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Inpatient Handbook
Members of Your Health Care Team

Health care works best when it is a partnership between patients and caregivers. To do the best job, we need your help. Please ask questions and let us know about any worries you have.

Some of the people who may be part of your team:
Doctor: Depending on your health care needs, your doctor in the hospital may be your own primary care doctor, a specialist or a "hospitalist." Examples of specialists are surgeons and heart doctors. You may also be seen by our inpatient doctors (hospitalists). Doctors in training who are supervised by a senior doctor may also be involved in your care.

Nurse: Our nurses are members of your care team. Your nurse will plan and coordinate your care, and will also teach you about your illness and help you learn to care for yourself before you go home. Your nurse will be able to answer your questions and meet with your family to help them understand your care needs.

Nursing Assistant: Nursing assistants work very closely with the nurse. They will help you with bathing, getting in and out of the bathroom and checking your vital signs. If needed, the nursing assistant is able to quickly locate your nurse.

Case Management Nurse and Social Worker: You will meet these nurses and social workers early in your hospital stay. They will help you plan for your discharge and the medical follow-up you may need when you leave the hospital.

Housekeeping: Staff will clean your room and bathroom daily and respond to any special needs for cleaning.

Dieticians: A dietician will discuss your diet with you, and will help you learn about any dietary needs or special foods that are part of your discharge plan.

Other Team Members:

  • Other Doctors
  • Physician Assistants
  • Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists and Speech/Language Pathologists
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Therapists
  • Pharmacists
  • Phlebotomists (staff who take blood)
  • Students in Medicine, Nursing, Social Work, or other professions

Maternity Care:
If you are here to have a baby, you may be cared for by a Certified Nurse Midwife or a doula. A doula is a woman trained to support you during pregnancy, labor, and birth. They can also teach you how to care for your new baby.

Psychiatry Care:

If you are here for mental health services, the staff also includes:

  • Attending Psychiatrist who oversees the team involved in your care
  • Milieu Counselors / Milieu Therapists: Help patients with their treatment plan and assist with monitoring the unit for safety.
  • Psychiatric Occupational Therapists: Help patients learn skills and gain self-awareness.


Interpreting Services

If English isn't your first language and you would like an interpreter, you can talk with one at any time, day or night. This service is free to all patients and is an important part of giving you excellent medical care. Our interpreters protect your privacy and share your information only with the people taking care of you. To get an interpreter, ask your doctor, nurse or unit secretary. The interpreter may come to your room or talk with you over the phone.

Hearing-Impaired Services:

We have ASL interpreters in person and through video conferencing. To get an interpreter, ask your doctor, nurse or unit secretary. We also have TTY (text telephone) devices. If you would like one, just ask your nurse.


Your Family

We believe family and friends play an important part in your care. They will probably be the ones to help you when you leave the hospital. If you want, we will involve your family and friends in your care. For example, a family member can go with you to tests, help with your hospital care or learn how to help you at home. A family member can also stay overnight. Please tell us what you need and we will try to meet those needs.

CHA hospitals allow your family to visit at any hour. If family members arrive after 8:00 PM, Security staff may ask them to sign in at the Information Desk. Family members are welcome to use the cafeteria at each hospital campus. When the cafeteria is closed, staff on the unit can direct you to snack and drink machines. There is parking at each hospital campus for families and friends.

What Can You Do?

1. Ask questions.
All questions are important. You don't need to feel worried about asking. So please ask

  • If you don't understand what someone is saying.
  • If you think we are mixing you up with another person.
  • If you're about to be anesthetized (put to sleep before surgery) without seeing signs that the team has double-checked your identity and your surgical site.

2. Be aware of daily routines.

  • Know what time of day you are supposed to get your medicine. If it does not happen then, tell your doctor or nurse.
  • Know who is caring for you. All staff wear name badges and should tell you their names and jobs. Be sure to ask if they don't tell you.
  • Notice that all caregivers wash their hands before they touch you. Ask if you do not feel sure about this.
  • Notice if the nurse/caregiver checks your identification bracelet or asks your name and date of birth before taking your blood or giving you medicine or blood.

3. Learn as much as you can about your illness or condition and how to treat it.

  • If English isn't your best language, ask for an interpreter. There is no charge for this.
  • Get good information. Your doctor, nurses and the library are places to get good information.
  • Write down important information and questions - or have someone write it for you.
  • Take all the time you need to understand any medical form or consent form.
  • Learn how to use any equipment that you will have to use at home.

4. Learn about your medicines.

  • Tell your caregiver about all medicines you take, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and tonics. If you can, bring a list of your medicines to the hospital.
  • Ask the name, the reason you are taking the medicine and any side effects. Ask if you think you are not getting a medication that you should be getting.
  • If someone brings a medicine you don't recognize, ask for information before you take it or before they start the I.V. (the needle in your arm for fluid).
  • Notice your I.V. Tell a nurse if it is running very quickly or slowly, or if the needle is causing you pain.
  • Remind your doctor/caregiver about your allergies when you are getting a new medicine.

5. Be a partner in your healthcare.

  • Talk with your doctor and caregivers about decisions and plans for your care. Make sure you agree with the decisions.
  • Ask who will be taking care of you, how long the treatment will last and how you will feel.
  • Ask what information a test will give and how it will help to decide what treatment you need.

6. Often one person, a family member or a friend, helps out as the "point person" and shares information with other family members. This person can:

  • Help you think of questions to ask and remember answers.
  • Stay with you, even overnight in the hospital.
  • Help the staff understand your symptoms better.
  • Help the staff understand your usual routines, life circumstances, and who you are as a person.
  • Review forms with you so you both know what you are signing.
  • Help you make sure that the healthcare team follows your wishes about care.
  • Help make sure that you know what care you will need at home, what problems to look out for and how to get help if there is a problem.


Who Is In Your Family?

Your family is whoever is important to you. It may be a close friend, neighbor or a relative. With shorter times in the hospital, patients often need care when they leave the hospital. We believe family and friends play an important part in your care because they will probably be the ones to help you when you leave the hospital. If you want, we will work with and involve these important people in your care.

Family can be involved in many parts of your care if you and they want that. For example, a family member can go with you to tests, help with your hospital care or learn how to help you at home.
We can arrange for a family member to stay overnight. Please tell us what you need and we will try to meet those needs.

At the hospitals of Cambridge Health Alliance, your family is welcome to visit at any hour. If family members arrive after 8 PM, Security staff will ask them to sign in at the Information Desk.

Family members are welcome to use the cafeteria at each hospital. When the cafeteria is closed, staff on the unit can direct you to snack and drink machines.

There is parking at each hospital.


Getting Patient Information

To protect your privacy, we give information about your condition or location only if you give us permission. When you say it is ok, people can get information about you by asking at the Information Desk at each hospital.

For patient information by phone: call the number below and ask for "Patient Information"

Cambridge Hospital Campus: 617-665-1000
Somerville Hospital Campus: 617-591-4500
Whidden Hospital Campus: 617-389-6270

For Your Comfort and Safety

Patient Meals
We prepare fresh food that will meet your specific nutritional needs. Our menus offer a variety of choices for your enjoyment. Meal times are as follows:

Cambridge 7:00am - 10:00am
Whidden 7:15am - 10:00am

Cambridge 11:15am - 2:00pm
Whidden 11:15am - 2:00pm

Cambridge 4:45pm - 6:00pm
Whidden 4:15pm - 6:00pm

If for any reason you are not on your unit at meal time, or have a delay because of a test, ask your nurse to get your meal. Also, feel free to ask if you have any other needs concerning food.

Our menus come in English, Portuguese, Spanish, and Haitian Creole. Our staff will help you fill out your menu form. They can explain your diet and help you with other questions or needs.
If you are on a special diet because of your medical condition our staff will give you a written explanation of this diet. If you want to know more about what you can eat on your diet, ask to speak to a Registered Dietician. Kosher meals and vegetarian meals are available upon request.



For your safety, you must wear your hospital ID bracelet until you leave. It has your name, date of birth, and other information. The bracelet lets staff identify you at all times, even if you are sleeping. As an extra safety measure, sometimes we will ask your name and birth date to confirm who you are. We will do this before giving you medicine and before taking any blood tests.

Patient Information
The law requires us to protect your privacy. We can only give information about your condition or location if you give us permission. When you do so, people can get information about your condition by contacting the Information Desk at each hospital campus.

For patient information by phone: call the number below and ask for "Patient Information."

Cambridge campus:

Whidden campus:

Please do not bring valuable items or much money with you. We cannot pay for or replace anything that gets broken or lost. If you have things of value, we suggest that you give them to someone to take home. If you want to store anything in the hospital safe, ask your nurse or the unit secretary.

Spiritual Resources
If you would like to speak with a spiritual counselor, please ask your nurse. There is a meditation room or chapel located off the main lobby at each hospital. It is open 24 hours a day.

Telephones are located at each bedside. There is no charge to use the phone to make local calls.

To make a call:
1. Local calls: dial 9 + Area Code + 7 digit phone number
2. Credit cards: dial 9 + 1 + 800-225-5288
3. Collect calls: dial 9 + 1 + 800-265-5328

To receive a call:
Your phone number is on the phone. People may use that number to call you directly.

Mail and Flowers
We bring mail to patients once a day. The florist delivers flowers.

Gift Shop
There is a gift shop in the main lobby at the Cambridge Hospital campus. It sells small personal
care items such as toothpaste, as well as cards, candy and small gifts.

Cambridge Gift Shop Hours
Monday to Friday, 9:00am - 8:00pm
Saturday and Sunday, Noon - 5:00pm

Electrical Equipment
Bringing personal electrical equipment to the Hospital is generally discouraged. If necessary, any electrical appliance or equipment that is brought to the Hospital should be identified to the Nurse Manager, who in turn will call Engineering for appropriate inspection before it is used. The use of battery-operated radios and CD/cassette players including Ipods is allowed.

Wireless Services
CHA provides a free wireless network (named "CHA Guest") for patients and visitors using their own equipment. A password is not required to access this service.


Smoking In the Hospital

For your health, and to follow state law, there is no smoking in the hospital. Patients may not leave their rooms to smoke. Some patients use their time in the hospital to stop smoking. We
hope you will think about stopping as a way to improve your health. Talk with your doctor or nurse about ways we can help.

Visitors who want to smoke must go outside to a location marked as a "smoking area." Smoking is not allowed near any doorway outside the hospital.


Getting Ready to Leave the Hospital

Planning your Discharge
Your Health Care team will work with you to plan for your discharge. They will begin to discuss this plan soon after you come into the hospital.

Nurses from the Case Management Department are part of this team. They will work with you and the rest of the team to arrange for care or services you will need when you leave. There are also Social Workers to help with your discharge plan, if needed.

Some patients may need a visiting nurse, a home health aide, a homemaker or special equipment. Some may need care at a rehabilitation hospital or a nursing home. Others may go to a Skilled Nursing Facility to help them get stronger before returning home. If you need any of this help, your Case Manager and health care team will help you find the best care possible.

People often feel worried when they leave the hospital. We want to help make this time as easy as possible for you. Your team will give you clear information. Please tell us about any questions or concerns you have.

When you leave, you will have the phone number for the unit you have been on. If you have questions, call that number or call your primary care provider.

On The Day You Leave
We ask patients and families to plan for discharge by 11:00 AM. Your doctor will talk to you if this time needs to change. If someone is picking you up, please ask that person to arrive at the planned time.

Check your closet, bedside table, and bathroom to make sure you have all of your belongings. If you have valuables in the hospital safe, ask the unit secretary to get them for you.

Your Medicines
When you arrived, we asked you about medicines you were taking at home. If you were on medicine at home, some of them may get changed while you are in the hospital.

Before you leave, the doctors and nurses will check your medicine list from home and compare it with any medicines that were added or stopped while you were in the hospital. Before you leave make sure that you:

  • have a list of all the medicines you are on now and how to take them.
  • have any prescriptions you need.

Taking Good Care of Yourself

We want to help you understand your condition, treatments, and medicines. It is important for you to know about your health so that you can get well and stay well. We will help you learn what you need to know so you can leave the hospital safely. If you'd like, a family member or friend can take part in any learning activities.

Follow-up Care
It is very important to have a follow-up appointment with your primary care provider (PCP) after a hospital stay. We can help you make this appointment before you leave. If you don't have a PCP we can arrange an appointment at one of our many primary care sites in the area.


Financial Assistance Team

The Financial Assistance team can help you apply for low cost, state subsidized health insurance. This includes MassHealth, Commonwealth Care and Health Safety Net. They can explain the options to you, and can also help you fill out the forms. Their number is 781-306-8981 or 1-877-637-CARE.


The Health Care Proxy

The Health Care Proxy is a simple legal paper. It allows you to choose a "proxy," someone you know and trust who can make health care choices for you if you are not able to make these choices for yourself. If you already have chosen a proxy and filled out the paper, please give a copy to your doctor. We will put it in your medical record.

If you do not have a proxy, you may choose one while you are in the hospital. We can give you the form and help you fill it out. Please ask your nurse or social worker about this if you have questions.

Important Note

Parents, guardians, or proxy decision-makers have the same rights as patients if:

  • A patient cannot make decisions.
  • A judge has said that the person cannot make decisions.
  • The patient is a minor (usually younger than 18 years old).
Your Medical Record

You have the right to read your medical record. If you want to read it, you can set up a time with your nurse or doctor. We will help you understand what is written and answer any questions.

You also have the right to have a copy of your medical record. To get a copy after you leave the hospital, call or go to the Medical Records Department (our main number is 617-665-2646). Because of state law we have to collect a small fee for a copy. It takes at least one week to make a copy. If parts of your record are not complete when you leave, we won't make a copy until it is complete. It may take longer than a week until you get the copy. If you give permission, we will send a summary of your record to your doctor. There is no charge for this.



Patient's Bill of Rights
Our goal is to give you the care that is right for you. We want to help you get better as soon as possible. We always focus on maintaining the rights, dignity and well-being of our patients. Here is a summary of your rights and responsibilities.

Federal and state law provide for specific patient rights. At CHA, we respect these rights and want you to know about them. If you would like a copy of the complete law, or these rights in another language, please call Patient Relations at 617-665-1398.

Your Rights

  • You have a right to all the medical care you need if we offer this care at CHA. Your caregivers will tell you about other choices for care if we do not provide what you need.
  • You have a right to treatment that respects your values, beliefs, and privacy.
  • You have a right to clear information about your health problems and about your care. Note: If you are here for breast surgery, breast cancer treatment or childbirth, you have the right to specific information about your procedures. Please ask your caregiver.
  • You have a right to professional interpreter services at no cost.
  • You have a right to clear information about this heath care facility.
  • You have a right to be free from all forms of abuse and harassment.
  • You have a right to the name and job title of anyone taking care of you.
  • You have a right to say yes or no to having a student care for you.
  • You have a right to choices about which treatments you want.
  • You have the right to know about how much your treatment will cost.

Your Responsibilities as a Patient

  • Give correct and complete facts about your new and old health problems.
  • Ask for help if you do not understand what you have heard about your care.
  • Work with your caregivers to get effective and safe treatment for your problem.
  • Give the hospital a copy of your Health Care Proxy if you have one.
  • Treat others with respect.
  • Follow hospital rules and regulations affecting patient care and conduct, including the No Smoking Policy.
  • Be considerate of the rights of other patients and hospital personnel and assist in the control of noise.
  • Bring identification and insurance papers to provide the information needed for payment of your medical care.

Making a Complaint
You have the right to make a complaint if you have concerns about patient care or safety. Complaints will not hurt your rights as a patient. In fact, it helps us to know how we can improve your health care services. Please talk with the Nurse Manager of your unit about any concerns you have. You can also call Patient Relations at 617-665-1398.

If your concerns are not settled at this level, you can also contact:

The Board of Registration in Medicine
200 Harvard Mill Square, Suite 330
Wakefield, MA 01880
Phone: 781-876-8200

MA Department of Public Health
Division of Health Care Quality
10 West Street, 5th Floor
Boston, MA
Phone: 1-800-462-5540

The Joint Commission is an independent, not-for-profit national organization that oversees the safety and quality of healthcare organizations. Consumers may share concerns about accredited hospitals by calling the Joint Commission's complaint hotline at 1-800-994-6610 or e-mailing:

The Joint Commission Office of Quality Monitoring
1 Renaissance Boulevard, Oakbrook Terrace, IL 60181