Preparing for Your Appointment or Hospital Stay

Office visit

Get the most out of your UW Medicine appointment by preparing before you come in and following through afterward.


  • Tell the scheduler the nature of your health concerns.
  • If you have several concerns and you think you might need more time than a standard visit, ask if a longer visit is an option.


Write down this information and bring it to your appointment:

  • Reasons for your visit — and questions to ask your care provider, so you don’t forget something important
  • Your recent health history — not every ache and minor cold but these items:
    • Lasting illness
    • Changes in how you feel, your blood pressure or your blood sugar levels if you track these at home or your temperature if you have a fever
    • Your latest test results
    • Names and contacts for other care providers you have seen
  • Names and doses of your medicines — including prescription medicines, over-the-counter medicines, herbal or homeopathic remedies and vitamins or supplements (or bring the bottles)
  • All your allergies — including to medicines, foods and things in the environment

Our patient forms can help you organize these details.


Arrive 10-15 minutes early to allow time for check-in.

Bring with you to every appointment:

  • Your insurance card and photo ID.
  • A way to pay your co-payment. (We accept major credit cards and personal checks.)
  • All the things you wrote down before your appointment, like your health concerns, questions, recent health history, the medicines or supplements you take and your allergies.


  • Start by briefly telling your care provider your list of health concerns. Even if you do not have time to discuss them all at one visit, your provider can help prioritize them.
  • Ask the questions you have for your provider.
  • Share details openly, even if they seem embarrassing. Your privacy is important to us, and we protect it.
  • Mention major health events, like surgeries, that have happened since your last visit.
  • Repeat back the things your care team has said in your own words.
  • Write down the names of your care team members.
  • Ask for referrals if you need them and for prescription refills if you will run out before your next appointment.
  • Children are welcome, but we do not supervise them.


  • Make sure you understand the instructions in the summary you get after your visit. If you’re not sure about something, ask before you leave or call your care provider’s office for help.
  • Follow your care team’s instructions, like filling prescriptions and making follow-up appointments with other providers.
  • If you have side effects from medicines or you feel worse, call your care provider.

Virtual Clinic visit

After you submit a request for a visit online at UW Medicine Virtual Clinic, your visit will begin within 30 minutes. Follow these tips to get ready.


  • Make sure your webcam is set up and the volume is on.
  • You may enter the exam room and get situated.
  • Have your phone ready, just in case the video does not work.


  • Log in to Skype.
  • Be sure your privacy settings allow calls from non-contacts.
  • Have your phone ready, just in case Skype does not work.


  • Have your phone ready to receive a call from the provider.
  • Keep in mind the provider might call from an unknown or blocked phone number.


While you wait for your visit, gather these items, which might be helpful:

  • Thermometer
  • Flashlight
  • Smart phone or digital camera

Radiology imaging visit

Surgical procedure visit or hospital stay at Harborview Medical Center, UW Medical Center or UWMC-Roosevelt

Your care team will give you details about how to prepare for the specific surgery you need and what to expect at the hospital or clinic. Here are general guidelines.


Once your surgeon has scheduled your surgery, you will visit the Pre-Anesthesia Clinic. Nurses trained in anesthesia assessment will review:

Based on your type of surgery, your care team may order tests, such as:

  • Blood work
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG)
  • Chest X-ray

Bring these items when you come to the Pre-Anesthesia Clinic:

  • A list of all the medicines and supplements you take, including times and doses. Ask the clinic staff whether you need to stop taking any of them before your surgery.
  • The results of tests you had at any other hospital or clinic, especially heart or lung diagnostic tests, such as an EKG, stress test, echocardiogram or pulmonary function tests. If you need help getting results, ask us.

Your pre-anesthesia visit is a good time to ask questions about what will happen on the day of your surgery.


Pre-surgery call:

  • We will call you the afternoon or evening before your surgery to confirm the location of your surgery and your arrival time.
  • You’ll also get pre-surgery instructions and have a chance to ask any last-minute questions.
  • If your surgery is on a Monday, we will call you on the Friday before surgery.

If you do not receive a pre-surgery call:

  • If your surgery is at Harborview and you do not receive a call by 7 p.m., call the Ambulatory Surgery Unit at 206.744.5432.
  • If your surgery is at UWMC and you do not receive a call by 5 p.m., call the Pre-Anesthesia Clinic at 206.598.6334.
  • If your surgery is at UWMC/Roosevelt and you do not receive a call by 3 p.m., call the Surgery Scheduling Office at 206.598.6541.

Bathing and shaving:

  • Your care team will give you details about how to clean and prepare your body for surgery.
  • They will tell you what kind of soap to use the night before and morning of your surgery, such as chlorhexidine gluconate skin cleanser (Hibiclens or other brands).
  • To lower the risk of infection, follow your team’s instructions about shaving. You may need to avoid shaving near the site of your surgery for two days before surgery.

Eating and drinking:

  • Unless you are told otherwise, you may eat normally and take your usual medicine the day and evening before surgery.
  • Do not eat anything and do not drink alcohol after midnight the night before or morning of your surgery. Your team may tell you not to drink any liquids at all after midnight or to drink only clear liquids (like water, juice with no pulp and black coffee); follow their instructions.
  • These guidelines help reduce your chance of vomiting or inhaling items into your lungs during surgery.
  • If you forget or do not follow these fasting guidelines, we may need to reschedule your surgery.
  • You may swallow pills you need to take on the morning of surgery with small sips of water. Follow the medicine instructions you got from your care team.


How to dress:

  • Wear loose clothes that will be easy to take off and comfortable to wear home.
  • Remove all jewelry and body piercings.
  • Do not use any makeup, deodorant, lotions, hair products or fragrances.

What to bring:

  • A photo ID, your health insurance card and your pharmacy insurance card.
  • A list of your medicines and supplements, including doses (not the actual medicines unless the Pre-Anesthesia Clinic nurse told you to).
  • Cases to store your glasses, contact lenses, dentures and hearing aids.
  • A way to pay your co-payment for discharge medicine — cash, check or credit card. (We cannot bill you later for these co-payments.)
  • A copy of your healthcare directive or durable power of attorney for healthcare if you want these in your medical record.
  • Your L&I claim number, if you have one.
  • Your CPAP machine if you use one at night to help you breathe.
  • A book or project to help pass the time after you check in and before your surgery.

Do not bring:

  • Valuables
  • Children under 17 unless they are with a responsible adult


If your surgery is at Harborview and you need to cancel:

  • Before your scheduled surgery day, call your patient care coordinator or the Ambulatory Surgery Unit at 206.744.5432.
  • On the morning of surgery, call the operating room at 206.744.8800 before 6 a.m. or the Ambulatory Surgery Unit at 206.744.5432 after 6 a.m.

If your surgery is at UWMC and you need to cancel:

  • Before your scheduled surgery day, call your patient care coordinator before 4 p.m., or call the operating room at 206.598.4270.
  • On the morning of surgery, call the operating room at 206.598.4270.

If your surgery is at UWMC/Roosevelt and you need to cancel:

  • Before your scheduled surgery day, call your patient care coordinator before 3 p.m.
  • On the morning of surgery, or on the weekend before surgery if your surgery is on a Monday, call the operating room at 206.598.4270.


We will let you know where to check in and what time to arrive. Usually, we ask you to come one-and-a-half hours before your surgery. You might need more preparation time for some surgeries.

During check-in, you will:

  • Sign admission forms.
  • Be asked whether your health has recently changed.
  • Meet your anesthesiology team.
  • Get your intravenous (IV) line (a small needle and thin tube used to give you medicines and fluids).


Family and friends will be allowed to stay with you as much as possible during the steps before and after your surgery. 

While you are in the operating room:

  • Family and friends may wait in the surgery waiting areas.
  • Staff will be in contact with your loved ones about how your surgery is going.
  • When your surgery is done, the surgeon will come out to let them know how everything went.

After you get the post-surgical care you need:

  • Your loved ones will generally be able to visit you in the Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU), if you wish.
  • Because of limited space, you can have only one adult visitor at a time.


Most patients spend 1-2 hours after surgery in the PACU.

A nurse will:

  • Check your breathing, heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Help you with any nausea or pain you feel.

We want to keep you comfortable. Be sure to ask your nurse for pain medicine before your pain gets too intense.

You might receive pain medicine by mouth or directly through your IV.

If you are staying overnight in the hospital, you might receive pain relief by medicine given through a small tube in your back (epidural).

You might have patient-controlled analgesia (PCA). This means a machine puts a dose of pain medicine into your IV tube when you push a button. Your doctors will prescribe the right amount of medicine for you. With PCA, you do not have to wait for a nurse. You control your pain relief. You will not become addicted to these medicines if you use the machine as prescribed.


Learn more about our post-acute care support.

Learn more


During your pre-surgical visit, your surgeon will discuss with you whether you will go home the same day as your surgery or stay in the hospital.

Ask your surgeon:

  • How your activity might be limited after surgery
  • How long these limits will last

It can be helpful to think about what kind of help you will need and arrange for help before your surgery. Work out things like how you will:

  • Get to the bathroom.
  • Go up and down stairs.
  • Prepare your meals.
  • Care for yourself.

Before you leave the hospital:

  • You must have a responsible adult take you home. You cannot drive or take a taxi or bus home by yourself.
  • You will get information about how to care for yourself at home.
  • You will make a follow-up appointment.

For your safety, we strongly recommend that you have a responsible adult stay with you for at least 24 hours. This person should be able to help with anything you might need, such as getting up and down stairs and having meals.

DO NOT do these things for 24 hours after you have anesthesia or take sleeping medicine:

  • Drive.
  • Drink alcohol.
  • Travel alone.
  • Use machinery.
  • Sign any legal papers.
  • Be responsible for another person, such as a child.

If you have any questions about your surgery or recovery, speak with your surgeon or another member of your care team. Read more in depth about your surgery experience at UWMC, or watch our video on preparing for surgery at UWMC.

Surgical procedure visit at Northwest Hospital & Medical Center


An admitting representative and a pre-admission nurse will call you two to four days before your surgery.

  • The admitting representative will ask for your birth date, insurance numbers and other finance-related details.
  • The nurse will:
    • Give you information about what to expect.
    • Schedule or confirm any tests you need, unless the surgeon has already arranged tests.
    • Ask about your health history, medications, allergies and previous illnesses and surgeries.
    • Give you instructions, tell you about the admission process, and answer your questions.

If we have not contacted you by two days before your surgery date, call the Pre- Admission Department at 206.668.1010, Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-6:30 p.m.

Eating and drinking:

  • Unless you are told otherwise, you may eat normally and take your usual medicine the day and evening before surgery.
  • Do not eat or drink anything after midnight the night before or morning of your surgery. This helps reduce the chance of vomiting or inhaling items into your lungs during your surgery.
  • If you forget or do not follow these fasting guidelines, we may need to reschedule your surgery.

Medicines and supplements:

  • Follow your care team’s instructions about taking — or stopping — medicines or supplements before surgery.
  • You may swallow pills you need to take on the morning of surgery with small sips of water.


Make sure your surgeon knows:

  • Any past surgery or major illness you have had
  • All other care providers you are seeing
  • All your medicines, including prescription medicines, aspirin and other over-the-counter medicines, herbal or homeopathic remedies and vitamins or supplements

To prepare your lungs for anesthesia and to decrease risks after surgery, we encourage you to stop smoking at least two weeks before surgery.

  • Smoking is not allowed anywhere on the Northwest Hospital & Medical Center campus.
  • If you would like help to quit smoking, ask the admitting nurse about resources.

When you speak with the admitting nurse before surgery, the nurse will tell you how to prepare at home, such as:

  • Shower with antibacterial soap the night before or morning of your surgery. This helps prevent infections and will help you be more comfortable after surgery if you are not able to bathe for a few days.
  • You may brush your teeth the day of the surgery, but do not swallow any water.
  • Do not chew gum or use breath mints or hard candy after midnight the night before your surgery.
  • You might have to change which medicines you take or don’t take on the day of surgery.
  • Follow the instructions from your care team about eating, drinking, taking medicines and smoking before surgery. If you do not, we may need to reschedule your surgery.

Your care team may give you more instructions about how to prepare.

  • If there are special instructions, ask your team to write them down for you.
  • Ask your team to clarify any aspect of your surgery or prep that you do not understand.


How to dress:

  • Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing.
  • Do not wear makeup, and do not use powders, lotions or creams on or near the surgical area.

What to bring:

  • A photo ID, your health insurance card, your pharmacy insurance card and any insurance forms you need
  • A list of your medicines and supplements, including doses
  • A copy of your healthcare directive or durable power of attorney for healthcare if you want these in your medical record (download Northwest Hospital’s healthcare directive brochure)
  • Personal items you will want if you will be staying overnight in the hospital, such as toiletries, small electrical appliances (like a shaver or hair dryer), dentures, eyeglasses with case, contact lenses with case, hearing aid and your own robe and sturdy slippers
  • Any items your care team prescribed or recommended based on the surgery you are having (such as a special surgical shoe to wear after foot surgery)

Do not bring:

  • Valuables
  • Watches or jewelry other than rings
  • Money


Check in at least two hours before your scheduled surgery time. This will allow enough time for the admission process.

  • If your surgery is on the main hospital campus, check in at the admitting desk located just inside the north entrance to the hospital (toward the back of the campus near parking lot F).
  • If your surgery is at the Northwest Hospital Outpatient Surgery Center, check in at the center’s admitting desk at the Northwest Outpatient Medical Center, 10330 Meridian Avenue North, Suite 150, Seattle, Washington 98133.

After you check in:

  • A nurse will examine you, talk with you about your health and plan of care and answer your last-minute questions.
  • You will see your anesthesiologist. Tell them if you have had problems with any anesthetic in the past. They will explain the type recommended for you.


  • Family and friends may stay in the reception room until you have changed clothes and then may stay with you until you leave for surgery.
  • During your surgery, they can wait in the surgical waiting room near the operating room.
  • We will give your family a pager if they want to leave the waiting room. It will work only on hospital grounds.
  • Your surgeon will look for your family and friends in the waiting room after your surgery is done.
  • People in the waiting room on the main hospital campus can be reached at 206.364.0500, ext. 1301, or 206.668.1910.
  • A hospital volunteer is in the waiting room to answer any questions or provide help.


You will stay in the recovery room for about an hour.

  • Nurses will closely monitor your recovery.
  • You may be aware of monitors or tubes such as an intravenous (IV) tube or oxygen or drainage tubes as you wake up.
  • You may also feel somewhat groggy, nauseated or dizzy.

For inpatient surgery, your family and friends may see you when you are out of recovery and have been moved to your new room, which will be in a different area of the hospital.

For outpatient surgery, a family member or friend can be with you in the recovery area after surgery.

Your nurses and doctors want to make your surgery and recovery as pain-free as they can. The key to getting the best pain relief is communicating with your care team.

  • Both medicines and other types of treatments can help prevent and control pain. You and your team will decide which ones are right for you.
  • Do not worry about getting “hooked” on pain medicines. Studies show that this is very rare and that you will stop taking pain medicines when you no longer have pain.

Your care team will help you with other aspects of your recovery from surgery, such as:

  • Eating and drinking again
  • Returning to normal activities as soon as you can
  • Taking care of your lungs to prevent potential complications from anesthesia and surgery


Learn more about our post-acute care support.

Learn more


For inpatient surgery, the length of your hospital stay will depend on your type of surgery.

  • Your care team will plan your discharge with you.
  • You must have a responsible adult take you home. You cannot drive or take a taxi or bus home by yourself.
  • When you are ready to leave the hospital, you may need to get prescriptions. Make sure the person picking you up has a way to get and pay for your medicines on the way home.
  • You may need someone to help you at home for a while. We will help your family feel comfortable assisting you once you are home.
  • If you will need help at home other than from your family members, let your nurse know. Your care team can answer questions about home care support and help arrange assistance from community services.

For outpatient surgery, your departure time depends on the type of anesthetic and type of surgery you have and how your body reacts to both.

  • If you are not feeling well enough to go home, your physician may admit you to the hospital overnight.
  • You must have a responsible adult take you home. You cannot drive or take a taxi or bus home by yourself.
  • Arrange for someone to be with you the rest of the day (and to take care of anyone who is dependent on you). The length of time you will need help will vary.
  • You can speed up your return to your “normal” self by resting, following the activity restrictions that your care team gives you and taking your medicine as prescribed.
  • Your care team will give you instructions about how to care for yourself once you are home and who to call if you have problems.
  • A nurse will call you within 48 hours of your return home to check on your recovery.

Plan on having time to recover after surgery. During pre-surgery visits and calls, ask your team how long you will probably need before you can return to work and your other normal activities.

DO NOT do these things for 24 hours after you have anesthesia or take sleeping medicine:

  • Drive.
  • Drink alcohol.
  • Travel alone.
  • Cook.
  • Use machinery.
  • Sign any legal papers.
  • Be responsible for another person, such as a child.

Surgical procedure visit at Valley Medical Center

See what you need to know before your surgery at Valley Medical Center and how to prepare for your stay.

Patient and family resources


The UW Medical Center gift shop, located in UW Medical Center’s main lobby offers patients, families, visitors and staff a wide selection of merchandise that includes balloons, flowers and plants, jewelry and accessories, clothing, home decor, stationery, greeting cards, gift bags, toys and plush. We also sell newspapers and postage stamps.

Enjoy Starbucks coffee, assorted teas, cold beverages, snacks, candy and pastries.

We accept cash, Visa, MasterCard, American Express and UW Husky cards.

UW Medical Center Gift Shop

Need something special for a patient? Give us a call and our trained staff will help you put together a thoughtful gift. Patient deliveries are made Monday thru Friday and based on volunteer availability, weekends. Before you place your phone order please make sure the patient is in fact at this facility.

UWMC – Montlake location at 1959 NE Pacific Street
For information or to place a phone order call 206.598.4900.

Hours of operation:
6:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Monday through Friday
9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Saturday and Sunday

Closed New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day

Reduced hours on all other holidays


Harborview and University of Washington Medical Centers are pleased to make free Wi-Fi access available to our patients and their visitors in all areas where we have wireless coverage

Connecting to Wi-Fi

  • Use your wireless utility to search for the Wi-Fi network called "Patients and Visitors."
  • Open your web browser (e.g., Internet Explorer, Chrome, etc.) and connect to any page.
  • You should be redirected to our page with the Terms and Conditions of use.
  • No username or password is required.
  • If you are prompted for a password you are connecting to the wrong network.
  • The "University of Washington" network is for faculty, staff, residents and students with a UW NetID.

Wi-Fi network

Other Options for Internet Access

Harborview Medical Center

There is a computer with high speed internet access at the Patient and Family Resources Center. It is located on the ground floor of the East Hospital wing near the outpatient pharmacy and gift shop.

Patient and Family Resources Center at Harborview

UW Medical Center

There is a self-serve internet kiosk in the main lobby near the UWMC Patient Education Center.

Internet Kiosk at UW Medical Center

Please note: 

This system is not secure. Do not send sensitive or confidential information using this system. To send sensitive information, use a wired connection.

Use the network responsibly. We reserve the right to limit access due to unauthorized use.

Use at your own risk. We assume no responsibility and are not liable for any damages due to use of this system.

Unfortunately, we are unable to provide individualized support for patients' and visitors' personal computers. Please consult the instructions that came with your device for more information.

Full Terms and Conditions

The system, unlike the system used by our doctors, nurses and other staff, is not secure. Please do not use this system to conduct confidential business transactions or transmit sensitive data such as health information, social security numbers, credit card information, etc. If you need to enter sensitive or confidential information over the internet we recommend that you use your own computer and connect directly to the internet using a wire, rather than this unprotected Wi-Fi network.

The system has limited performance. You share this Wi-Fi network with the doctors, nurses and other staff in our hospital. It is necessary for us to limit the amount of data that can be transferred so that it does not impair the ability of our staff to care for our patients. We have information on options for better performance.

We reserve the right to limit access to any and all users. This is particularly true for individuals who are not patients or their acknowledged guests, those who abuse the system or interfere with use by others, and anyone who uses the system for unlawful activities. This system may not be used for any unlawful purpose which may include but is not limited to posting any materials which are: copyrighted, judged obscene, threatening or abusive, harmful to any minor, or protected by law or contract. The system may also not be used for unauthorized advertising. Also, there may be times when the system may be unavailable to everyone for maintenance or updates.

Use of the system is at your own risk. We assume no responsibility and are not liable for any damages due to lost connections, errors, viruses, malicious software, other individuals monitoring your use of the system, or any other reasons. We recommend you keep all computers up to date with the latest security patches, and install anti-virus and malicious software protection and be very cautious.

If these terms are not acceptable to you, do not use this system.