What to pack when you are going to stay at the hospital largely depends on how long you will have to be there. It’s obvious that a one night stay will require less packing then being hospitalized for a week or longer.
What’s less clear is that people often pack too much not realizing they will be ‘out of it’ afterwards. The surgery, anesthesia and post-op medication may make you so sleepy, tired and unaware of what’s going on around you that you will not need most things you packed.
On the other hand, when it comes to personal hygiene and comfort, little things can make a big difference. For longer stays, also things to keep you busy and entertained matter.
In order to help you pack your bag before undergoing inpatient or overnight surgery here is an overview of all things you may or may not want to have with you once you are in the hospital.
Use these ideas as a checklist and decide for yourself what you are going to need and what not. Print it out and striketrough things you don’t need. Mark those items you’ve already packed so you know exactly what still needs to gathered.
The Ultimate Hospital Packing List
- Picture ID card
- Recent x-rays, MRIs, or other scan you have had done
- Medical insurance documentation including your health insurance cards or Medicare and/or Medicaid cards
- Documents requiring your doctor’s signature
- Important phone numbers
- Copy of power of attorney, living will and/or advance directive (if applicable)
- Other preoperative documents (some hospitals keep these on file, others have patients keep these)
Tip: put all these essentials together in one folder that can be closed securely with a tie or snap closure to avoid the risk of losing these documents.
- Prescription and non-prescription meds – in original containers
- Your hospital may ask you to bring a list with name and dosage of all your current medications including prescribed, herbal, and over the counter drugs.
Depending on the type of surgery you will get you may need assistive devices. Often these are provided by the hospital or recovery clinic. Sometimes people decide it’s beneficial for them to get their own aids up front. Hit the link for an overview.
- Any crutches, braces, or other post-surgery aids.
Soap and shampoo are provided by the hospital but it can be nice to bring your own . Just by having a little bit of your own trusted products with their familiar scents can make you feel more comfortable.
Tip: pack the things you will use most in one toiletry bag and place it on your tray table so it’s always within easy reach.
- Toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash
- Dental floss
- Conditioner, leave-in hair conditioner
- Body wash, face wash
- Bar soap
- Moisturizer/ lotion
- Feminine hygiene products (tampons, pads, etc)
- Razors, shaving lubricant
- Toilet paper – often better than what’s available at the hospital
- Powder, foot powder
- Sanitary pads
- Makeup – if you are feeling a bit more energetic you may feel like showering and putting makeup on to get ready for visitors
- Nail clippers
Personal care items
Here are the most basic needs when it comes to personal care.
- Hair ties, clips and barrettes
- Hair brush and comb
- Lip balm – the air is often very dry in hospitals so packing a lip balm will be a must for many women
- Mirror – in case you are still bedridden but want to check yourself for visitors or that hot doctor
- Saline nasal spray – a dry nose may not only irritate but some people tend to get sick as a result
- Liquorice – you love it or you hate it. It is great for soothing your throat and as a quick source of energy.
- Throat lozenges – another great throat soother.
- Antiseptic wipes – besides asking physicians and nurses to wash their hands another way of being proactive is wiping down surfaces such as the telephone and the TV remote control.
If you have stayed overnight in a hospital before you probably know that hospital gowns aren’t the most comfortable garments. Packing some of your own comfortable clothing will help you get through. Items that you may want to pack include:
- Nightgown / pajamas
- Comforable clothing such as sweat pants, comfy bra, loose shirts
- Fresh change of clothes / clean underwear
- Slippers for showering or when putting on shoes is difficult or impossible
- Tennies or shoes without laces
- Clean socks
When you are able to get up and walk around you will be glad to have packed the following items:
- Cash and change – bring a small amount of cash which will allow you to purchase snacks, a newspaper or other things from the vending machine or hospital restaurant.
- Slippers / Crocs – for walking the halls
- A cap or hat – for walking the halls without having to fix your hair
- Earplugs/eyeshades – sleeping well and taking naps contribute greatly to your recovery. Hospital lights and sounds may bother you so bringing something to cover your eyes and plug your ears during rest or sleep will help reduce stress and improve resting time.
- Relaxation Tools – a hot pack ( e.g. home made, a sock filled with beans or rice) can bring you instant pain or discomfort relief – you can easily warm it up in the hospital’s microwave. Other suggestions include: back massager, stress reliever squeeze ball, soothing sounds or music on iPod or CD, aromatherapy candles/oils (in case you are in a single room), massage oil or lotion.
- Warm socks to wear under the non-skid socks provided by the hospital
- Your own pillow, blanket or a stuffed animal can give you a soothing feeling in an environment of sickness, sterility and grief.
- Photos of beloved ones. Surgery and the recovery process afterwards with all its physical and emotional strains can be very demanding. Looking at a photo of your spouse or children may comfort you at the harder moments.
- Your own favorite snack. We all know that food comforts. Bring some crackers, beef jerky, liquorice, granola bars, fresh fruit, crackers, instant soup or whatever you fancy. Many hospitals will allow you to use their fridge to keep fruit chilled and have a microwave available to warm up food.
- A white-noise machine in your room can help draw out the common noise in hospitals. Telemetry alarms, doors, telephones, and staff voices are much less of a nuisance with the help of such a device thus providing you with the rest you need so much right now.
Hospital stays can be pretty boring especially if you are confined to bed all day long. Some entertainment to pass time and keep your mind off of your condition and recovery can be of huge importance.
- Books or magazines
- Sudoku or crossword puzzles
- Chess or checkers board and pieces
- Cell phone
- iPod, CD player or radio
- Portable DVD player
- Laptop or tablet
- Something to write in, such as a diary or journal
- Knitting or crochet necessities
- Glasses if you wear them
Many hospitals ban the use of cell phones, laptops and other electronics. Cell phone use in particular is often prohibited since it may interfere with electronic patient monitoring equipment.
Check the hospital’s policy about electronic items before you pack your bag. Bringing a prepaid phone card will help you stay in close contact with family members and friends during your hospital stay.
Vitamin and mineral supplements
Chances are you have consulted your medical team about the non-prescription supplements you have been taking. You probably know which vitamins and minerals you are allowed to take after the surgery. Packing these can give your recovery a headstart.
- Vitamin C is often used to enhance wound healing.
- Probiotics are known to promote healing, reduce the harsh side effects of antibiotics, and diminish chances on hospital-aquired infections (HAI). More about the benefits and safety of probiotics after surgery.
- Foods that reduce inflammation which is very common after surgery.
- Other supplements that are known to improve recovery.
Leave at home
Most hospitals will let you know during the admission process that they are not responsible for loss or theft of personal belongings throughout your hospitalization. Therefore it is recommended to leave valuable items at home.
- expensive watches
- expensive sunglasses
- credit cards
- other valueables
Did we miss something? Want to add an item to this hospital packing list? Shoot us an email or drop a comment below.