Having a loved one in a hospital’s Critical Care Unit can be stressful and difficult for everyone involved.
Because of the seriousness of the patients’ conditions in critical care (also known as intensive care), family members and friends are typically afforded a small window of opportunity for visitation each day. But that’s about to change at Gordon Hospital.
“A lot of national research has concluded that visiting restrictions in critical care units are relics,” says Karen Steely, RN, MSN, director of In-Patient Services for Gordon Hospital. “In most cases, the restrictions were proven to be unnecessary, and actually have a direct negative effect on patient healing and family communication.”
Beginning in July 2014, the Gordon Hospital Critical Care Unit will offer 24-hour visitation, with the exception of 6:30 a.m. - 8:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m., which are times reserved for in-unit procedures and physician rounding.
“We are striving to make communication between our staff and the family and friends of our patients as easy as possible so that we may provide the very best care to their loved ones,” Steely explains. “We believe open visitation will help us achieve that goal.”
However, there are specific guidelines that visitors must follow, she added, including:
- We ask the number of visitors per patient to be limited to no more than two at a time;
- Visitors should remain in their loved one's room. Out of respect for the privacy and safety of all of our ICU patients, we ask that visitors refrain from standing in hallways or outside of the patient room.
- All children must be accompanied by an adult over 18 years of age;
- Due to the critical nature of the ICU and limited space, we prefer that food, beverages, plants, and family belongings not be brought into the patient room.
- To allow for consistent and open communication on the patient’s condition, the patient’s family will be asked to identify a “family spokesperson,” which will be the contact between the health care providers, family, and friends;
- One overnight visitor is allowed in a patient room to provide the patient a quiet and restful nights sleep;
- Children under 18 years of age are not permitted to stay overnight.
Hospitalists at Gordon Hospital will make every attempt possible to round with patients and families between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. each day. The family spokesperson will be asked to be in the patient’s room during this time. Surgeons and specialty physicians may round at various times.
“To help you remember any questions you may have for your physician, our staff will provided you with a note pad and pen,” Steely says. “We encourage you to ask questions and stay informed on your loved ones condition.”
On those occasions where situations or visitation potentially distract from the promotion of the healing process, actions may be taken that restrict or otherwise control visitation, she adds.
“For the safety of your loved one, we ask that you refrain from visiting if you are actively sick and/or being treated for an infection, and to please be considerate of your loved one's need for rest and quiet,” Steely explains. “Visitors can promote a healing environment by using a soft-spoken voice, placing cell phones on vibrate or silent, and avoid talking on cell phones while visiting with your loved one.”
Depending on the patients’ conditions, visitors may be required to wear Personal Protective Equipment before entering the room. There will be a sign on the door outlining necessary equipment. This could include a gown, gloves, or a mask.
“Our nursing staff will be available to assist visitors with how to properly use and dispose of these items,” Steely says.
To protect the privacy of the patients’ health care information, the family spokesperson will be asked to complete a password agreement. The spokesperson will also be instrumental in relaying information to family and friends regarding the patient, and working with the health care team in developing and communicating their loved one's plan of care.
“We believe these changes will greatly benefit everyone involved,” Steely says. “Our mission is to extend the healing ministry of Christ to all we serve, and that certainly includes our patients’ families.”