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Ways to Stay Safe in the Hospital with Diabetes


Updated January 28, 2012

Ways to Stay Safe in the Hospital with Diabetes

Asking questions of your doctor and other health care professionals is not only a good idea but shows engagement in your treatment process. The more educated you are, the more empowered you feel.

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Be your own advocate while in the hospital:

People with diabetes are more likely than those in the general population to eventually have a hospitalization. It may be due to a serious low blood sugar reaction, an infection that won’t heal or a non-related issue to diabetes. But regardless of how you ended up being admitted, you want your hospital stay to be as short and healthy as possible.

Hospitals and safety

Most people assume that hospitals are safe and that the care is always appropriate. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Numerous studies over the years have shown that thousands of errors are made every year in hospitals across the country. Some of these errors result in fatalities. The reasons for the errors might be related to a medical procedure that goes wrong. Others involve the wrong medication being delivered, the spread of infection from lack of hand washing by doctors or hospital personnel, or simply errors caused by stress or fatigue.

But you need not fear the worst if you or a loved one needs to spend time in the hospital. There are a number of things you can do to be your own advocate and greatly reduce your risk of medical errors.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions

You’ve no doubt heard this advice before but it’s worth repeating. Questions are not only appropriate but often necessary. Healthcare professionals are often in a hurry and explain things quickly or use language that the common person doesn’t understand. You not only have a right to ask questions for clarification but you should consider it your responsibility to be as educated as possible on your condition, medications and treatment.

For example, when you are in the hospital, ask about the type of medication or insulin you are being given to ensure that it matches what you are currently taking. If you get conflicting messages from two people treating you, ask for clarification. Being informed brings a sense of empowerment and security.

Be honest

If you want your healthcare team to provide the best treatment, you need to be honest with them. For example, if you’ve not been taking your insulin as prescribed or haven’t been checking our blood sugar regularly, this information should be shared. This honesty also extends to your drug and alcohol use, sexual activity and any medications and supplements you might be taking. You need not be embarrassed to admit these things. You want your healthcare team at the hospital to know how to best treat your condition and your disclosure of this information will help them better do that.

Choose your hospital wisely

In an emergency you may not have this luxury. But if you are able to plan your hospital stay, consider being admitted to the same hospital where your endocrinologist has admitting privileges. You might also want to consider a hospital that has an inpatient diabetes management team that includes a diabetes educator, dietician, and other professionals trained in diabetes.

Be your own advocate

If you don’t feel you are getting adequate care or that some of the healthcare professionals aren’t following the rules, speak up. For example, if you notice that the doctor doesn’t wash his or her hands before examining you, it is very appropriate for you to ask them to do so. If you are accustomed to routine blood sugar checks at certain times and these aren’t being performed, let the hospital personnel know your concerns. It may be an oversight or there may be intentional modifications to your treatment plan. But you may not know unless you speak up.

Another approach is to have a family member or friend present most of the time to ask questions, monitor medications and ensure that you are getting the care you deserve. Either way, in today’s healthcare environment, the person who is their own advocate typically gets the best care.


American Diabetes Association. "10 Ways to Stay Safe in the Hospital.”

How to Stay Informed

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