Sooner or later, most of us need to go to hospital, so here is some practical information about how to prepare, what to expect during your stay and how to get ready for going home.

The two main ways to be admitted to hospital are emergency admissions (usually involving an ambulance) or pre-arranged (elective) admissions. If your procedure or treatment is elective, this will almost always have been arranged by your G.P. or consultant.

You can check the level of cover your Irish Life Health insurance offers you for a particular hospital or treatment centre by calling our customer service team on 1850 717 717. Remember to have your hospital name, consultant name and procedure code to hand.

If you're going to hospital as an elective patient, it's a really good idea to contact the hospital before travelling from home to make that your bed is still available.

Don't forget to bring your Irish Life Health membership card or membership details with you. 

Before you go

Before you are due to go to hospital, you should check your admissions letter for instructions or details of any preparations required. For example, you'll often need to fast before certain operations and procedures. If you're not sure of what you need to do, don't hesitate to call your doctor or the hospital and they'll talk you through the procedure.

It's also a good idea not to drink alcohol the day before your visit. If you smoke, you should try to cut down as much as you can, especially if you are undergoing a general anaesthetic.

What to bring with you

  • Night wear
  • Dressing gown
  • Slippers
  • Toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush, skincare, shaving items, towel, facecloth, etc.)
  • A good book or MP3 player with your favourite music
  • Any medication you are currently taking

It's probably a good idea not to bring too many personal belongings or clothes with you as space will be limited - you will usually just have a locker or a small wardrobe beside your bed. The hospital will not have a personal laundry service so it's a good idea to make arrangements with your relatives or friends.

Most hospitals won't accept responsibility for any personal items during your hospital stay. It's a good idea to leave valuables, jewellery, expensive clothing and cash at home, except for a small amount of petty cash. 

Taking care of the paperwork

The hospital will ask you to sign a consent form before surgery or before having some procedures performed. You are entitled to receive sufficient information about the proposed surgery or procedure, the possible alternatives and substantial risks, so that you can make an informed and balanced judgement.

Read the form carefully before you sign it, and ask questions if there is something you do not understand. Parents or guardians must sign consent forms for children under the age of 16 years.

Accommodation for parents and relatives

If you are a relative of a very ill patient or the parent of a child, the Ward Sister/ Staff Nurse in charge will try to make arrangements for you if you need to stay the night to be near your loved one.

If that's not possible, you can also ask at the hospital reception for a list of Bed and Breakfast facilities available nearby.  

Visiting times

Visiting times are usually in the afternoons to early evening, to make sure that staff have enough time to get their work done and patients have enough rest time.

Usually, a max of two visitors are allowed to each patient at any one time and children under twelve are usually admitted only by special arrangement with the Clinical Nurse Manager. Visitors are not allowed during meal times.

Other things you should know

  • Special dietary requirements:
    If you have special dietary requirements, whether for religious or health reasons, you should call the hospital in advance and let them know what you will require. Most hospitals ask you not to bring in your own food, so if there is something specific that you need, you should discuss this with them in advance.
  • Religious arrangements:
    Most hospitals have a Chaplaincy service available for all patients. It's a good idea to let the hospital know in advance the denomination you require.
  • Smoking:
    Smoking in hospital is an absolute no-no in all wards, treatment areas, common rooms and facilities used by patients, including transport. Some hospitals provide designated smoking areas for patients where smoking is permitted.
  • Parking:
    Most hospitals have some parking facilities for visitors. There may be a charge for parking.
  • Complaints:
    It's normal for hospitals to have a formal complaints procedure in place and some even have a Complaints Officer. If you have a complaint regarding any aspect of your care, it's important that you direct it to the appropriate person or department. Ask the nurses on your ward who to direct your complaint to rather than complaining to them directly about something which may be outside of their control.

Access to your medical records

If you wish to see your medical records or have them explained to you, the hospital will facilitate your request. Information regarding your illness is confidential and it will not be given to anyone without your permission, except those involved in your treatment and your own General Practitioner. There may be an administration fee charged for this. 

Going home

As soon as you're feeling better, it's important to plan for your discharge as this is just as important as your admission.

Here's a handy check list to help you:

  • Make sure you have a way of getting home.
  • If you have a wound, what care is needed? For example, have you stitches or clips that need to be removed?
  • Can you bathe and shower when you go home?
  • Do you have house keys, clothes, and is there food available at home?
  • Has the heating been turned on?
  • If you are already receiving care or services at home, does the service provider know you have been discharged?
  • If there are any problems when you are discharged, who should you contact?
  • Medication is not supplied by the hospital, so have you someone who can get the medication for you? What is the medication for, and how often and for how long should you take it?
  • Have you got all your personal belongings?
  • Have you got your prescription, a letter for your doctor or public health nurse?
  • Do you need an out-patient appointment or follow-up care?
  • When can you return to work and normal activities?
  • Do you need a medical certificate for your employer?