Timing is everything.
Hospital visiting hours are primarily for the benefit of the patients. While patients are encouraged and cheered by visits from family and friends, designated visiting hours are often planned in such a way as to have the least chance of coinciding with patient care, rest, or procedures. By honoring the visiting hours, you are actually helping the staff care for your family member or friend.
Knock before entering.
The polite and proper thing to do is to knock at the door of the patient’s room and announce your name before entering. You might avoid entering at an inconvenient time and thus creating embarrassment for you and the patient. Even hospital staff is required to announce themselves before entering a patient’s room.
Check yourself at the door. Have you come to be cheered up or to bring cheer? The patient’s condition may be serious, and you may be very concerned. However, remember that “a merry heart doeth good like a medicine” (Proverbs 17:22). You are Christ’s ambassador of hope and encouragement, “His dose of “good medicine.” Entering the room with a pleasant expression and even some colorful flowers may do more than you realize to uplift the mood of the room and encourage healing.
No sad stories allowed.
Visiting time should be centered on the patient. Ask how she/he is feeling. In most cases the patient will be happy for the opportunity to talk about the experience of being sick because for most this is not a usual occurrence. However, it is important to remember that this is not the time for you to tell of your great aunt or grandpa who had a similar illness with all the complications and trials involved. Patients who are sick enough to be in the hospital often cannot process someone else’s misfortune while they are struggling to cope with their own situation.
Keep it short.
Hospitals generally are not known as spas or places of restful retreat. There is usually plenty of activity and noise in the hallways from hospital personnel, patrons, and paging systems—not to mention sounds from adjoining patient rooms—so much so that your friend or relative is probably finding it difficult to get a good block of time for sleep, even at night. This situation, plus the illness or injury the patient may be experiencing, can cause him or her to tire very quickly. Your visit is important, but a short visit is recommended. Be aware of the patient’s condition during your visit. Are he or she yawning? Looking pale and weary? Not speaking much? Look distracted? Drifting off to sleep? Struggling with pain? In most cases, a 15-minute visit is long enough. But depending on the situation, a shorter or longer visit may be advisable.
Not a good time for a party!
At times visiting guests will converge on a patient in groups. Usually this is not a planned occurrence. While your friend or relative is blessed to have such concerned, caring visitors, remember that the focus of the visit is on the patient. This is not the ideal place for work or social discussions by the visitors among themselves. Patients tire more quickly with group visits. Sometimes the noise of a group is disturbing to other patients and the staff. This is another instance where a shorter visit is recommended.
Leave your medical degree at home.
Often we can be tempted to share our amateur medical knowledge with a sick friend or relative, especially when they are such a captive audience. Any serious suggestions you may have can be shared quietly with a close family member of the patient. Suggesting to the patient he or she may not be receiving the best of care will only add worry and stress to an already tense situation. Similarly, a hospital visit is not the time for lectures on what the patient should have done to avoid getting sick (or injured) in the first place. Let the primary focus of the visit be to encourage and support.
When hospital staff enter the room.
Should a doctor, nurse, or any other member of the staff enter the room, it is appropriate for a visitor to ask, “Should I step out for a moment?” Such a suggestion shows support and respect for staff responsibility and gives opportunity for privacy to the patient and opportunity for him or her to fully focus on what medical attention is needed at that moment.
End the visit on a positive note.
“May I pray with you before I leave?” Most patients feel comforted by a prayer on their behalf. Remember to ask if there is something specific the patient would like prayed for. Often there are real worries and concerns not expressed during the visit which, once prayed for, may significantly decrease in intensity. The reading of a Bible promise is often well received too. Depending on the situation and your relationship with the patient, it might be appropriate to ask if there is something you could do to help or offer to leave a phone number where you can be reached in the event of a need.
“I was sick, and ye visited me” (Matthew 25:36).
It is our pleasant duty as members of Christ’s family here on this earth to care for one another. Sickness and injury can cause discouragement, uncertainty, and loneliness to the sufferer. The hours spent in recovery can be long and wearisome. We are therefore commissioned to be heaven’s voice of comfort and hope. Visiting the sick may take a little time out of our busy schedules, but the potential for good is beyond estimate, both in encouragement and healing of body and spirit. Following a few simple guidelines can help to ensure a more positive experience for both you and the patient.