of patient addiction is not realistic.  Adequate pain management during hospitalization rarely, if ever, leads to subsequent abuse of pain medications.

If you aren't getting enough pain medication, let your doctor know that you are not worried about becoming an addict. That it's more important to relieve the pain than to worry about what could happen.

Pain management may include the use of morphine or other opiates. There are also newer options that hospitals and surgeons do not necessarily offer unless they are requested.  One option is epidural anesthesia, which controls pain by injecting a nerve-blocking drug into the spine.  For certain operations, such as joint replacement, this type of nerve blockage may actually be preferable to opiates because it does not make you groggy. 

Most hospitals now have patient-controlled intravenous analgesia (PCA), which allows you to self-administer your medication by pushing a button on a computerized pump.  If a PCA is appropriate to your pain management, ask that you be given proper training before and after surgery.  

If you are in pain be persistent with your nurse.  Ask your nurse to consult with your doctor or the resident in charge of your team to have pain relief prescribed.   If you know that a particular pain killer works for you (such as Tylenol or other over-the- counter drugs), let the nurse know.  

When describing pain, be precise about the pain, for instance:

  • If pain is on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most painful, what number are you experiencing?
  • Where does the pain show up? It is helpful if you can point to the exact spot that hurts, 
  • How does the pain show up? For instance, is it throbbing? Sharp? Like needles? 


  • If you are sensitive to needles, you can ask for a small amount of local anesthetic such as Lidocaine. The needle used is tiny.
  • Paper or plastic surgical tape to secure bandages and IV lines is gentler on the skin than silk tape.

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