In HospitalSoup.com’s series on the importance of getting certain screening exams, like colonoscopies, our nursing reporter uncovered some interesting information. Over 95% of all patients that we surveyed who had previously undergone a screening colonoscopy were not aware of what medications they were given, nor were they aware that they had a choice in requesting that particular medications not be used during their procedure.

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Let’s first discuss some important facts about medication and how it is  given in most cases when you are a patient in the hospital or in an outpatient surgical setting. Most of the time as a patient you are not told exactly what the name of the medication that you are being given. Additionally, let’s think about the setting and your frame of mind when you arrive for a procedure. First of all, you may have had to fast for a particular number of hours in preparation for a procedure. Certainly, the colonoscopy preparation procedure requires fasting as well as hours spent in the restroom so that one’s bowels are clean. Then, you generally either have to get up at the crack of dawn or well before dawn depending upon where you live, the traffic, and the time of your procedure, and finally when you arrive exhausted at the hospital or surgery center, you are then checked in, placed in a room, told to remove all your clothes, and put one of those very attractive hospital gowns on, and asked to sign a multitude of papers. Your glasses and personal belongings may even have been removed so that you are signing papers which you can’t even see, but in your tired and hungry state you may be so focused on getting out of the hospital that you’re not too concerned about what you are being given or the documents you are signing. The next step after you’ve handed over your glasses, stripped out of your clothes, and are possibly nervously awaiting your procedure, is that you will probably be approached by a nurse who comes in with a huge smile and pokes you in the arm to start your IV. You are probably then approached by either the same smiling staff member or another member of your medical team with an equally large grin that you will be “given something to relax”.  Not one to want to ruffle any feathers and certainly wanting to be a  “good patient” you probably simply say “ok” and may be totally oblivious to what happens next. And some of you may want it that way. But others, may want to know what’s in the IV before it’s being given, and you also may want to know that sometimes there are options for different medications that could be given if you as the patient had two things in your favor. Those two things are 1) the  ability to know in advance what medicines are used for a particular procedure and 2) the ability and time to ask questions about the medications and to ask about alternatives prior to your being in a rather vulnerable position (ie: without your clothes, without your doctor there to ask questions of, in an unfamiliar atmosphere, around people who all see to be in a hurry, and feeling like you may be holding up the entire hospital’s schedule if you happen to open your mouth).

Now, please dear readers know that this article is probably going to ruffle some feathers in the medical community and this article may not be popular with some medical professionals. IMPORTANT:   This is not meant to discourage anyone at all from having screening procedures, on the contrary, it is absolutely critical that you understand as a patient that having certain screening procedures like colonoscopies can be absolutely life saving!  On the other hand what this article intends to do is to illustrate the reality of the fact that it is really critical we believe to provide adequate disclosure about medications that are given both before, during and after any type of medical procedure so that we as medical professionals do a better job of actually getting informed consent from our patients. Equally important is the knowledge that you as the patient, have every right to find out what’s being given to you while a patient in either a hospital, surgery center, or in any type of medical setting. Our next article will discuss the types of medications that are given generally to patients having a colonoscopy and options you need to  know about before going to the hospital or having certain testing performed.  Stay tuned, and let us know if you would rather understand what types of medications are used when you have  a medical test performed, or if you’d rather know know.