Accidents Stink! Behind the Scenes of Surgery Paperwork

by | Nov 8, 2022 | 0 comments

Navigating the Surgery Paperwork

I broke my arm and needed surgery. It was overwhelming. The paperwork is out of control. Forms, letters, and notifications. If you need help figuring out the surgery paperwork, this article is for you.

Surgery Paperwork… From a Patient Who’s Been Through It All

First, let me tell you… I am a nurse by training. But I wasn’t a surgery nurse. I wasn’t even a “medical” nurse, per se. Those who know me well have likely heard me say, “I’m not a ‘nursey’ nurse.”

So, yes. I had some experience with healthcare before my accident. However, I had never had surgery before. I hadn’t even been really sick, in the hospital, or anything major like that.

Surgery was all new to me. And, boy, was I glad to at least have my healthcare background. Because the surgery paperwork is no joke.

I had elbow surgery and struggled with a complicated, lengthy recovery. So, I navigated through an extensive paper trail. I’m here to share my tips and tricks (lessons learned) along the way.

Keep the Surgery Papers Organized

My very first suggestion may sound like a no-brainer, but you never know. Once the letters and documents start coming in, it can become easy to become overwhelmed and just toss papers all over the place.

Don’t do that. Don’t just toss the papers to the side. Or, read them and put them on a table. Or scatter them all over the house. Just don’t.

Keep the surgery paperwork organized. I’d suggest using some folders or a filing pocket system. Keep the papers all in one place. And keep them in “buckets”.

Arrange Paperwork by Category

So, all the papers will be in ONE place. Great job!

Now, when you get paperwork, put it into categories. For example, if you’ve decided to take short-term disability from work, that’s a category. You’re going to be receiving invoices and bills… another category. Maybe your work requires copies of the doctors’ notes (your medical record or “chart” as it’s called). Yup, another category.

You may consider creating categories like this:

  • Medical records: doctors’ notes, electronic medical record copies, visit writeups
  • Insurance papers: anything pertaining to your health insurance
  • Work paperwork: short-term disability, long-term disability, FMLA (family medical leave)
  • Patient instructions: medications, exercises, therapies, etc.

As your surgery paperwork pile continues to grow, you’ll know if you need to add other categories.

Don’t Toss Anything

I cannot stand clutter. And I am not a packrat. In fact, anytime I get a new piece of clothing (e.g., a shirt), I throw another shirt away to make room for the new one.

It was very difficult for me not to throw the surgery paperwork away. That’s right. I wanted it out of sight… and fast. My arm rehab was tough and the sight of anything surgery-related made me mad.

But I didn’t throw anything out. Not until it was done and over with. Ugh, yes. I had to keep the paperwork. But it’s the right thing to do.

You never know when you might need to refer to something. For example, my work contacted me to inform me of updates to my short-term disability. I didn’t understand the newly updated language in the letter, so I pulled out the very first communication from the short-term disability office. I found my agent’s contact information, including her cell phone number! I called her up and was able to ask questions and get answers right away.

If I had tossed out the original communications, I might have never gotten answers that fast.

Even When It’s Over… It’s Not “Over”

Don’t throw the surgery paperwork away even when the whole ordeal is done. Yes, painful for me to say and do, but still doing it anyway.

surgery paperworkYou never know what or who is going to come at you even a year after the operation.

Once the acute phase of the recovery process is finished and you’re back to work, you still should keep that paperwork for just a bit of time.

So, take the filing system you’ve created and just put it in a safe place out of sight. You don’t need the constant reminder of your surgery, but you definitely need those papers for at least a few years.

Then, when it’s really done and done… perhaps shredding the surgery paperwork. Just in case you don’t want people knowing your health history and personal information.

Tough topic. But you got this. With an organized plan, you can keep your surgery paperwork under control. Have questions or need help?

Feel free to visit me here. I’m more than happy to partner with you on your healing journey.

About the Author: Elizabeth Scala MSN/MBA, RN, HNB-BC, RYT (200) is a board-certified holistic nurse, registered yoga instructor, and reiki master.

Elizabeth received her dual master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University. She is a certified coach, nature lover, and avid meditator.

Elizabeth lives in Maryland with her supportive husband and playful pit bull. She enjoys gardening, jigsaw puzzles, farming, music, and hiking.


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