Talking about medicines in hospital

A hospital stay — whether expected or unexpected — can be a stressful time. Even if you weren’t taking any medicines beforehand, you will probably be given some during your stay, and you may be given some to take when you go home.

Good communication is the key to understanding your medicines and preventing medicine mishaps. Here are some of the things you can do to improve communication about medicines while in hospital.

  • If your hospital stay is planned, take all your medicines with you. This includes any medicines bought at the pharmacy and supermarket, and any complementary (herbal, natural and alternative) medicines. The hospital may not allow you to take them during your stay, but they will be useful in letting the health professionals know what medicines you’re taking.
  • Keep an up-to-date list of all your medicines that you can give to the hospital staff along with your medicines. They can use the list to record any changes they make to your medicines while in hospital. You can order, print or download a copy of the NPS Medicines List.
  • Tell the staff about any allergies or adverse reactions you have had to medicines in the past.
  • Try to have someone with you when talking to health professionals about your medicines. When you’re unwell and under stress, it’s harder to remember the things that were said. It might also be useful to have this person available to support you when making decisions.
  • Ask questions if you’re unsure about your medicines, such as what medicine to take, how much to take, or when to take it. In hospital, this can be difficult, because you may not be feeling your best, and you’re being visited by a number of doctors, nurses and other health professionals. However, it is important that you sort out any uncertainties while in hospital. If you can, write down your questions as you think of them. It’s easy to forget what you meant to ask.
  • Don’t be afraid to tell the health professionals about your current treatment and what works for you.Your own knowledge and experience is important, especially if you’ve had your condition for a long time.
  • Before leaving hospital, ask for a ‘discharge summary’. This will include a list of any new medicines you were given, and any medicines that were changed or stopped. Show the summary to your doctor and pharmacist when you first see them after your hospital stay. If you don’t have a discharge summary, tell your doctor and pharmacist about any changes that were made to your medicines while in hospital.

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