Preparing to leave hospital

Planning for your discharge home or to another facility is an important part of your time in hospital. Being prepared for your discharge from hospital helps make things easier after you leave and helps you with your ongoing recovery.

Leaving hospital and the discharge process varies with each person. Some people leave hospital after a short stay, while others may have had a longer stay. Some people are independent and may not need much support once they leave hospital, but others may need extra care and support.

Whatever your situation, it helps to start thinking about, and planning, your discharge so that you and your family know what you need to do when you leave. Here are a few things to think about to help you prepare for your discharge.

Understand your condition

Before leaving hospital, ask your hospital care team about your medical condition – what it is called, what you can expect in the future and whether there are any changes you need to make. Make sure you understand anything you have to do or avoid once you are discharged. For example, will you need any aids or equipment for your recovery (eg, a walking stick)?

Be clear about anything you have to do at home to help you recover. This may include doing certain exercises, avoiding heavy lifting, drinking lots of fluids, changing your dressing or taking medication. Ask as many questions as you need to make sure you understand. It may also help to take some notes so you don't forget important information. Ask what activities you will be able to do once you get home, such as driving, bathing and climbing stairs.  

Ask about your medicines

Before you leave hospital, ask about your medication.

  • Make sure you know what medication you have been prescribed. Check dosages and instructions for taking them.
  • Tell the staff what medication, vitamins or supplements you took before you were admitted. Ask if you should still take these after you leave hospital.
  • Write down the name and phone number of a person to call if you have questions about your medication.

Read more about questions to ask about your medicines.

Find out about the discharge process

Ask questions beforehand about the discharge process such as the expected date and time of leaving. Also find out if you will need any paperwork such as a discharge letter.

When the time comes, check that you have all your things, including any valuables that you have have had in safe-keeping. In some cases, you may need to leave your bed so it can be prepared for another patient. You may be asked to wait in a discharge lounge, where a family member or friend can pick you up.

Make travel arrangements

Most people should not drive themselves home after discharge. You need to arrange to be taken home by a relative or friend in a private car, or use a taxi (it is often recommended that you do not use public transport). If a family member is picking you up, make sure they know what time you will be discharged. 

Organise support

Speak with your family or carer before your hospital discharge so they know what they need to do to help you. Make sure you and your family or carer understand any special instructions such as giving you medication or changing bandages. Your healthcare professional can show you, your family or carer how to do these tasks.

Ask about follow-up

Check if there are any follow-up appointments you need to make with your healthcare professional or at an outpatient clinic. Record these dates in your phone or diary, along with any special instructions for these appointments (eg, not eating before a blood test).

Look out for symptoms

Understand what the warning signs might be that mean you have to call a healthcare professional or return to hospital. After surgery, you need to keep an eye on your wound to make sure it is healing well. After a stay in hospital, you may be at risk of infection or a treatment injury. If you are in bed for some time after discharge, you may also be at risk of pressure sores. If you have any signs of complications or that something isn't healing well, see your doctor of phone Healthline 0800 611 116 for advice. 

Learn more

Preparing to leave hospital Better Health Channel, Australia