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 The 'Good' Visitor 
 
The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Patient Advocacy in Hospitals by . View all columns in series
Most of us head to the hospital to visit a sick or recovering friend or family member without giving it a thought. Give it a thought! There are many things you can and should do to make sure the experience is both positive and safe for you, the patient and your family.


What top things should visitors know about visiting a patient in the hospital?

1. Do not come to the hospital if you are sick. This includes having diarrhea. Patients already possess compromised immune systems due to their injury, illness or surgery. They also have to "fight off" hospital-acquired infections to which they are exposed such as MRSA (Multi-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus) and C. diff (Clostridium Difficile). If you are ill, send your presence in spirit, by phone, through friends or prayer.
2. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water before entering any patient room and upon leaving any patient room. Hand sanitizers are not enough! According to the Mayo Clinic, "Alcohol-based hand gels, which are commonly used in healthcare institutions, may not effectively destroy C. difficile spores." There are many, many risk factors associated with these and other hospital-acquired infections, risk factors that involve hospital procedures and personnel, building environmental factors as well as factors surrounding severity of illness. While hospital attention to minimizing risks can play a big role in the frequency of hospital-acquired infections, these are things over which we have no control. We do have control over our efforts, efforts that serve both the patient and the visitor. Therefore, scrupulous hand washing by everyone is your only hope for protection.

3. Sanitize the bottom of your purse or bag as well as the bottom of your shoes before contact with anyone following a visit to the hospital. This includes contact with your pets! Recent studies show we can "share" these pathogens with our four-leggeds. Also, change out of and launder any clothing that may have touched the patient such as a tie. This is especially important if you live with someone or visit someone who is:

  • immune-compromised;
  • on kidney dialysis;
  • struggling with a serious underlying illness such as inflammatory bowel disease or colorectal cancer;
  • taking antibiotics or over-the-counter antacids;
  • recovering from abdominal surgery;
  • recently discharged from a hospital; or
  • living at an extended care nursing facility.
Do so before you enter your home or the patient's facility. MRSA lives on skin and survives on objects and surfaces for more than 24 hours. C. diff spores survive up to 70 days. Infection rates continue to increase, as do deaths from hospital-acquired infections.


What top 3+ things should visitors leave at home?

1. Complaints. You are there to support the patient and family members. Having an upsetting conversation in the presence of the patient, even when heavily sedated, can have extremely negative consequences. So can whispering when the patient believes something is being withheld. State everything in the positive.
2. Plants and flowers for ICU patients. They are not allowed as they grow mold and some patients have allergies to them.
3. Questions about the patient's condition. Use the services of www.caringbridge.com. The purpose of this organization is to keep all friends and family with Internet access updated on the condition of the patient and needs of the family. With the assistance of caringbridge.com, the family can set up a blog and make comments/requests as well as expressions of gratitude. There is no reason 24/7 advocacy needs can not be placed on this blog, asking for assistance. These postings eliminate the need for the family to personally contact everyone in their network whenever there is a change. It also gives those friends and loved ones who have an interest in specifics the information they crave without bothering the family.

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 About The Author
Jari Holland Buck is a business consultant, medical layperson, Reiki Master and Shamanic Practitioner who spent 6-1/2 months in four hospitals with her critically ill husband. During 5+ months on life support, every......moreJari Buck
 
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