Preparing For Surgery

This post forms part of our guide on the relationship between healthcare providers and patients. The purpose of this guide is to assist you in providing the best care with the deepest understanding and empathy for a patients concerns and worries.

In particular this post addresses the particular concerns a patient may have as they prepare to attend hospital for surgery.

Getting ready for a hospital stay and surgery can be very stressful. It’s a team effort and as a healthcare assistant you are part of that team. 

This post is particularly relevant for healthcare providers with whom they may come into contact during that time such as anesthesia assistants, surgical technicians, sonographers, x ray techs and nursing assistants so that they may gain insight and understanding enabling them to provide the best patient care.

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You can also download a PDF guide here.

Talk with your doctor about why you need surgery, and how it may help you. And think about bringing a family member or a friend you trust, who can talk to your doctor and health care team about your progress while you are in the hospital. These simple tips can help you get the best care while you are in the hospital or surgery center.

Be Informed About the Procedure: Questions to ask your doctor before deciding to have surgery.

It’s up to YOU to decide if you are having surgery. YOU and your opinions/concerns should be part of the decision making process.

  • What kind of surgery are you recommending?
  • Why do I need the surgery? Is it to relieve or prevent pain, improve a body function, or diagnose a problem?
  • What are the possible risks and benefits of the surgery?
  • What if I don’t have the surgery?
  • How much experience do you have doing this surgery? Is the nursing staff accustomed to caring for patients who have had this procedure? Approximately how many of these surgeries are done each year at this hospital?
  • What kind of anesthesia will I need? What are the possible side effects?
  • How long will my recovery take? When can I go back to work and start exercising again?
  • Is this procedure covered by my insurance plan? Will physician’s fees, associated costs, hospital services, rehabilitation programs, and pain medications be covered by my insurance plan?

Explore Your Options Before Choosing a Hospital: Compare hospitals using quality ratings

  • Ask your doctor and research hospital quality ratings to locate a hospital that will give you the best care. Check out these resources.

Before and During Your Hospital Stay: Take steps to have a safe hospital stay and reduce the risk of infection

  • Follow all pre-surgery instructions carefully. You will probably be asked to stop eating the night before surgery. You may be instructed to stop taking your regular medication or you may be given some special medication before you go to the hospital.
  • Ask your doctor to mark the actual site he or she will operate on.
  • Let the hospital staff know about all the medications you are taking. You should bring a written list of your medications, or bring all of your medications (in their original bottles or packages) to the hospital with you.
  • Tell your doctor about any allergies.
  • Ask all hospital staff who have direct contact with you if they have washed their hands. Hand washing helps prevent infections. Click here for other steps to reduce your risk of getting an infection.
  • Keep a journal. A small notebook works well. Write down the names of your doctors, nurses and other members of your care team. Also write down your medications, and any tests, procedures you have. Note any instructions – diet/food restrictions, restrictions on activities, etc. Also, write down questions for your doctor so you are ready when he or she next comes up to visit you.

Recover Safely: Know what to do after you leave the hospital

  • Make sure you understand all instructions you are given when you leave the hospital. Ask your doctor or nurse to give you a phone number to call if you have any questions.
  • Talk with your doctor or nurse about all new medications. For each, ask how to take it and why you need it. Also, ask about any side effects you might get and what to do if they occur.
  • Call your doctor if you have any problems. This includes fever, weight loss, pain and oozing or swelling at the surgery site.


  • Carry a medication list.  Use this form (PDF) to make a list of all the medications you are taking including prescription and non-prescription drugs, vitamins, and other natural remedies such as herbal products.  Share this with your doctor at your next visit.

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