Five Things I Learned in the Hospital

duke_univ_hospWith my almost 3-week hospital stay behind me, I realized there are several things I learned from the experience. Here are five of them:

1. People who are in the hospital are really sick.

You might think that would be obvious, but when I say sick, I mean really sick. With today’s cost-driven medical care, you’ve got to be really sick to be admitted, and really, really sick to stay for almost 3-weeks like I did. Recognizing the degree of a person’s illness should have a great deal to do with how we minister to those in the hospital.

2. Brief visits are good visits.

While I enjoyed seeing everyone who came to see me, when I was at my sickest the shorter the visit the more I appreciated it. There are several reasons for brief visits. First, the patient is really sick (see Item #1 above). Second, being really sick means your attention span, your strength, and your ability to carry on a conversation are all limited. Third, hospital patients often have to use the bathroom more frequently than others due to the nature of their illness and medications they might be receiving. Keeping your visit short avoids the embarrassment of their having to ask you to leave while they call for the nurse for assistance.

3. Privacy and Dignity Need to Be Preserved by Visitors.

I discovered that being in the hospital means that doctors and nurses ask you about bowel movements, urination, incontinence, and other personal body functions. Often they do this right in front of everyone in the room, assuming that its okay to ask any question with guests present. Visitors should help the patient preserve what little privacy and dignity they have left, by excusing themselves when the doctor enters the room, or the nurse comes in to check on the patient. By exhibiting sensitivity toward the patient’s privacy and dignity, guests will show respect for the patient.

4. Let Sleeping Patients Lie.

Believe it or not, hospital life is not conducive to sleep. Almost every night at 3 AM, a lab technician would come in to draw blood for lab tests. Of course, she had to turn on the overhead light, and I had to sit up for her to find an unused vein (they grew harder to find each day) from which to draw blood. So, if you come into a hospital room where the patient is asleep, write a note and then quietly leave. The patient will appreciate your visit and your thoughtfulness.

5. Offer specific ways you can help.

Offer specific ways you are able to help make the patient’s stay easier. While there we had people offer to take our dirty clothes home and wash them. Others brought us food, or drinks, and some offered to do so when we got home. Two men in our church installed a new shower head in our shower so I could shower seated. Others offered transportation, help with travel and parking expenses, and many assured us of their prayers. Saying, “I can’t do everything, but I can wash clothes. Can I take yours home and wash them and return them tomorrow,” is a great way of offering to do something specific.

Of course, I learned more than 5 things while in the hospital and maybe I’ll share some of those later. But for now, these are things that can enhance your hospital ministry whether you’re a pastor or concerned church member. I’m also interested in what you’ve learned from your experience being hospitalized. What things would you add to this list. Put them in the comments, and I’ll add them in a later post. Thanks, and it’s good to be home again!

18 thoughts on “Five Things I Learned in the Hospital”

  1. Chuck,

    You and I have never met.
    Truth be told, I don’t even remember how I found your blog and began following it.
    But… I have found it very helpful.

    Thank you for sharing your story with us.
    It challenges us to think more clearly in our daily lives.

    You should know that I am a Pastor who has done a lot of hospital visitation over the years.
    I am also a HealthCare Administrator who happens to have had a license to practice Respiratory Therapy for over 30 years. To this day, I continue to work a few hours per month at a local community hospital.

    Therefore, I think that I’ve had a few observations over the years.

    And, brother…
    I’d have to say that your list of five was “spot-on”.
    Not just for your experience, but in a rather broad way.

    Your suggestions should be really, really listened to by others.

    I’m going to think about any additional suggestions.
    Perhaps I’ll add them later.

    In the meantime, know that you have a brother-in-Christ who has never met you but still finds himself praying for God’s best for you and your family. There is no doubt that this is a hard time for you. I’m so glad that you and I have a really BIG God that we can trust NO MATTER WHAT.


    1. John, thanks so much for your comment of affirmation. I had only been in the hospital once before, and that was a long time ago. So, this was a new and eye-opening experience for me. I appreciate your encouragement and glad the blog has been helpful. Every blessing, Chuck

      Chuck Warnock Mobile 434.203.1448

  2. You’ve done a great service to all with these suggestions. I only have one thing left to add, and it’s from personal experience as a patient. Please don’t trivialize a person’s illness and the fear of the unknown by telling them “Oh, you’ll be fine”. He/she doesn’t know that. There may be a dire diagnosis such as cancer or some other debilitating, life-altering condition they may have and the last thing he/she needs to hear is someone implying that it’s nothing to worry about.

    Sent from my iPhone

    1. Judy, thanks for all your encouraging comments over these past weeks. I know you are facing your own health challenges and we have prayed for you often. Your suggestion about not trivializing the patient’s illness is very appropriate. Our culture tends to deny unpleasant possibilities. I’ll add that in a later post. Thanks Chuck

  3. Amen to all of these.  Also, do not come to visit if you feel bad, have allergies, cough, etc..  Things we should know, ( key word,KNOW)  Knock before entering a room. Best not to shake hands.  Respect other patient in the room.  Be positive and do not share imformation about similar illness of uncle!   We are all happy to see you in good spirits.  Debbie smiles like it’s Chritmas morning and she is six!   Paulette

    1. Paulette, Great suggestions and I’ll add them to the on-going list of do’s and don’ts! Yeah, we’re both pretty happy to be home. Thanks for all you and Henry did for us. We’re very appreciative of everything that our church family has done for us. See you Sunday! Chuck

      Chuck Warnock Mobile 434.203.1448

  4. Well said!!!! I agree with all of this and hopefully a lot of people will adhere to this. I’ve always said people are sick and visits should be held to 5 minutes or so. The patient does not want to talk. Glad you are at home. God bless you as you recover fully.


    1. Betty Sue, Thanks for your comments, which are my thoughts exactly! I appreciate your concern and thanks for your prayers! Chuck

      Chuck Warnock Mobile 434.203.1448

  5. Chuck,

    Lots of wisdom here. Thanks for sharing. My dad told me once, and he was not a pastor, that when visiting in the hospital or in homes to not stay so long that the people you are seeing don’t want you to come back!

  6. Never, ever visit a patient if you or even a member of your family, is ill. That patient obviously has enough problems without your sharing your germs with him or her!!!

  7. Never visit someone in the hospital really late (as you mentioned) and stay and carry on! When there and things settle down, I want too as well, its true that I do not want to entertain you and your SO for an hour or more ,, I want to go to bed while I can. That also applies to home visits .. I may be home and alone but I dont need to try to entertain when I am trying to recover. I feel the same way about home visitation .. long drawn out visits are just NOT what is needed.
    I once asked a friend to bring over ice for one of those auto ice coolers (same friend, actually) and she dropped the bag on the floor and just laughed .. I was the one who had to get down on the floor after surgery to clean it up. Her reply was, well, its just water ..
    Another thing I have learned is that noise .. any noise .. really bothers me … so, take earplugs~~~ The tick, tick, tick of the monitors and IV poles drives people like me nuts. It will also keep the noises in the hall to a dull roar.
    Also, if you have bed head hair .. (I really do, and its horrible) get a surgeons cap .. they fit very closely and cover up that horrid hair !!!

  8. Great advice on all points! These rules also apply to someone recently home from the hospital too.
    Terry Reed
    Small Church Tools

  9. Good words Chuck. With other great comments added, I am not sure I can add much more. I would suggest finding out what the patient enjoys reading (magazines, inspirational books or even word puzzles) and bring a few for patients who have a long stay in the hospital. Some medications make it more difficult to go back to sleep after the 3 a.m. check by the nurse. I will continue to pray for you all!

  10. My, my, my, my, my. Ain’t we getting feisty, but all you say is true. Glad things are looking up and will see you when we get to Chatham. Ed and Jeannette From: To: Sent: Thursday, April 04, 2013 11:11 AM Subject: [New post] Five Things I Learned in the Hospital

    Chuck Warnock posted: “With my almost 3-week hospital stay behind me, I realized there are several things I learned from the experience. Here are five of them: 1. People who are in the hospital are really sick. You might think that would be obvious, but when I say sick, I”

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