Patient Points: Ask a Nurse These 5 Questions

NursingMarch 26, 2014


While asking a doctor may seem like your first choice with any kind of medical question, sometimes it's better to ask a nurse about certain concerns. Here are a few good questions to ask your nurse.

What Medication Are You Giving Me?

It's most important to ask your nurse this question, as that will be the person most directly administering your medications to you in any inpatient facility. While we always hope that our nurses prepared the right medication and followed the directions correctly, nurses are just as human as everyone else, and mistakes can be made. In particular, make sure they know your name and aren't giving you another patient's medication. Doctors may inadvertently forget to order a medication you normally take at home, so the more checks there are in place to prevent mistakes, the better.

What Does Each Medication Do?

If you're in a hospital or extended nursing facility, most of your medications should be the same as what you take at home. But if there's anything new in the mix, speak up and ask what it does and what the possible side effects are. Not only do you want to know what you're taking, but you should take the information back to your personal physician if the medication is prescribed beyond your hospital stay. Nurses excel at patient education. Don't be afraid to speak up!

What Do These Lab Results Really Mean?

Some medical language can be a bit unwieldy, and unfortunately, many patients are afraid to speak up and ask what these alien terms mean for fear of looking foolish or uneducated. A nurse is more likely to talk to you using ordinary, everyday language and is thus a valuable resource.

On a side note, they also tend to be fairly good at translating doctors' writing, if you should have any written notes or prescriptions. Sometimes, doctors really can communicate using their own language.

What Challenges Will I Face When I Leave?

Doctors are so focused on the procedure or the time spent in the hospital that they may overlook things like the need for home health, the need for special equipment, and so forth. Nurses are more tuned in to these needs, and if you have concerns, they can suggest that the doctor write an order for a home health consultation for assistance.

Does My Loved One Need a Nursing Home?

When you're thinking about the care of your own family member, you're often too emotionally involved to make clear decisions. Nurses are able to anticipate problems with falls or early dementia and memory loss. They can make recommendations as to what options you should seriously consider. Also, nurses make a great wealth of information about some of the local facilities. Many nurses may have worked previously in a facility, have friends who work in one or are familiar with the quality of care of patients they've seen from a particular facility.

More often than not, to get the real answers to your questions, you simply need to ask a nurse.

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