If the patient's door is closed, knock and wait for permission to enter.
Wash your hands when you enter a patient's room as well as when you leave.
Avoid cellphone use. Although this is a controversial issue, some studies suggest that the electromagnetic interference caused by them may affect cardiac and other life monitors. If you must use the phone, excuse yourself and go to the lobby or other designated phone-use areas.
If a physician or nurse comes into the room while you are visiting, leave to give them privacy with the patient.
Avoid asking the patient about any surgery results or what types of medication they may be taking.
Do not visit a hospitalized patient if you are ill or have been around someone who is ill. You might be contagious before your symptoms are evident.
Refrain from offering unsolicited advice about the patient's treatment or any medications they may be taking.
Avoid putting your purse on a patient's bed, nightstand or other personal areas. Purses can harbor and spread bacteria.
Leave children at home. They may be frightened by seeing things they are too young to understand, such as blood, catheters, chest drainage tubes, rods in parts of the patient's body etc. Also, they could be exposed to bacteria or a virus their body has yet to develop immunity to. Older children may expose the patient to a virus or bacteria that may be spreading within their school. Additionally, because children are innately curious, they may begin to explore the patient's room and inadvertently expose themselves to potential hazards.
Be respectful of other patients who may be sharing a room with your friend or loved one. Speak in a low tone, and avoiding numerous visitors at one time.
Do not use the patient's bathroom; instead, find one that is for visitors.
Do not bring in large plants or delicate items that could break.
Avoid bringing chairs from other rooms to accommodate more than two visitors. Many hospital rooms have a policy of two chairs per patient. This is for fire safety regulations and to maintain easy access to the patient should an emergency occur. Hospital personnel shouldn't have to dart around chairs to reach your loved one, nor should they have to spend time returning them after you leave.
Being in the hospital can be an enormously stressful time for patients and their loved ones. Hospitals can be a frightening place for those experiencing illness, injury or surgery, and seeing friends and loved ones at that time can be of great comfort. However, be sure that your behavior during a visit helps to heal, not hurt their recovery.
A special thank you to the nurses of Charleston Area Medical Center and Thomas/Saint Francis hospitals not only for their help and suggestions for this column, but for what they do on a daily basis -- taking care of us when we need it most!
Pam Harvit MS is a certified corporate etiquette and protocol consultant. You may request her services or email your questions to her at phar...@suddenlink.net.