The Hospital Go Bag

Unfortunately, I’ve spent a lot of time in hospitals in my life. Not as a patient, mind you, but visiting loved ones. Quite often, these visits consisted of several hours spent in waiting rooms. On something of a regular basis, what was planned to be just a couple of hours in the patient’s room turned into an entire day spent waiting to hear from a surgeon.

Over the years, I’ve developed a small checklist of items that I take with me every single time I’m headed to the hospital. Think of it as a Hospital Go Bag.

First on the list is something to do while you’re waiting. For me, this has been a book or two (in recent years, my Kindle Fire) and a notebook with a few pens. Other suggestions include crossword puzzles, a deck of cards, or any of those travel-size games you can find at Walmart or the dollar store. While it is a good idea to have something you can do by yourself, having a deck of cards or a game is a great way for a couple of you to pass the time together.

Next is to have some snacks and a water bottle or soft drink. Having these with you will help prevent, or at least delay, visits to the cafeteria or vending machines. Given that many hospitals today are just enormous, rivaling small college campuses in some cases, the less walking you have to do, the less the chance of you getting lost on your way back.

That said, make sure you have some cash and coins for those vending machines, just in case the wait lasts even longer than you anticipate. While the cafeteria will probably take your debit card, vending machines are still mostly cash only.

A small notebook and a few writing utensils allow you to take notes as you talk to the various and sundry medical staff. You’ll want to write down medications, dosages, and follow up care instructions. You might also want to jot down the time various events take place so you can keep track of how long it has been since this or that happened.

Hospital waiting rooms can often be chilly, so pack a light sweatshirt or sweater. If nothing else, it will be nice to have to curl up under you should you decide to nap while you’re waiting.

Most hospitals today have free Wi-Fi, so you’ll be able to log into Facebook and Twitter, as well as check email and play games. However, that also means you’ll probably be chewing up your cell phone’s battery quicker than normal. If you think ahead and toss a cell phone charger into your bag, you can charge up from any of the room’s outlets. Maybe you’ll be lucky enough that your Kindle or Nook will use the same cable as your cell phone, too. A portable power pack might not be a bad idea, either, just in case you can’t find a free outlet where you’re camped out for the duration.

This isn’t really a bag you need to pack and keep prepped in advance, unless you have a loved one in poor health and trips to the hospital at the drop of a hat are common. However, I’d bet it wouldn’t take you more than maybe 10 minutes to put this stuff together and toss it all into a duffel or shoulder bag.

As we always say, better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.


  1. Heather Saint says:

    Spouse has been hospitalized a couple of times in the last year, having read this article before made a huge difference.

    1. Jim Cobb says:

      I’m sorry to hear about the hospital visits, but glad the info was helpful! This is one of the articles we’ve moved from the old site. Here’s hoping others find it useful as well.

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