10 Hospital Safety Tips for Visitors

February 17, 2022
Elderly patient hugging a hospital vistor

Hospital nursing staff understand that hospital visitors are experiencing an array of emotions, anxiety, and stress. And although they understand that visitors to the hospital have good intentions, they also need to ensure that every patient visit is as healthy and helpful as possible. During these heightened emotions, visitors may be unaware that some of their choices could have a contrary effect.

“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,” 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 nursezone.com article.

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.”

While we know these hospital safety tips for visitors are not a one-size-fits-all approach, there are important choices to keep in mind when visiting a loved one in a health care setting. These 10 strategies direct from nursing staff help ensure your visit is safe and calm.

    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 washing stations 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. Avoid flowers and latex balloons. Patients (the one you’re visiting or others nearby) 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 hospital safety tips for visitors 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.

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