If you find yourself in the hospital, it can feel overwhelming and confusing. Fortunately, in addition to medical care, many hospitals offer other support services to help patients. For example, hospitals may offer:
Hospitals have different services, so it is important to ask what services may be available to you. If you need help that a hospital can’t provide, hospital staff may be able to connect you to a community organization that can help.
There is often a member of the hospital staff who is trained to help patients in a variety of situations. Their title may be Nurse Navigator, Social Worker, Patient Advocate, Case Manager, or Navigator. These staff can help you:
Besides hospitals, some insurance companies and employee assistance plans also offer these services.
A hospital may be able to provide you with some key documents that you may need while in the hospital. For example, there may be a time when you are not able to tell your health care team about your wishes for your health care. An Advance Health Care Directive is a legal document that allows you to share your wishes for your medical care. You can also choose a person to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so yourself. For more information about advance health care directives and other estate planning and medical decision-making documents, visit: TriageCancer.org/EstatePlanning.
If you have not documented your wishes, state law or hospital policy will determine who is allowed to make decisions on your behalf (e.g., spouse, adult children, parents, etc.).
Most hospitals are required by federal law to have written rules that give patients the right to choose their visitors. However, in a crisis, or a moment when you are not able to communicate your wishes, it can be helpful to document your wishes about who you would like to visit you in a hospital. You can do that by creating a Hospital Visitation Directive. A Hospital Visitation Directive tells your health care providers who you would like to be able to visit you in the hospital. This document can also be used to exclude certain relatives or other visitors if you choose.
Many hospitals offer access to these documents on their websites. They are usually found under a heading, such as “Patients and Visitors.” These documents may be offered in a variety of languages.
While you are in the hospital, you will be given important information including, information from your health care team about your medical care, documents to provide you with information, and forms you need to sign. You have a right to receive information in a language you can understand. Interpretation services should be provided by a qualified medical interpreter. Hospitals should not expect a family member to interpret for you. Hospitals cannot charge you for language services. Language services can be provided in several ways, including written documents in a variety of languages, or interpreters who can be provided in person, by phone, or by video.
If you are denied access to language services, you can file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights.
For cancer-related information in other languages, visit:
While you are in the hospital you may be concerned about having your religious beliefs and needs met. Hospitals can accommodate religious beliefs, by providing:
There are a variety of rights that every hospital patient is entitled to by law when the hospital accepts funds from the federal government. These include the rights to:
For more information and practical tips to navigate medical care and other cancer-related topics, visit TriageCancer.org/Resources
Last updated: 06/2022
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