Nurses understand that visitors to the hospital have good intentions, and they want every patient visit to be as healthy and helpful as possible. Visitors, however, may be unaware that some of their choices could have a contrary effect.

“Mannerly visitors are respectful of others when interacting with patients, other visitors and staff members they may meet at a hospital,” says Diane Bartos, RN and director of intensive care services at the 207-bed Saratoga Hospital and Nursing Home in Sarasota Springs, NY, quoted in a article. “From a visitor’s perspective, we try to tailor our care to meet patients’ needs because family visitors are important to patients and to us,” she adds.

Bartos also points out that hospitals may vary their visiting policies based on considerations like room size. “Some of our rooms are very small, so it’s difficult to maintain confidentiality as well as to get to the bedside to care for patients,” she explains. “We generally limit the number of visitors to two at a time for our patients’ comfort. Additionally, we maintain generous visiting hours, including a 24-hour visitor policy in our intensive care unit.”

Here are 10 basic tips you can observe to make sure your visit is the safest and most soothing it can be, according to nurses in the know:

1. Find out the best time to visit. Make sure the patient is feeling up to the company, and check with the family to learn when too many visitors might overwhelm.

2. Make sure you know—and follow—the facility’s visiting hours, including the policies for specialty units like ICU.

3. Use common sense when considering infection control. If you have a cold or are otherwise unwell, wait until you feel better before you visit. Make use of hand sanitizer upon entering and leaving the patient’s room.

4. Rethink gifts of food and drink. While these gifts may seem thoughtful, it’s usually better for the patient if you don’t bring them.

5. Likewise for flowers and latex balloons. Patients may have allergies or sensitivities to both.

6. Be aware of the patient’s capability to enjoy your visit and limit your time accordingly.

7. Take care of yourself too. Make it a point to care for yourself during your family member’s hospital stay. You will benefit from the rest when your loved one returns home and needs attention.

8. Keep your messages positive. A relaxed and upbeat demeanor will be meaningful to a patient trying to focus on getting well.

9. Remember some health questions may not be answered. While it’s acceptable to address questions or concerns about care to the attending staff, be aware that, unless you are a health care proxy or patient advocate, the staff may be prohibited from sharing medical information regarding the patient.

10. Unless it’s necessary, avoid bringing children to the hospital, and always leave the patient’s or any other pets at home.

Following these 10 tips will benefit everyone involved in the experience. If you have other concerns about visiting your loved one in the hospital, remember the nursing staff is there to answer questions and provide assistance.

Nurses: What other tips would you offer visitors when they look in on a patient?

Look to these CPI blog posts to gain more hospital awareness: