It can be difficult to visit loved ones in the hospital, but visitors can have a huge impact on a patient’s recovery. However, before you rush out to buy a huge wreath or pick up a dozen other guests on your way to a surprise visit, take a few minutes to review the hospital’s visitor policy – it may save you and your friend a lot of hassle in the long run.
First of all, many hospitals are strict about visiting guidelines in order to ensure that hospital safety hazards are avoided at all costs. The problems may be directly related to physical harm, or may even be mental or emotional. Knowing the do’s and don’ts may give you the confidence you need.
Here are five “do’s” for hospital visitors:
- Ask permission to visit.
Before you starting calling the hospital, call the patient. Is your friend or family member feeling well enough to receive company? If not, she may prefer you delay your visit to another day or time, when he or she will be better able to enjoy your company. Sometimes patients are so stressed during their hospital stays they prefer to be visited at home after their discharge. So call ahead and ask them to be candid about whether they’d like to see you.
- Choose gifts carefully.
Balloons and flowers are a nice gift, but if your patient is sharing a room there may be questions about allergies. When in doubt, consider alternatives: a thoughtful card, a book to read, or pair of warm slippers are good choices. All of these are very comforting gifts that can be received by patients without creating problems like an accidental allergic reaction.
- Turn off your cellphone.
Do turn off your cell phone, or at least silence the ringer. This is a consideration for those who are trying to sleep and heal and don’t want to be woken by your loud ring-tone or prolonged conversation. In some cases, they may interfere with patient-care devices, so your patient can be at risk if you don’t follow the rules. Different hospitals have different rules about where and when cell phones can be used, call ahead to learn the hospital’s policy.
- Make it short and sweet.
Long visits can be tiring for sick or recovering patients. Try not to stay for more than thirty minutes at a time. If you feel that you didn’t get enough time to catch up, come back another day!
- Respect the patient’s privacy.
If the doctor or provider arrives to examine or talk to the patient you should quietly exit. The conversation or treatment provided is private, and unless you are a proxy, parent, spouse or someone else who is an official advocate for the patient, that conversation is not your business. You should wait outside the room until the physician or nurse leaves.
Don’t ever hesitate to call the hospital with questions. Many mainlines can direct you to a patient or visitors information desk, where a representative can explain visiting hours and any restrictions with regards to gifts or age limits.