Hospital Visits: 10 Tips for a Helpful Experience

Our daughter needed an unusual type of nerve surgery and only two surgeons in the US performed the operation. A local surgeon was going to do it but, after he broke his foot, referred our daughter to a surgeon in New Hampshire. The thought of surgery was scary and our daughter asked us to accompany her.

The count-down to surgery involved several steps. First, her medical records were sent to the New Hampshire surgeon. Next, our daughter met with the surgeon. Using an anatomical model, he explained the surgery in simple and concise words. Medical tests were the third step and our daughter had them the next day.

Since surgery was slated for Monday, we had the weekend to ourselves. We visited my husband’s alma mater, visited an historic site, and toured a local museum. But we were careful not to wear our daughter out just before surgery.

She had the four-hour operation and was transferred to recovery. According to the surgeon, she wouldn’t be awake or lucid fo hours, so we returned to our motel. We visited our daughter the next day. How long should we stay? Were there visitation rules? Though my husband is a retired physician and I’m a health writer, we had questions about  hospital  visits. Fortunately, we picked up on tips quickly.

1. Stay home if you are ill. You don’t need to share your germs with the patient or  hospital  staff.

2. Sanitize your hands. We cleaned our hands before and after we visited our daughter. Sometimes we used the hand sanitizer by the elevators, and other times we used the sanitizer in our daughter’s room.

3. Avoid perfume and cologne. This tip comes from a WebMD video about  hospital  visits. I think visitors should also avoid perfumed hand lotion and lip gloss.

4. Limit your conversation. Visiting doesn’t mean you have to talk all the time. Your loved one will appreciate your presence as much as your words.

5. Bring something to read. I always had a paperback in my purse and a magazine. This planning saved me from reading the dated magazines in the family waiting room.

6. Ask about the  hospital’s  flower policy. Some  hospital  floors don’t allow flowers, balloons, or stuffed animals. Our daughter is allergic to rubber, something else we had to consider.

7. Sit in a chair, not on the bed. Your weight could crowd the patient, cause discomfort, and spread germs.

8. Set a time limit. Many health experts recommend 15-minute visits, especially after surgery. Our daughter wanted us to stay longer. We scheduled regular morning visits, lunch breaks, afternoon visits, and didn’t return in the evening.

9. Keep traffic “lanes” clear. Nurses and attending physicians need enough room for rolling computers and medical equipment and we were careful to stay out of the way.

10. Respect patient privacy. Visitors should not read medical charts or ask intrusive questions.

Most of all, keep a positive attitude. Your loved one or friend needs encouragement at this vulnerable time of life and your positive attitude can lift his or her spirits.

Copyright 2011 by Harriet Hodgson