Tips for Being in the Hospital

Author: Marisa Healy, BSN, RN
Last Reviewed: November 06, 2023

If you are receiving cancer treatment, you may need to be admitted to a hospital at some point. Being in the hospital can be stressful in many ways. Here are some tips to get you through your hospital stay.

What happens during admission to the hospital?

A lot of things happen when you are admitted to the hospital. You will be seen by quite a few care providers who will ask you about:

  • Your health history.
  • Current medications.
  • Your diagnosis.
  • Treatments you have received in the past.
  • Your home life.

You should always have a list of your current medications. Having your records all in one place can help. Helpful forms to track all of this can be found on OncoPilot.

Your care team will check your vital signs (blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, respiratory rate, and blood oxygen level), height, and weight. Your provider and nurse will do a physical assessment like you have done at a yearly physical appointment.

Your nurse may place a peripheral IV (often in your hand or arm). An IV is placed if you need intravenous (IV) medications such as fluid for dehydration, nausea medications if you are throwing up, or pain medication. If you have a working central line, you may not need a peripheral IV. You may have some tests done, such as a chest x-ray, urine sample, blood work, or a CT scan. Your provider will order tests based on why you are being admitted to the hospital.

Everyone on your medical team works together. They want to make the safest plan of care for you.

What will my hospital room be like?

Hospital rooms will have what you need for daily living. You may have a roommate. Ask your nurse or nursing assistant to show you around your room. You may want to know:

  • Where your call bell is in case you need help.
  • How to work the television.
  • How to adjust the bed and temperature in the room.
  • How the shower works.
  • How to get any supplies you might need, like blankets, towels, socks, etc.

Most hospital floors have a pantry with water, juice, and snacks for patients. There may be a family waiting room. Visiting hours vary and each hospital has policies about overnight guests.

Who will be on my care team?

Your care team in the hospital is made up of many different providers like physicians, nurse practitioners (NP), physician assistants (PA), nurses, social workers, nursing assistants, technicians, and so on. You may want to keep a guest book or log near your bed to write down who visits you and what they do for your care.

Be sure to ask about the plan for your stay. You want to be able to make decisions with the team about your care. Take notes and ask questions. Be your own advocate. It can also help to have a loved one by your side to help you remember everything that is happening.

Other tips for your hospital stay:

  • You will be given a hospital gown. Often, you can also bring your own comfortable clothing. You will be given skid-free slippers or socks. You can bring a robe, a blanket, and a pillow from home. You just want to make sure that they don't get collected with the hospital laundry!
  • Your care team will tell you what kind of diet you will be on while in the hospital. If you are having a hard time finding food you like, ask if there is a different menu or special order items available. You can also have family and friends bring you meals (if they are within your prescribed diet). You can keep non-perishable items like crackers, granola bars, and nuts in your room. Ask the staff if there is a fridge for you to keep perishable items. Frozen meals are a good option because you can heat them in a microwave. If you have a question as to whether a food choice is within your diet, ask your care team.
  • Keep yourself distracted with reading, a craft or hobby, or an electronic device.
  • Visitors can be helpful, but you may also need some downtime. Have visitors call you before visiting in case you don't feel up for company at that time.

How do I help my mental health while in the hospital?

Cancer and its treatments can bring many emotions, such as sadness, fear, stress, and anxiety. Being in the hospital can make these feelings worse. Think about what makes you happy and make sure you have it during your hospital stay. You can bring pictures of family, loved ones, and pets to decorate your room. You can listen to music, pray, meditate, or journal.

On days where you are feeling well enough, walk around the unit. There may be support groups on the unit and throughout the hospital. Being social with staff, other patients, and family members will keep you active mentally. Other patients may be there for a similar reason. You can support each other in the hospital and after discharge. Ask if there is a courtyard or a place with fresh air where you can sit.

If you are feeling very sad and having a hard time being in the hospital, talk with your care team. Your provider or nurse can make referrals to social work, spiritual counseling, or psychiatry. There is plenty of help available.

How do I stay physically active in the hospital?

Move as much as you can! If you are not feeling up to leaving your room, you can ask if there is exercise equipment that you can use in your room. Physical therapy (PT) and occupational therapy (OT) can teach you exercises and stretches to keep your strength.

There may be days where you don't have the energy to get out of bed and you may need some help. It is important to at least sit in a chair for a couple of hours each day to keep your muscles engaged.

What happens when it is time to go home?

When it is time to go home, you will be given paperwork that goes over everything that happened while you were in the hospital. Keep a copy of this in your records.

  • Ask if you can have your prescription medications filled before leaving or have them sent to a local pharmacy electronically, so they will be ready when you get there.
  • Make sure you have phone numbers for any home care you may have.
  • Check your paperwork for any follow up appointments you may have. These may have been made for you.

Once home, it can take some time to adjust. You may want to have a support person at your house with you until you are used to being home. Make sure you have phone numbers for providers if you have questions. It can take some time and effort on your part to get used to life at home. Be patient!

Like many parts of your treatment, being in the hospital can be stressful on many levels. Think about what might work best for you during your hospitalization. Remember, what worked during one hospitalization may not work for the next, so you may need to adjust.


NCCN Guidelines for Patients. 2023. Distress during cancer care. Taken from

NIH: National Cancer Institute. 2023. Emergency resources for the cancer community. Taken from

NIH: National Library of Medicine. 2022. Choosing a doctor and hospital for your cancer treatment. Taken from


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