What to Expect the Day of Your Surgery

At Nebraska Medicine, we understand that surgery can be unsettling. We are here for you every step of the way. Below you will find detailed information that will help you know what to expect the day of your surgery. You will be able to discuss this further with the Pre-Surgical Screening nurse by calling 402.552.2493 or at your Pre-anesthesia Screening Clinic visit.



This is a part of a series of videos detailing what to expect when you come to The Nebraska Medical Center for a surgical procedure. This video focuses on what to expect during the pre-operative portion of the procedure. For more information about your surgery, call 1-800-922-0000.

In this video, pre-operative nurse Sue, walks you through what happens after you check in and before your surgery begins. Information includes what happens to your belongings, description of some of the equipment used, the staff you will meet with and various questions you may be asked.

For your safety we may ask and verify questions regarding your medical history several times.

Up to two family members may join you in the pre-op area. The number of family members joining you is limited due to the size of the pre-op area and the number of other patients having surgery on the same day. The rest of your family and friends may wait in the designated waiting areas.

Where to Go

You will check in at the appropriate Patient Registration/Access Services check-in desk. Once you have been checked in, the staff in the Pre-op area will be informed of your arrival.  Your surgeon will advise when to send you to Pre-op.

You may view printable maps and links to directions to assist you in locating Nebraska Medicine campus.

Pre-operative Area

For your safety we may ask and verify questions regarding your medical history several times.

  • Up to two family members may join you in the Pre-op area. The number of family members joining you is limited due to the size of the pre-op area and the number of other patients having surgery on the same day. The rest of your family and friends may wait in the designated waiting areas
  • No food or drink is allowed in the Pre-op area
  • In the Pre-op area, you will change into a patient gown, removing all personal clothing articles and placing them in a garment bag provided. If you are admitted to the hospital following your operation, your belongings will be taken to your hospital room
  • If you are scheduled to be admitted to the hospital, information related to advanced directives will be provided to you. Nebraska law requires all patients 19 years or older admitted to the hospital must be informed of their rights to make decisions about medical care
  • While you are in Pre-op, your anesthesiologist or the pre-op nurse will start an intravenous catheter (IV). The IV is a small plastic tube that allows fluid to enter your vein. Through this IV, you will receive initial doses of anesthesia to help you relax, perhaps make you sleepy and provide you with antibiotics. The team will monitor your blood pressure, pulse, respirations and oxygen levels. They may perform other procedures, depending on your scheduled surgery.
  • Before you go into the operating room a surgical hat and a warming blanket will be used to keep you warm. Keeping the body at a normal temperature before, during and after surgery may help reduce the incidence of wound infection and other risks of surgery
  • Before you leave the Pre-op area to go into the operating room, you will be introduced to an operating room nurse. Your surgeon will see you in Pre-op and be able to answer any last-minute questions that you may have. The Pre-op staff, anesthesia staff and operating staff will perform a time-out exercise to review important information about you and your planned surgery. The time out exercise assures accuracy and safety of your surgery. The staff may mark areas on your body part that is undergoing surgery

During Your Surgery

  • From the Pre-op room, the surgical staff will take you into the operating room (OR.) You will notice bright lights, and many instruments and pieces of equipment. The OR may seem cool, so let your nurse know if you need an additional blanket. The table you will lie on is firm and narrow, and for your protection, the nurse will place a safety belt across your legs
  • The surgical and anesthesia staff will continuously monitor you as you are given anesthesia during the surgery. Another time-out exercise will be performed by the OR staff, anesthesia and your surgeon before your surgery is started


After Your Surgery

  • After your surgery, the surgical staff will take you to the PACU or recovery room. During your stay in the PACU, a nurse will be with you at all times. For a short time while you are awakening, the nurse will administer oxygen. Your nurse will be monitoring you closely by checking your blood pressure, pulse, respirations and oxygen levels
  • You will be allowed to see your loved ones after surgery when a hospital room has been assigned to you or you have been transferred to the unit where you will be discharged home
  • If you are to be discharged home from the recovery room, your family will be asked to come to the recovery room to listen to your instructions.  Only one person is allowed at the bedside in the recovery room
  • The length of time you spend in the recovery room can vary from person to person but is usually one hour but can be two hours or longer
  • If your time in the recovery room is prolonged, one person may be allowed back for brief 5-minute visits every hour
  • For children having surgery, one parent is allowed at the bedside in the recovery room once the child is awake.  The nurses caring for the child will inform you when you are allowed to come back

Pain Management

Your pain control is one of our top priorities.

While we want you to be as comfortable as possible, we may not be able to make you 100 percent pain free. In fact, attempting to make you pain free by using a lot of pain medicine could have harmful effects on your body.
By working together with your health care team, we will reduce the pain as much as possible. A pain scale is used to help you rate your pain. Using this scale below, you will be asked to set your pain management goal. This goal should be set at the amount of pain you can tolerate without limiting your ability to function and do what you need to do to get better and promote healing. The FACES scale below may help by letting you see a picture that describes how the pain is making you feel. You will be asked to look at the pictures and pick the one that describes your pain best.



Pain is often easier to manage right after it starts. Let us know as soon as your pain starts or returns. Pain medication may be ordered to be given at scheduled intervals or as needed. Your nurse will work with you to create a pain management plan. 

Some patients find pain relief from using non-medical alternatives. For example: 

  • Heat/cold
  • Music
  • Meditation
  • Deep breathing

You may also discuss other alternatives with your nurse. If you should start to experience pain that is suddenly different from what you have been experiencing (for example, your pain becomes unbearable), call your nurse immediately.
MOST IMPORTANTLY, if you have questions or concerns, do not hesitate to ask your doctor, nurse or another care team member for help at any time.

Learn more about pain management during your hospital stay

Staying in the Hospital

  • After you are taken to your hospital room, the nurse will take your temperature, blood pressure, pulse and respirations often, both day and night. It is routine to check these vital signs frequently to make sure you are recovering satisfactorily.
  • Expect to be required to take deep breaths, cough and turn in bed. You will use a device called an incentive spirometer hourly to help you keep your lungs clear after surgery and decrease the risk of pneumonia.
  • You will be able to do these things more easily if you are comfortable. Your doctor may order pain medicine to help keep you comfortable. Please do not hesitate to ask your nurse for pain medicine. Gowns, robes or slippers will be provided to you during your stay at the hospital.
  • For your return home, after leaving the hospital, wear clothing that will be easy to put on and remove.


  1. If your surgery is on your head or neck – wear a shirt that buttons up and doesn’t have to be pulled over your head
  2. If your surgery is on your abdomen – wear loose-fitting pants with an elastic waist

With your help and the help of the hospital team, each day you will become stronger and better able to care for yourself.

For additional information about the hospital, food options, personal care items and ATM locations, please reference the Patient Information Guide that will be provided in each patient room.

On campus lodging options are available. Please contact the Nebraska House by calling 402.559.5599.

Going Home the Same Day as Surgery

You will be able to recuperate in the familiar and comfortable surroundings of your own home. Going home the same day as your surgery takes some preparation.

Please arrange for another adult to drive you home and stay with you for 24 hours after your surgery.

You must also make care arrangements for any small children if necessary.

You will not be permitted to leave Nebraska Medicine alone if you have received general anesthesia, regional anesthesia or IV sedation.

You will be dismissed according to your physician’s orders. This usually occurs one to two hours after surgery ends, but each patient and each procedure are different. The nursing staff will review going home instructions with the responsible adult and you, as well as send the instructions home in written form.

Post-operative Prescriptions

On the Nebraska Medical Center campus, we have two on-site outpatient pharmacies available to fill any post-operative prescriptions. One is located in the Durham Outpatient Center; the other in the Laurtizen Outpatient Center. At Bellevue, we also have an outpatient pharmacy. Charges at the pharmacy may not be included in your hospital charges. The pharmacy accepts cash and credit cards.

If you would like to have your prescriptions filled at another pharmacy, please provide this number to your nurse. The hospital staff will call or fax your prescriptions to the pharmacy of your choice.

After your surgery, you can expect to receive a call from Nebraska Medicine. As an organization, we appreciate any feedback about your experience with us. We invite you to share your experience with us. Nominate a nurse for a national caregiver award, provide feedback on your experience and/or donate to the medical center.

All Nebraska Medicine locations are smoke free. There is no smoking of any kind allowed inside the hospital or outside on the hospital grounds. Please plan for this when coming to our hospital. You may want to talk with your physician about smoking cessation assistance before your hospital visit. We also have assistance available to you if you have a planned hospital stay following your surgery or procedure.