Visiting loved ones in hospital

22 Apr 2016

It can be difficult to visit your loved one in hospital, but you can have a positive influence on their recovery. Studies show that visits from loved ones play a key role in the healing process, so we encourage contact from family and friends during visiting hours. Remember these tips for your next visit, which will help the patient and hospital staff.

'Do's' for Hospital Visitors

Do ask the patient’s permission to visit before you arrive. They may prefer a home visit after they’ve recovered, or prefer a certain time of day to see their friends and family.

Do wash your hands and sanitize them before you touch the patient or hand the patient something you've been touching. If you wash your hands, then touch something else, like a telephone or TV remote or even the bed linens or your jacket, wash your hands and sanitize them again. Infections come from almost any source and the pathogens can survive on surfaces for days. You can't risk being responsible for making your favourite patient even sicker than they already are.

Do choose gifts wisely. Would the patient prefer flowers, balloons or simply a get-well card? Remember, your patient may be sharing space with other patients who may have allergies to certain plants or flowers. Think about a book or magazine they might like instead.

Do respect the visiting hours of each ward. Make a plan to visit during the times as non-visiting hours are designed for the patient to rest and for hospital staff to provide treatment to the patient.

'Don'ts' for Hospital Visitors

Don't enter the hospital if you have any symptoms that could be contagious. Neither your patient nor other hospital workers can afford to catch whatever you have. If you have symptoms like a cough, runny nose, rash or even diarrhoea, don't visit. Make a phone call or send a card instead.

Don’t bring in food that could spoil and make the patient even more ill. Read our guidelines for bringing in food to St Vincent’s hospital here.

Don’t overwhelm the patient with too many visitors at once. Recovery can be a fragile time for patients when they will be dealing with various emotions and physical symptoms of their illness. Too many visitors at once can be confronting and overwhelming for them, and may do more harm than good.

Don't smoke before visiting or during a visit, even if you excuse yourself to go outdoors. The smell from the smoke is nauseating to many people, and some patients have a heightened sense of smell while taking certain drugs or in the sterile hospital environment. At most it will cause them to feel sicker and if your friend is a smoker, you'll cause them to crave a cigarette, and that may be problematic.

Don’t bring animals to the hospital. Animals will, in many cases, not be allowed into the hospital due to the sterile environment.

For more on Visiting Etiquette, please see our useful tips here.