Surgery Day – Hospital Check-In

All hospitals have their own process, but it is pretty common to be asked to check-in two to three hours before your scheduled surgery. Be on time; this scheduling provides some latitude for things to go wrong, but mostly it is to give enough time for you to sign paperwork, update records and be prepped for the procedure. As with all previous visits, be ready to jump through a dozen hoops.


Before any medical procedure, it is always a good idea to check your medical insurance. Familiarize yourself with your coverage, so you know what type of room you can afford, what procedures are covered and what your out-of-pocket expenses will be. You will be given many treatment options throughout the process and not all of them are covered by public health care or private insurance. You may choose options to cut costs, or to increase comfort and convenience, based on your means.


This is performed by a hospital administrator; they do not typically have any medical training, but are office personnel. Their role is billing and logistics. If you have questions about hospital charges or services, this is the person to ask.

You will have to sign in and select the type of room you want, make sure you are clear on any costs. Depending on the hospital, you may also choose any dietary requirements at this time. You will be signing consent paperwork and agreeing to hospital charges.  Make sure you are clear about what commitments you are making, and be sure to confirm what information they have on file.

The intake interview

Done by a nurse; if you have any concerns or issues this is a good person to ask. If you have any special circumstances or concerns, this is the time to discuss it. The nurse is familiar with the surgery process and will have the means to follow-up with a doctor if necessary

Now they re-ask a number of questions you have already answered, to ensure their records are still current.  It is critical that you answer these honestly; a cold or flu, accidentally eating or drinking past the deadline can affect your treatment. In some cases a change to your condition or status may result in your surgery being rescheduled, but in most cases the staff can adjust to accommodate you.

There are some things that are very embarrassing to discuss and therefore people are unsure whether to bring it up. Menstruation is one example; if you are menstruating the hospital will supply you a pad that will stay put without underwear. These are standard issue hospital supplies, and you shouldn’t feel self-conscious about letting someone know; it is not safe to use your own supplies without informing the staff. Another example is diarrhea; many people suffer from it when they are under stress, and you should not be shy to let the staff know if this is a problem for you. Odds are that having an empty stomach from fasting the night before will prevent this, but if not, staff can help to prevent any problems. Very little embarrasses or upsets medical staff; do not be afraid to ask for help.


If you are having an office procedure, you may have the luxury of only having to remove a piece of clothing, but if your procedure involves an operating room, you will likely be asked to remove all of your jewelry and clothing and dress in an assortment of hospital wear. You will not be able to keep your wedding rings, your bra, or anything else. Infection is a major issue that hospitals combat so it is critical that you comply with these rules.

You may be given some oral medications before being called into surgery; these may include a mild pain reliever, an antibiotic or a relaxant. If you are panicking, they will sometimes offer you anti-anxiety medicine to help you through the wait. Talk to your doctor about this in advance, or talk to the hospital staff when you check-in. Nobody wants you to have an anxiety attack in the waiting room or in the operating room. There are many anti-anxiety medications that do not interact badly with the anesthesia. Depending on the hospital’s procedure, they may begin the intravenous at this point.

You will then be asked to wait. Sometimes you may be in a room with a bed, but most of the time you will be in a larger waiting room with other patients and their friends and family. Because none of the patients have eaten for at least twelve hours, etiquette dictates that your friends and family not eat or drink in the waiting room; you may want to let them know.

Check out my last post in this series:  Surgery – What to Pack for the Hospital
Check out my next post in this series: Surgery Day – Types of Anesthetic