Surgery Patients

The Day of Surgery


On the day of surgery, please arrive at the hospital at least two hours before your scheduled procedure, unless your physician* has directed you to arrive earlier. Everyone who enters the hospital is required to show photo identification.

All patients must have completed their registration process in the admitting office before proceeding to the Surgical Reception area on the first floor. Should you need wheelchair assistance, please stop by the Information Desk located in the main lobby.

One parking voucher is given to each patient going home the same day after surgery. Vouchers cannot be applied to valet parking. Parking vouchers are given at the time pagers are returned to the Surgical Reception desk.

Surgical Reception

Check in at the surgical reception desk located to the left, as you exit the first floor elevators.

After you are checked in, a staff member will escort you to the second floor to change into a hospital gown, robe and slippers. You may wear your eyeglasses, but please refrain from wearing contact
lenses. If you wear dentures, they may need to be removed before surgery. Hearing aids may be worn during surgery, in most cases. Please leave all jewelry and valuables at home. GW Hospital will not be responsible for loss or theft of personal belongings. Hearing aids may be worn during surgery for local procedures only.

Waiting Room

The person(s) accompanying you should sign in and wait in the Surgical Reception area on the first floor. This way, your physician and staff members can locate him/her and provide updates on your progress. Because space is limited, we ask that you please keep the number of accompanying visitors to a minimum. If possible, do not have children accompany you on the day of surgery.

Operating Room

From the Surgical Preoperative area, you will be escorted to an operating room where a preop nurse will interview you. An intravenous line will be placed in your vein to provide fluids. In most cases, you will be given the opportunity to see your surgeon and anesthesiologist before your surgery begins. You will be interviewed and possibly examined by the surgical team. We may repeat questions that have already been answered. Please be patient with our process as we work hard to ensure the safest, most thorough surgical course for you. A registered nurse will stay with you for your entire surgical procedure.

In the operating room, the staff will make you comfortable on the table. You will notice lights over your head and staff dressed in scrubs, hats and masks.

Post-Anesthesia Care Unit

Following surgery, you will be taken to the Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU). You will be monitored until the major effects of anesthesia wear off. Patients require privacy and attention in the PACU. For this reason, visiting is not permitted. Visitors may see you once you are settled in your hospital room or prepared for discharge (if scheduled for the same day). Visits to the PACU are limited to two persons for five minutes each hour while the patient is in recovery.

If you are scheduled to be discharged on the same day as your operation, you should expect to stay in the Outpatient Recovery Area for about 90 minutes, depending on your needs. When a nurse determines that you are ready, you will receive written and verbal discharge instructions, prescriptions if prescribed, a beverage and an escort to the lobby. Please remember: If you are scheduled for outpatient surgery and undergo general anesthesia or sedation of any kind, a responsible adult must escort you home.

For patients who are scheduled to stay overnight or for an extended period of time, a nurse will monitor your recovery. After evaluation by an anesthesiologist, you will be transferred to your hospital room at which time your visitors may join you.

Pain Management

The George Washington University Hospital is committed to promoting your comfort and well-being. There are many diseases and surgical procedures that can cause pain. If you are experiencing pain:

  • Ask your doctor or nurse what to expect regarding pain and pain management.
  • Discuss pain relief options with your doctor or nurse.
  • Work with your doctor and nurse to develop a plan for managing your pain.
  • Don’t wait—ask for pain relief when the pain begins! Most medications take a while to work.
  • Tell your doctor or nurse if your pain is not relieved.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for medication to relieve your pain—taking medication will not make you an “addict”. Effective pain management is essential to the healing process.

Your healthcare team consists of doctors, nurses and therapists. You will be asked different questions about your pain to determine what can be done to help manage your pain. Your doctor and nurse will work closely with you to help manage your pain.

Some people may believe they are being “weak” or “childish” to take pain medication as soon as they feel discomfort, or that they are being a nuisance if they speak up. But if you wait until pain becomes intolerable, it is much harder to control. If you take medication as soon as you feel discomfort, you will be able to control your pain with less medication. Your healthcare team wants you to feel as comfortable as possible. Several times a day, your nurse will ask you if you are experiencing pain. But you do not have to wait to be asked. If you are having pain, tell your nurse right away.

To aid in your recovery, we will ask you to describe your pain using either the Word Pain Scale or Numeric Pain Scale.

Some people find it easiest to communicate their level of pain by choosing one of five words to describe it:

  • NONE
  • MILD

Zero to 10 Pain Rating Scale
Other people prefer to use a scale of 0 to 10 to describe pain:

Potential side effects. Your pain medication may cause stomachache, nausea, vomiting, sleepiness, constipation or itchiness. If you experience any of these side effects, tell your nurse.

Safety. Pain medications are safe and effective when given by your doctor or nurse. Some people worry about becoming addicted to pain medicine; however, this almost never happens when used for the relief of pain. If you have any fear or concerns about using pain medication, speak with your doctor or nurse. Some things make pain worse. Your pain or discomfort may be greater following surgery, during certain activities or during the healing process. Ask your nurse for pain medicine before you do any activity that could cause you to experience pain. Pain medicine can make that activity less painful and perhaps help speed your recovery.

Waiting for a Cath Lab, Endoscopy or Interventional Radiology Patient

Family or friends of endoscopy patients will see their loved ones at discharge. Please ask the Family Liaison or Front Desk staff for updates. Patients having procedures in the Cardiac Cath Lab will have to stay in the recovery area for three to six hours. See the Family Liaison or Front Desk staff about updates/visitation. Post-procedure recovery times vary widely for patients coming from the Interventional Radiology Lab. See the Family Liaison or Front Desk staff for more information.

After Hours

After the waiting room desk is closed, a courtesy phone will be placed on the desk with a four-digit number to dial for information on postoperative patients.

This Draft Has Sidebar Blocks
Sidebar Block 1
Sidebar Block 2
Sidebar Block 3
Sidebar Block 4


The George Washington University Hospital is owned and operated by a subsidiary of Universal Health Services, Inc.(UHS), a King of Prussia, PA-based company, that is one of the largest healthcare management companies in the nation.          

The George Washington University Hospital

900 23rd Street, NW
Washington, DC 20037

© 2015 The George Washington University Hospital. All rights reserved.

Note:The information on this Web site is provided as general health guidelines and may not be applicable to your particular health condition. Your individual health status and any required medical treatments can only be properly addressed by a professional healthcare provider of your choice. Remember: There is no adequate substitution for a personal consultation with your physician. Neither The George Washington University Hospital , or any of their affiliates, nor any contributors shall have any liability for the content or any errors or omissions in the information provided by this Web site.            

The information, content and artwork provided by this Web site is intended for non-commercial use by the reader. The reader is permitted to make one copy of the information displayed for his/her own non-commercial use. The making of additional copies is prohibited.