At the end of this module, you will:

  • Feel confident with preparation before surgery

  • Know how to prepare your home for rehab

  • Be able to monitor your recovery and escalate any medical concerns

What should I do to prepare for surgery?

Undergoing surgery is challenging – particularly if you haven’t had surgery before. It can be difficult to know what to expect and how to set yourself up for a good recovery.

We’ve put together some steps to help you get in the best possible condition before surgery so that you feel relaxed and confident in your return to home.

TIPS: Be active in your preparation 

Preparing for surgery involves treating your body and mind well.

  • Follow your GPs advice: Your GP will give you advice about getting into the best possible shape before having surgery. They will also identify and try to stabilise any health conditions you have that may affect your surgery.

  • Exercise
    Being physically active (if possible) before your operation will build strength and help you recover quicker.

  • Eat well
    Eating a well-balanced diet before surgery will fuel your body and help the healing process.

  • Stop or limit smoking/ alcohol consumption
    Giving up or cutting back on smoking and/ or alcohol will reduce your risk of developing surgical complications such as blood clots.

  • Get enough sleep
    Sleep at least 7 to 8 hours a night.

  • Valion Health runs a prehabilitation (‘prehab’) program that focuses on getting you in the best optimal condition for your surgery. Ask a your insurer representative or Valion if you would like a referral to this service.

Prepare your home before surgery

Believe us when we say there is nothing worse than coming home after surgery and realising it isn’t set up for reduced mobility. Follow the below guide to set your home up for your return.

Eliminate clutter: Clear your home floors of throw rugs, electrical cords, toys, etc. These can be trip hazards. Move furniture to make pathways wide enough for a walker/ crutches.

Make living convenient: Place needed items where you can easily access them. For example pots, pans, and dinner plates in cupboards that don’t require stretching or on the kitchen counter; the TV remote next to your chair.
Stock your pantry, prepare meals in advance, and freeze them before leaving for your surgery.

Get the bathroom ready: You may need an adjustable commode over your regular toilet seat, a shower seat, and a hand-held showerhead for the shower. Speak with your GP/ care team about what they suggest and where to get it from. Some items can be hired from hospitals.

Set up sleeping arrangements: If your bedroom is on the second floor, set up a temporary one downstairs. If that’s not possible, you may need to limit your trips upstairs – once at bedtime, then back down in the morning.

Questions to ask your medical team

You are entitled to ask your surgeon and treatment team questions prior to surgery. It’s hard to remember everything in a meeting, so we suggest jotting down questions and bringing a notepad with you.

We have started a list of useful questions to ask. You might want to add to these.

  • Do you have any information on my type of surgery and what I can expect to happen?
  • What equipment will I need to have at home after my surgery? Do I need an occupational therapist?
  • What do I do and where do I go on the day I am admitted to the hospital?
  • I live in a regional/ remote area. Am I and my carer entitled to travel and accommodation assistance? If so, where do I get an application form, also called a IPTAS form?
  • Can I take my mobile phone, laptop, ipad and technology to the hospital?
  • Will I have a TV and wifi access?
  • What are the visiting hours?
  • Where should visitors park? Do you charge for parking?

CHECKLIST: What to pack in your bag for hospital

It’s very easy to forget certain items for your hospital stay if they aren’t written down. We recommend bringing the below.

  • Admission Letter

  • Your medicines or a copy of your Current Medication Management Plan from your pharmacist or GP

  • Pyjamas/ Nightdress

  • Dressing gown and slippers

  • Comfortable day clothes – easy to get on and off

  • Small hand towel

  • Toiletries – soap, toothbrush, shampoo, deodorant, sanitary towels or tampons

  • Wet wipes for your face and hands

  • Razor and shaving cream

  • Comb and/ or hairbrush

  • Glasses or contacts with case

  • Hearing aid

  • Dentures and denture case

  • Books and magazines

  • Healthy snacks

  • Small amount of money

  • Notebook and pen

  • Important phone numbers including your GP’s contact details

  • Laptop/ ipad/ mobile phone if allowed


To make your life easier, you can download and print the checklist of these items. Click here to download.

After Surgery: What happens now?

During your stay at the hospital post-surgery, your healthcare team will advise you about what you can do to help make your recovery easier. Make sure you are honest about any pain or discomfort you are experiencing.

Some questions to ask after surgery are:

  • Was the operation a success?
  • What effect has the operation had on my condition?
  • How will I expect to feel when I get home?
  • How long will it take before I am back to normal?

Is there anything I need to do every day while I am in here to support my recovery?

TIPS: Keep a recovery diary 

Keeping a diary is a great way to track pain and progress. Your notes will help you communicate with your team any problems or symptoms that may be worrying you.

Jot down the date, any progress and/ or pain, and questions you might have for your team.


You can download and print our free simple recovery diary template.
Click here to download.

Discharge day from hospital

All hospitals have policies and arrangements for sending patients home.

Before being discharged, you may meet a discharge planner who will assist you with post-operative education, pain, and medication management. You will be advised about how to care for your wound/s and informed of any equipment you may require, such as dressings, bandages, crutches, splints, special chairs, and any medications you may require for pain relief and prevention of clots.

You should also have an appointment with a physiotherapist. They will advise you about the exercises you must carry out at home to assist with your recovery.


If you require equipment to use in your home (such as crutches, tables, special chairs etc), your discharge planner will advise what devices the hospital can provide for you to take home. If the hospital doesn’t supply the equipment, you will need to discuss this with a staff member from your insurer as to what your health insurance covers. Valion Health is typically unable to supply equipment

TIPS: Questions to ask your surgeon/ treating team before discharge

Before leaving the hospital, we recommend you ask the below questions and take notes.

  • Who should I call if I have any concerns once I’m home?
  • Is there anything I should avoid doing?
  • How much pain, bruising, or swelling should I expect when I get home?
  • What do I do if I feel unwell, develop a fever, become short of breath?
  • When and where will any stitches be removed?
  • Do I need to return to the hospital or my GP for a follow-up? If so, when will this be?
  • When can I go back to work?
  • When can I have sex?
  • When can I return to sport/gym/riding my bike/ regular exercise routine?

Make sure you are given written instructions such as a discharge summary and a list of phone numbers to call in case of emergency or if you have questions once you’re home.

Care at Home

A Care Coordinator from Valion Health will give you a call to complete an Initial Assessment. They will require a copy of your doctor’s discharge summary, wound management, exercise prescription, a signed claim form, and completed assessments. They will then refer you to services that will assist your recovery based on your care needs e.g., Physiotherapy, Wound Care.


It’s normal to feel very tired when you get home, especially if you have had a major operation or general anaesthetic. You should only do as much as you can in the days after your operation. It is important that you try to move around as soon as possible and follow your doctor’s advice on getting active again. Movement encourages your blood to flow, wounds to heal and will strengthen muscles.

Caring for your wounds

Wound care depends on your surgeon’s preference and the available services in your area. Your surgeon may request that Valion Health organises a nurse to come to your home to care for your wound, or care is carried out in the hospital wound clinic, or at your GP. If your surgeon would like a nurse to come to your home, Valion Health will organise a nurse and supply the wound care dressings.

TIPS: Signs and symptoms to look out for that require urgent care 

Your doctor/ surgeon should explain any symptoms to look out for requiring immediate care and provide instructions on what to do if they arise, on your discharge summary. Here is a list of some complications that require urgent care.

Problem Signs and Symptoms Action
Wound infection Your wound appears red, inflamed, wound exudate/fluid has increased, and/ or there is an offensive smell. Stitches have come undone, and there is a gape in the wound. Pain may have increased. In business hours follow the instructions on your discharge summary.

After Hours go to your local emergency department or call 000.

Infection You feel unwell and your temperature is 38.5 or more. You feel cold and clammy, dizzy or you may start to shake. In business hours follow the instructions on your discharge summary.

After Hours go to your local emergency department or call 000.

Chest pain and breathlessness If you develop sudden chest pain and breathlessness, you may have a clot (embolism) In business hours follow the instructions on your discharge summary.

After Hours go to your local emergency department or call 000.

Leg clot or deep vein thrombosis If you develop sudden chest pain and breathlessness, you may have a clot (embolism) Follow the instructions on your discharge summary.

After Hours go to your local emergency department or call 000.

Pain in new joint Increased pain in new joint Follow the instructions on your discharge summary.

Call your GP or go to your local emergency department.

If you have problems or need to cancel a service provider in the home

The service provider should supply you with contact details.

Otherwise,  please contact your Valion Health Care Co-ordinator or ask to speak to a Valion Health Manager during business hours. 1300 561 020 or [email protected]

Key Takeaways

  • Undergoing surgery is challenging – particularly if you haven’t had surgery before.
  • Preparation before surgery and again before discharge are key to helping you feel more comfortable and confident in your recovery.
  • Setting your home up before you go in for surgery is crucial – as when you return your mobility will be limited.
  • You are entitled to ask any questions you have pre and post-surgery.
  • Keep a recovery diary to track your pain and progress, so you can raise any concerns with your treatment team.
  • When arriving home make sure you follow your doctor’s instructions in relation to movement, medications and wound care.
  • A Valion Health Care Coordinator will contact you to arrange at home support based on your surgeon’s instructions.
  • If you notice any signs or symptoms mentioned above, seek immediate care.
  • Remember, recovery takes time, but if you follow the advice of health professionals the journey will be easier.


Below are some useful resources (some mentioned throughout this module) to help pre and post surgery.

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