Checking in is the first big step in your hospital stay. Ideally, much of the paperwork will have been done ahead of time, before you even get to the hospital.
What happens first?
The hospital or your doctor will let you know what time to arrive and where to go. Often you will be directed to the admitting office. But if you're having surgery, you may be told to go directly to the surgery department.
You'll probably have to sign a number of forms, such as a general consent for routine treatment, a consent for surgery, an agreement to pay for bills not covered by insurance, and a HIPAA (say "HIP-uh") form.
You'll get an identification bracelet for your wrist. Check it to make sure that everything on it is correct.
What are hospital rooms like?
Most hospital rooms are "private" (one patient) or "semi-private" (two patients). Some hospitals have only private rooms. Some hospitals have both, and they may charge more for a private room. That extra charge may not be covered by your insurance.
In cases where you may need to be closely watched—for example, right after surgery—you may be placed in a room with three or four beds, at least for a while.
Most rooms have their own bathrooms, complete with shower stalls. You will probably have a window and usually a phone and television. There will be a table that can be moved over the bed and a separate nightstand next to the bed.
Your bed will have controls that raise and lower the bed. Be sure to lower the bed before you get up.
There is often not much shelf space or closet space in these rooms. That's something to think about when you're deciding what to bring with you to the hospital.
Many hospitals provide a fold-out chair or cot, with blanket and pillow, so that a friend or family member can sleep overnight.
Unless you're on a special diet, you may have a menu to choose from for your meals. Some hospitals have defined times when meals are delivered. In other hospitals, you can order food at any time.
Often there is a hospitality snack cart that volunteers push from room to room during the day. The cart sells snack items, as well as toiletries, magazines, and other small items you may want.
If a visitor wants to bring you a meal from outside the hospital—or if you want to have something delivered—check with your nurse. It's usually not a problem unless you're on a special diet.