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    Taking Charge of Your Hospital Stay

    Experts explain four steps that empower patients to manage their health needs from a hospital bed.

    Step 2: Make Friendships Count continued...

    And, she says, you and your friend need to prepare for this as much in advance as possible.

    "Have a detailed discussion with the person you choose as your health care advocate, ideally long before hospitalization becomes necessary. And even consider making a written list of what you do and do not want your care to include," Correoso tells WebMD.

    Then, she says, trust that the person you have chosen will follow through on your behalf.

    "People are funny sometimes. They say they want to trust someone but in reality they really only trust themselves, which is why it's important to choose someone you feel comfortable with and who you can trust. And then trust them!" says Correoso.

    If that person is not able to help you when the time comes -- or if you simply don't have anyone to rely on -- Burke tells WebMD that nearly all hospitals have a hierarchy of staff members who can advocate on your behalf.

    "It starts with the patient advocate, and most major hospitals have them. And they can not only help you to mediate your grievances but also help to make certain that your rights as a patient are being respected," says Burke.

    Step 3: Learn Your Rights

    When it comes to preparing for a hospital stay, experts say perhaps nothing is more important than realizing you do have rights as a patient. And taking the time to learn what they are can serve you well in many situations.

    Among the most important of those entitlements, says Burke, is the right to receive an explanation of any treatment being prescribed, and the right to ask for that explanation as many times as necessary until you fully comprehend it. Also important to note: You can ask for that explanation in your native language, even if you speak English.

    Perhaps most important, says Burke, is to remember every patient has the right to refuse any treatment -- including tests.

    "If you don't understand why a test was ordered, or why a medication was changed, or you have any question at all about your care, you have the right to refuse that care until you can find out more. And very often it is the patient advocate who can intercede and get you those answers, if you just reach out to them," says Burke.

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