Packing for the Hospital & Other Helpful Tips
Sometimes a very practical task – like packing your bag for the hospital before surgery, can be very overwhelming, especially when you are in pain and have a well-meaning family member offering to help you. It is not uncommon, the night before heading to the hospital, to wonder where even to start. While our friendly nurses and staff will always be available to answer any questions you may have, we have put together a list of things to pack and some top tips to keep in mind as you prepare for your hospital stay pre- and post- your knee or hip surgery.
What to pack for the hospital:
- Admission paperwork: Being admitted to hospital always involves a little admin. We recommend you bring your ID document, Medical Aid card and any other preoperative paperwork that might be useful to have on file or to refer to. And don’t forget a pen! Having a pen on hand is always helpful for filling in forms and surveys (and for completing your crossword puzzle or word search). During Covid-19, please also remember to wear your mask on admission.
- A small overnight bag: Space is limited, and you want to be able to find your items as fast as possible amongst all your things. A small overnight bag will be more than sufficient for your stay.
- Personal Toiletries: Bring your usual toiletries, like a hairbrush, toothpaste, toothbrush, moisturiser, lip balm and deodorant. Enough to make you comfortable and freshen up a bit. Don’t forget containers for dentures and eyeglasses/ spectacles too, if applicable. Speak to your care team about bed baths, bathing and showering after your surgery, as this will impact your need to bring other items like shampoo, washcloths, soap and razors. Some patients also prefer to decant only enough supplies for a few days stay, instead of bringing the full bottles from home. (Please note: the hospital will supply sanitiser and daily disposable masks.
- Medication: Bring current medicines in their original packaging. However, please do not self-medicate in the ward – it can be unsafe to combine different medications, and this may result in a fall. Rather discuss all medication with your care team.
- Entertainment: No one wants to lie bored in a hospital bed, pre- or post-surgery. To help keep you occupied, consider bringing a book, magazine, newspaper or crossword puzzle – and don’t forget your eyeglasses and case! You could also listen to music off your phone using your device headphones. Headphones for the TV are also available from Admissions for a small fee. If you bring your phone, don’t forget your charger and two-prong plugs/adaptors. (Please note, any devices brought to hospital is at your own risk. We also recommend that you put your cell phone out of sight when leaving your bed for physiotherapy or when going to the bathroom, as a precautionary measure.
- Clothing: You need items to sleep in (nightie or mid-length/ loose pyjamas), non-slip shoes or slippers, underwear and should you wish, a dressing gown. For day time we recommend a skirt, tracksuit pants or shorts and a t-shirt. Something to keep in mind is that short/ loose sleeves are best to accommodate intravenous lines. You will also need loose clothes/pants/skirt for discharge.
- Crutches: To get mobile after your surgery, you will need to bring a pair of metal elbow crutches to hospital with you. Please discuss this with your care team.
No matter how much care is taken in the hospital to make you comfortable and facilitate recovery, the reality is that hospitals are not home! Hospitals can be busy places, with unusual sounds, lights and activity. Consider bringing earplugs and a sleep/eye mask to help you to rest.
What not to pack for the hospital:
- Cash and valuables: It is in your best interest to leave jewellery, handbags and money as well as laptops, tablets, iPods or any other electronic valuables at home, to avoid these items getting lost or being stolen.
- Electronic personal care items: Electric shavers, hairdryers, curling irons and hair straighteners are best left at home. Instead, stick to battery-powered items if required and check with your hospital on their electronics policy.
- Tobacco products: Smoking is not allowed in the hospital.
Sometimes, you may have questions for doctors and nurses, but instantly forget them when they come into the room. Having a pen and paper for jotting down notes and questions (or using your phone to make notes) can prove to be very helpful in jogging the memory and helping you to remember important information.
The key to packing for your hospital stay is not to panic and not to leave it to last minute. Be realistic about the length of your stay; remember that you will have limited movement post your hip or knee surgery, and don’t forget to ask your care team for their advice and recommendations to help you prepare. We are on hand to help you.
We have also prepared a helpful step by step guide to help you understand what may be involved in your upcoming surgery – you can find it on our website and read more here, Pathway to Surgery. You can also read up on some more information and helpful tips from Vincent Pallotti Life Hospital, where Cape Hip and Knee perform our surgeries – visit this link to find out more.