Expert tips to prepare for surgery and recover faster

Feb 16, 2020
Being prepared can make your hospital stay and recovery more comfortable. Source: Getty.

Many people will have one or more surgeries in their lifetime, but every operation has its own considerations and challenges. Whether it’s your first surgery or you’ve had several operations before, it’s normal to have some concerns. But instead of getting anxious or worried, channel your nervous energy by preparing yourself with the right supplies and strategies. The guide below will give you a head start on your research and organisation. Consider each pointer and you’ll feel more at ease about your procedure.

Preparing for surgery

As soon as you schedule your surgery, your doctor will prepare you for what to expect. They’ll give you important details such as when to arrive for your procedure, which medications to stop before you come in and the supplies you’ll need to bring with you. Your list of instructions will depend on whether you’re having inpatient or outpatient surgery. If you’re admitted to the hospital as an inpatient, you should plan on packing a bag for one or more nights. Outpatient surgery means you’ll return home the same day, so you won’t need much more than the clothes you’re wearing.

Whether you’re staying the night or leaving the facility in a few hours’ time, always wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothing. Take a list of your medications, allergies and a brief medical history. It’s also important to have the contact information of who will be driving you home, as well as anyone else you may need to call while you’re receiving care. If you need someone to drive you home from your appointment or help you with errands throughout your recovery, schedule this as soon as you can. A couple of weeks’ notice allows your caregivers and supporters to focus on your needs. If you need to order special medical supplies like mobility equipment or firm compression hosiery for post-surgery, give yourself the same amount of time to purchase the items and receive them in the mail. 

The night before your procedure

Your surgery prep instructions will include when to stop eating or drinking. For many, fasting will begin at midnight on the night before your surgery. If you think you’ll feel weak or you take medications, talk to your doctor about specifics. They may allow you to drink clear fluids so you can stay hydrated or swallow your pills.

Make sure your bags are packed in the early evening so you can get as much rest as possible. You’ll have to be up early to get to your appointment and you’ll want the extra energy to help you power through your surgery day. If you’re wearing jewellery, take it off before you go to bed. The hospital won’t let you wear it when you arrive and they won’t want to be responsible for your valuables. Your surgeon may provide you with a number to the hospital if you have any questions. Keep the number by your bedside or on your refrigerator.

The day of surgery

Now you’re prepared and ready for the big day. Set two alarms or ask a loved one to make sure you’re awake. Many facilities will require you to be there two hours before the procedure, which means you may have to be up before dawn. Having your keys and bag by the door will make your morning a lot easier. Once you arrive at the hospital or surgery center, a nurse will greet you and provide you with forms to fill out. They may also take your ID and health insurance card. The nurse will double-check your medical history and list of medications. They’ll check your blood pressure, heart rate and temperature. You’ll also get a chance to discuss any remaining concerns or questions about your surgery with your doctor.  =

After you’re done with the basics, you’ll be instructed to change into a gown. When you’re comfortable, you’ll sit or lie down and your nurse will start your IV line. When it’s almost time for surgery, you’ll be wheeled into the operating room on a stretcher. Before or during this time, you’ll meet with different members of your team, such as your surgical techs and your anesthesiologist. During all of the hustle and bustle, try your best to relax and be sure to communicate anything you need with your nurses. Your surgical team is there to help you feel your best every step of the way. 

Recovering at home

When the surgery is over, you’ll be sent to a recovery room. Your nurses will monitor your vitals, make sure you’re as comfortable as possible and check that you’re responding well to the procedure. If you’re staying in the hospital overnight, you will soon move to your room. Before you’re discharged, your surgeon or nursing team will go over every aspect of aftercare in person. They’ll also give you a copy of the instructions to take home with you.

Follow your doctor’s orders, which may include special instructions for the first few days, such as a 24-hour liquid diet, a mandatory period of rest or a step-by-step guide to incision care. Be sure you have your aftercare supplies ready at home before your procedure. Shop for incision care supplies, comfortable clothes and compression wear to help with recovery beforehand. If you make your own meals, have frozen or non-perishable foods on hand for at least a few days. Other helpful supplies for post-surgical care include entertainment items like magazines and books, a month’s supply of your prescriptions and any necessary medications.

Surgery preparation leads to a smoother recovery

No one likes to be caught off-guard before an important event — and this is especially true for a medical procedure such as surgery. By considering each step of the surgery and recovery process, you’ll make sure you have the tools and mindset you need to get through the challenging moments and heal quickly. The less stressed you are during and after the event, the more energy your body will have to get back to its usual strength and resiliency. Remember, don’t hesitate to ask for support along the way. Your surgical staff and loved ones are there to answer your questions, alleviate your concerns and make sure you’re prepared to get better and be the best version of yourself.

Important information: The information provided on this website is of a general nature and information purposes only. It does not take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. It is not personalised health advice and must not be relied upon as such. Before making any decisions about your health or changes to medication, diet and exercise routines you should determine whether the information is appropriate in terms of your particular circumstances and seek advice from a medical professional.

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