Monitoring Your Medicines in the Hospital

Topic Overview

Medication errors aren't unusual in the hospital. As an active patient, you can keep careful track of the medicines you're getting and help prevent mistakes.

If you are allergic to a drug, check your wrist band. It should include all drug allergies.

When a nurse comes in to give you medicine, he or she may ask you to repeat your full name. If the nurse doesn't ask, say your full name anyway to be safe.

Write everything down

Before you go to the hospital, make a list of all the medicineslist of all the medicines(What is a PDF document?)—including vitamins and supplements—you are taking. Make several copies of the list to take with you. Keep one copy next to your bed in the hospital.

If you're not getting those medicines while you're in the hospital, find out why. There may be a good reason. Or it could be a mistake.

Always ask questions

Ask—or have a family member ask— for a copy of your hospital medicines list. When someone comes in to give you medicine, make sure that exact medicine is on the list. If it's not, ask why.

Talk with the nurse about the medicine he or she is giving you. Ask, "Can you tell me about this medicine?" And then make note of any side effects or other problems the nurse tells you to watch for.

When you leave the hospital

Medicine errors can happen after you leave the hospital too.

Doctors may have prescribed pills you need to take at home. You may have other pills you take at home for other problems, but your hospital doctors may have changed those medicines or the dosage. It can get pretty confusing.

Before discharge, most hospitals do what's called a "medication reconciliation." It means that someone has looked at the medicines you were taking before your hospital stay, medicines you took during your stay, and medicines your doctors want you to take after your stay. The goal is to make sure that everything is correct and that there aren't any conflicts.

Before you leave, be sure you understand which medicines you should take and which medicines you should stop taking. If something doesn't seem right to you, ask questions.

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By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Last Revised December 18, 2012

Last Revised: December 18, 2012

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