Before your visit, consider the following:
Ask the patient’s permission to visit.
Many patients love visits, but others may not have the energy to entertain guests. When you do visit, don’t overstay your welcome. Your loved one is there to heal. Your presence may distract him or her from this focus.
Check in with the nursing station when you arrive.
The patient’s condition may have changed in a short time, banning visitors. Ensure nothing has changed that requires special precautions for visitors. To keep up with the patient and inform out-of-town relatives, consider using free, personalized websites that connect family and friends during a serious health event (e.g., www.caringbridge.org
Sanitize the bottom of your purse or bag, as well as your shoes.
To keep your purse clean, use a hook to keep it off the floor. For both purses and shoes, use a sanitizer to wipe the exterior surfaces daily. Germs and bacteria can cling to your purse or shoes every time they make contact with the ground. You could bring these unwanted guests into your loved one’s hospital room or into your home.
The power to prevent the spread of germs is in your hands.
Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water before entering and leaving the patient’s room. If you are visiting multiple patients, sanitize your hands before and after seeing each patient. At North Oaks, hand sanitizers are located near the patient’s door. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or your sleeve, and do not sit on patients’ beds or handle their equipment.
Patient bathrooms are just for patients.
Visitors should use common bathrooms in the lobby or hallways.
Don’t come to the hospital to visit if you are sick.
Patients already have weakened immune systems. Do not visit if you have had any symptoms within the last 3 days, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, uncontrolled cough or rash. If you’re not well, send your thoughts by phone, cards or friends.
Do not contribute to the clutter. Limit the patient’s personal items. Less clutter makes it easier to accomplish the critical job of cleaning hospital rooms. Keep patient items off the floor and away from waste containers.
Check first before you bring food, balloons or flowers.
Ask what the patient is allowed to have before bringing gifts to the hospital. Many hospitals, including North Oaks, prohibit flowers in Intensive Care Units. Bringing food is risky because the patient may be on a special diet. Most solid color balloons are latex, and some people may be allergic to them. Consider bringing alternatives like a child’s artwork, family photos, a book, crossword puzzle, new pajamas or slippers. You also may consider sending a personalized E-card
. These are delivered by a North Oaks volunteer or other staff member within 24 hours of receipt. Information on how to send an E-card is available here
Understand that hospital personnel will communicate directly with the patient when possible in accordance with privacy laws.
You should leave the room if that patient’s health care provider arrives to examine or talk to the patient. The conversation is private, and unless you are a close relative or official advocate for the patient, you should not be part of it. Upon admission, the patient should designate a representative to receive information about his or her health. If the patient is unable to make decisions, hospital personnel will speak with the patient’s next-of-kin or the person who holds the patient’s health care power of attorney.
Avoid using your cell phone.
Visitors should refrain from using cell phones except in lobby areas. If you are carrying your cell phone, please put it on silent so it doesn’t disturb resting patients.
Leave children at home unless absolutely necessary.
If you must bring children, do not let them play on the floor or bed. Have them wash their hands as they enter and leave the room.
Honor the hospital’s visitation hours and policies, especially on the Intensive Care Unit and in the Emergency Department.
Remember that the hospital reserves the right to restrict visitation at a patient’s request or if visitor restriction is in the best interest of the patient.