What to Pack for a Hospital Stay

To address acute medical illnesses and chronic health problems, appropriate assessment and intervention is required. Depending on the concern, some people may need to be admitted to hospital for medical work up and monitoring.

People with complex health conditions usually have more lengthy hospital admissions, so it may be required to pack a hospital bag with personal items to make your stay more comfortable.

A good hospital admission kit will include the following items:

  1. Extra Food and Snacks

Hospitals are not well known for their high quality catering service. Meals often have limited portions and selection. Moreover, hospital food is quite bland, so picky eaters and those with food restrictions may find it challenging to eat well.

Hospital meals often have limited portions and selection.

For these reasons, it is important to have ample snacks and a supply of one’s own food when allowed. Being able to munch on something in between hospital served meals can help fend off a grumbling belly, prevent significant weight loss, and deconditioning.

Tip: Unless contraindicated, Ensure or Boost meal replacement shakes can help meet someone’s caloric and nutrient intake needs in between hospital meals.

  1. Personal Hygiene Products

Some hospitals may be able to provide basic personal hygiene products, however it can be difficult to obtain these items in a timely manner as staff are frequently busy addressing the medical needs of the inpatients. 

Thus, relying on the staff for access to hygiene products will place you on someone else’s schedule as these items are often located in storage rooms. This can mean the products are brought to you in an untimely manner or not at all as the staff carefully may be overwhelmed with other priorities.

Furthermore, the hospital provided items may come in small sample packets, which means you’ll need to ask for more products on a regular basis.

For these reasons, a hospital stay can be made more comfortable by bringing in your own personal items:

  • Toothbrush and toothpaste – maintaining good oral health is an important way to manage some chronic health conditions (for example, poor dental health increases risk of bacterial infections in the blood)
  • Deodorant – decrease armpit odor with a good deodorant while staying in hospital for an extended period of time
  • Tampons or pads – absorb menstrual blood and maintain personal hygiene
  • Hair comb and brush – fix one’s hair in the morning, and also helpful after any showers at the hospital
  • Lip chap – because the hospital air is often dry to minimize the spread of bacteria, a good lip balm is required to moisturize the lips and keep them from cracking
  • Hand cream – it is good practice to wash your hands frequently to avoid hospital acquired infections, so having hand cream to moisturize the skin can keep it from drying and cracking

  1. Change of Clothes

Hospital stays can be made more comfortable by having a fresh change of clothing. 

It is important to check with the hospital staff whether this is allowed as some inpatient admissions require IV lines and other diagnostic equipment to be connected to you. In these cases, it may be better to wear a hospital gown to ensure the staff have rapid access to your body and the necessary lines for easy treatment.

If allowed to wear your own clothing, it is a good idea to pack these things in a patient bag:

  • Underwear – change your underwear daily as genitals sweat and can lead to bacterial growth
  • Sweater – hospitals are usually cold environments to prevent bacterial growth and spread, so having a warm sweater or cardigan is helpful to regulate one’s temperature
  • Shirts – change shirts frequently to avoid the build up of sweat and dirt
  • Socks – non-skid socks are a great option to prevent slipping and sliding when walking around hospitals (hospitals usually provide socks with gripping treads for patients considered to be at higher risk of falls)
  • Pijamas – maximize comfort by sleeping in your own pajamas

  1. Comfort Items

Hospitals are noisey, bright and sometimes dirty environments. 

To make one’s stay more comfortable, the following items are recommended:

  • Ear plugs – reduce volume levels of the sounds around you such as public addresses on the overhead public announcement system, other patients, medical staff discussions, and equipment beeps and warnings
  • Eye mask – reduce lighting simulation from medical equipment, hallway lights and natural lighting by covering the eyes
  • Shower shoes – helps to avoid picking up foot fungus and other infections after using communal showers in hospital
  • Sneakers – avoid stepping on wet or dirty surfaces by wearing a flat soled rubber shoes with good grip (this type of shoe can also reduce slips and falls)

  1. Full List of Medications and Brief Medical History

Oftentimes, healthcare systems are poorly connected and integrated amongst each other. 

For this reason, it is important to have a concise medical history, medication regime, and up to date medical contacts. By presenting this information to your hospital team, you have the best chance of receiving the most comprehensive care that addresses all your health concerns.

This can also ensure that proper follow up on outstanding medical issues occurs after hospital discharge and that all of one’s medical specialists and care providers are appraised to the newest issues. 

Ultimately, having a good understanding of one’s needs can foster better interprofessional communication among your care team, improve health outcomes, and quality of life.

  1. Entertainment

While many hospitals offer inpatient television sets, this service is often for an additional fee that can be expensive to some. However, having something to pass the time on an inpatient ward is a helpful way to avoid boredom and make hospital visits more bearable.

Entertainment such as electronic e-book readers, tablets and books are an excellent way to stay preoccupied while in hospital.

  1. Corrective Vision Aids

Having your eyeglasses or contact lenses while in the hospital is important because you will often be given documentation and instructions that are important to read.

For instance, it is vital to follow any prescribed rehab exercises, so having the correct vision aids to be able to read them can promote a more speedy recovery from surgery and reduce the risk of deconditioning.

Furthermore, discharge summaries are frequently given that outline one’s hospital course. These documents are important to read prior to going home as they provide instructions on signs and symptoms to look for, when one should return to the emergency department, and also highlights any necessary medical follow up once you have left the hospital.

  1. Hearing Aids

For those with hearing loss, it is important to pack your hearing aids or other assistive auditory device to ensure you can understand your healthcare team.

This will allow you to comprehend what is going on medically, including any proposed steps to investigate or correct the issue. Essentially, by being able to hear the hospital staff, you can better advocate for yourself, and guide your treatment plan.

  1. Personal and Emergency Contacts

Having a good support network of friends and family can often help someone cope with a hospital admission. 

When visiting hours are completed, you may still be able to communicate with your support network by telephone.

More importantly, providing the hospital staff with the contact info for your friends and family can help facilitate a return home by:

  • Providing advanced warning of an anticipated hospital discharge
  • Giving time to arrange transportation to pick you up from the hospital
  • Allowing for medical and bathroom safety equipment to be obtained and ready for use in the home prior to your return
  • Ensuring that home care supports are arranged to reduce failure to thrive within the community and hospital readmission
  • Allowing a substitute decision maker to make healthcare choices on your behalf if you were to become incapacitated

  1. Cellular Phone and Extra Long Charger Cord

While many hospitals have inpatient phone extensions to make direct calls out and to receive calls, these phones are normally connected and active for an add-on fee. For this reason, it is important to bring your own personal cell phone with an extra long charger cord. 

A mobile phone can help those admitted to hospital in several ways:

  • Grant access to health or personal information located on one’s phone or email that may be medically relevant to care in the hospital
  • Ability to contact friends and family to provide updates on your care and how you are doing
  • Access to one’s physicians and medical specialists to inform them of your hospital visit so that they are aware and able to follow up more quickly upon your discharge
  • Keep yourself entertained by surfing the internet for fun or watching a movie via a streaming service
  • Stay informed by researching proposed treatments by your hospital team