A hospital stay can be stressful. The combination of health concerns, continuous activity and environmental noise can be overwhelming. However, even with all the goings-on, a hospital stay can also be very lonely without visits from loved ones.
According to a study at Ohio State University, physical and social contact in the hospital can help reduce stress and allow the body to heal quicker. Researchers found that those who had visitors while recovering from surgery suffered less nerve-related pain and experienced decreased inflammation levels at a faster rate.
Deanna White, RN, acute care director at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center, agrees that visiting someone recovering in the hospital is important. Equally important is being a good visitor.
White offers her top five tips for making the most of a visit:
1. Clean hands countHand contact is known to be a major way germs spread. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you can prevent infection by keeping your hands clean. Wash your hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer before entering and exiting the patient’s room.
2. Keep visits short and sweetPatients don’t sleep soundly and are tired from procedures, surgery or simply from being sick. Entertaining visitors can also be exhausting. If you are visiting to show your support, don’t stay long. Consider coordinating visits with others and allowing blocks of time for the patient to rest.
3. Participate as a care partnerAsk the hospital staff if they have a care partner program. Care partners work with the nursing staff and become an important part of the team in meeting the patient’s immediate needs related to activities of daily living, such as bathing or eating.
4. Manners matterIf your loved one is in a semiprivate room with a roommate, be courteous of the patient in the other bed. The roommate may have just had surgery or may be in pain. High noise levels and constant talking can increase stress and anxiety, and delay rest and healing.
5. Keep kids at homeIf possible, avoid bringing children to the hospital. They can be exposed to bacteria — especially since children like to touch things — and are often not capable of promoting a quiet, healing environment for the patients. Encourage children to create artwork or write notes that can be delivered to the patient to let them know they care.
“It is also important to know hospital visiting rules and hours in advance as they can change during flu season or as the need arises,” White says. “Often the hospital website has hours and visiting guidelines listed, including rules about bringing food, flowers and other gifts to patients. Visitors can also stop by the information desk or ask the nursing staff to learn more.”