It’s a fact of life – people checking into the hospital face risks. Expecting to get better, some actually end up getting worse. The question is whose fault is it? Many people say it’s the fault of the health professionals. That may be partially true because health professionals cause common health problems like medication errors. One thing we must remember is that because the demand for health services exceeds the supply of same, health professionals come under a lot of pressure. No doubt some nurses are really easily angered. I had an experience where a colleague nurse shouted at me for no reason. I believe the passion for the profession is waning and this is something we must be very careful about.

When you are at the hospital, it is very easy to feel intimidated. While you lie in bed, groggy and disheveled in a sweaty johnny-coat, you may feel pretty powerless compared to the brisk, lab-coated doctors who appear at your bedside. What could your puny opinion matter to all these experts? It may be tempting to give up control, to lie back and just hope that your doctors and nurses will remember everything. But you should never give up responsibility for your own health. The advice from all the experts is to pay attention and ask questions. In days gone, good patients were the ones who didn’t make any noise and were grateful, it turns out that those patients don’t do so well. The ones who do well are the ones who ask questions. So to lower your hospital risks, you have to be an active and involved patient. Not only will it give you a feeling of control over your situation, but it may even improve your care because correct and clear information given to the doctor makes treatment easier. “Questioning authority is never easy,” says Nancy Foster, vice president of quality and safety policy at the American Hospital Association in Chicago. “But remember it’s your body, your health, and your life. If you ever have questions or concerns about anything during your hospital stay, you have to speak up.”

In Ghana, patients are very vulnerable in the hospital because some health professionals think they are doing the patient a great deal. Yes! but remember you are there because of the patient. They are humans like anyone of us, treat them with passion, let them feel loved, appreciated and most of all let them feel welcomed. Speaking about the nursing profession for instance, Christine Belle said “Our job as a nurse is to cushion the sorrow and celebrate the joy every day, while we are just doing our jobs”. And my favourite quote of all time: “They may forget your name, but they will never forget how you made them feel” by Maya Angelou.

It’s all about the passion to save life. Patient, remember you have the right to ask questions, right to know every procedure that is carried out on you and even the right to refuse medication. Also remember your life is in your hands, you choose what to do with it.

Eat well!

Drink a lot of water!

And live a good and healthy life!

The writer is a Level 300 Nursing Student, Central University and The MasterCard Foundation Scholar at Camfed Ghana

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