Avoid medical errors and have a quick recovery by making sure you're prepared for your surgery by making a plan - here's how.

The Washington Post gives you 7 steps for a speedier recovery after surgery, with less chance of complications that will prevent you from recovering in a timely manner - or worse, wind up with a costly medical error

This article is particularly helpful for those of us who draw a blank during doctor’s appointments and forget, or don’t know, important questions to ask the doctor. It’s essential to know what to expect from your procedure, what the recovery process will entail, how to track your own recovery and know if something is gravely wrong so you can go into the doctor.

For the detailed steps, read the full article.

Here are some highlights from the recommendations:

1. Pick an experienced surgeon and hospital

Ask your surgeon about his or her level of experience, as well as complication and success rates. Beware of surgeons who are unwilling to discuss their experience or won’t give you exact numbers. Do your research before picking a hospital by checking out Consumer Reports rates at www.consumerreports.org/hospitalratings

2. Know what’s coming

Ask your surgeon questions like these so you know what to expect right after surgery:

-          Will I be in the intensive care unit (ICU) at first?

-          What are the plans for pain relief?

-          What tubes will I be hitched up to?

Don’t forget to ask questions about your expectations for recovery (how long, what will your limitations be) and about medication (what drugs you should stop taking before surgery, etc.).

3. Stay safe at the hospital

Two things you should definitely look out for when staying in the hospital are: medical errors and infections. To help prevent these from happening to you, have a friend or relative stay with you for most, if not all, of your stay. They can ask questions, monitor hand washing and the administration of medication, make sure catheters and IV lines are kept clean and removed when they aren’t needed anymore (definitely watch out for this), and speak up in something doesn’t seem right. If you can’t get anyone to help you, look into hiring a private-duty nurse for the job.

4. Plan your discharge

Make sure you’re asking questions about your discharge soon after you’re admitted. Ask if you will be going home or to a skilled nursing facility. If you’re going home, what are you going to need? Do you need to schedule home care, physical therapy? If you are going home with equipment, like drains, do you or your caregiver know how to operate them?

5. Don’t tough out pain

Not taking pain killers can actually prolong your recovery process if you’re in pain. It can prevent you from doing enough physical therapy, and can make it difficult to breathe and cough, increasing your risk of pneumonia.

6. Mind your bladder and bowels

It is normal for regular bowel activity to slow down after surgery, but there are things you can do to shorten this period of time, like chewing sugarless gum. And be aware of how often you’re urinating. Not being able to urinate, or urinary retention, despite having a full bladder is a possible side effect of certain medications.

7. Get moving, but carefully

Moving as soon as possible after surgery helps prevent blood clots and will help your bowels start moving again. But ask if there are restrictions you need to follow once you get home. Depending on where the incision is and other factors, you may need to tread carefully.