The Empowered Patient

ICE: In Case of Emergency
You should have an ICE partner in your cell phone contact list. Put the acronym ICE (In case of emergency) before the name of a designated emergency contact. Make sure the person has agreed to be your ICE partner and has a list of people he or she should contact on your behalf.

Your ICE partner should know about any medical conditions that could affect emergency treatment, including allergies or current medication. If you are under 18, your ICE partner should be a parent or guardian.

You should always keep a list in your wallet of your routine medications, the dosage and why you are taking them.

Your role in ensuring a safe and positive experience in the hospital

  • Identify a spokesperson to relay information to family and friends through email or a phone message.
  • If you have never been here, plan your route to the hospital. Directions to Washington Hospital Center.
  • Verify referrals and pre-certification with your insurance company. If you have not already done so, write down your medical history, including the dates and reasons for previous hospitalizations. You'll be asked for this information when you arrive. You can go to to create a family medical history tree.
  • If you are taking medications prior to your hospital stay, bring a list of them with you. You do not need to bring the medications themselves, because while you are a patient, all medications you need will be provided by the hospital.
  • If appropriate, you should have read and signed an advance directive (living will and/or durable power of attorney for health care decisions). Learn more about advance directives.
  • If you are having surgery, be sure to follow the pre-operative instructions, especially those concerning eating and drinking. Anesthesia can make you nauseated, and any food or liquid may be aspirated into your lungs.
  • If you are coming in for an outpatient procedure that may make you groggy, please make sure someone will drive you home and if necessary, stay with you.
  • Do not bring valuables with you. If you arrive with valuables, they will be secured by Protective Services and returned to you at discharge.
  • If you will be an inpatient, please discuss with your physician the length of time he anticipates that you'll be in the hospital, and whether you should bring anything with you.
  • If you wear glasses or dentures, please bring a container for them labeled with your name and birth date. If you do not have these, please ask your nurse for containers when you are admitted.

While you are here

  • Medications - The admitting nurse/physician will record any routine medications that you take, and make sure that you continue the appropriate ones while you're an inpatient. Be sure to let the staff know ALL the medications you take, including prescription, over-the-counter drugs and herbal medications. Many people think that over-the-counter drugs have no serious side effects, but they can. For instance, aspirin is a blood thinner that can hinder recovery from surgery. Garlic supplements also have been associated with an increase in bleeding. Let the staff know if you have any allergies.

    If you do not have one already, the Hospital Center will give you a wallet-sized MedStar Medication Card when you are admitted, to keep with you at all times. These cards can be found in waiting areas of the hospital as well as on the patient care units.
  • Mail and flowers - If you are receiving mail or flowers while you are in the hospital, please try to make sure the sender knows the unit where you are staying. Ask that the sender wait until you have been assigned a room before sending something to you. Flowers are not allowed in the intensive care units (ICUs).
  • Overhead Pages - Do not be alarmed by overhead pages. Hospital staff members routinely practice alerts or codes. In the event of an emergency, staff members will give you any necessary instructions.
  • Surgery - If you are having surgery, after you are admitted to the hospital you will be taken to the pre-operative area to prepare for your procedure. A nurse will ask your name, verify all information on your wrist band, and make sure you know why you are having surgery. You should be able to show the site of your surgery. You may be asked this more than once, which is a back-up system to ensure the hospital has all the correct information about why you are here.
  • Living Will and Advance Directives - If you have an advance directive (living will and/or durable power of attorney for health care decisions), please let the admitting staff know this. Learn more about advance directives.
  • Ask questions - Advocate for yourself, or have your spokesperson advocate for you. If you need further assistance, contact your Nurse Manager, or Patient Advocacy at 202-877-4968.
    • It's OK to Ask if clinicians have washed their hands, when health care workers come into your room. You should also ask any visitors to wash their hands before touching you. <!--
    • For your own safety, it also is vitally important for YOU to practice proper hand hygiene while you are in the hospital: before and after you use the bathroom, and before and after you eat your meals.
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    • Ask about each medication you are given, and understand why you are taking it. Make sure that everyone who gives you medication checks your hospital identification every time.
    • Ask for your rights and responsibilities. Learn more about Patient Rights and Responsibilities.
    • Ask your doctor and your nurse about your plan of care. You should be an active participant in your care and treatment.
    • Ask to see hospital identification, if you do not recognize a health care worker who is in your room. Hospital identification should be clearly visible at all times.
    • Ask sick friends and relatives not to visit you while you are in the hospital.
  • Special Needs - If you are disabled or need special services, such as TTD or an interpreter, please inform your nurse.
  • Avoid Falls - When you are in the hospital, you may be on medications that confuse you or make you dizzy. You're also in a strange environment. If you have been told to ask for assistance to get out of bed, please do so. It is not an inconvenience.

Prior to discharge

  • Before you are discharged, be sure you doctor or nurse has explained the instructions you are to follow at home. If you are unclear about ANY instructions, please ask.
  • Make sure you understand all your medications, including the ones you may have been taking prior to coming to the hospital. After surgery, many patients on pain medication become constipated. Be sure to discuss treatment options with your health care provider to avoid constipation.
  • Make sure you know what to watch for once you leave the hospital. Has my breathing gotten worse since arriving home? Am I feeling weaker since arriving home? If you've had surgery, know the signs of infection. How will you know if your incision is getting infected? What will it look like? How will you feel?
  • If necessary, arrange for help once you are home. You may not be able to go up and down steps or do any lifting. You may have food restrictions.

At home

  • If you've had surgery, remember to follow all instruction for post-operative recovery.
  • Make sure you have the phone numbers for your physician if you have questions. Don't hesitate to call.
  • You may receive a call or a letter from the hospital asking about your hospital experience. We are always trying to improve our services, and we value your opinion. If you receive a call or a letter, it doesn't take much time to respond. You can help us become an even better hospital.

Contact Us
We hope this information is helpful for you. If you have any questions about your health care, please call your physician. If you have questions or concerns about the hospital, please call Patient Advocacy at 202-877-4968.