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Visiting A Relative Or Friend In Hospital? 5 Basic Ethics To Keep In Mind.

Dr. Huma Anjum

3 min read

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Visiting someone in the hospital, whether it is a close relative, friend or a colleague can be a daunting task. You often don’t know how to react, what to say and how to behave, resulting in you making mistakes that might cause discomfort to the patient and disrupt the sterile hospital environment. While it is good to provide moral support to your ailing loved ones, here are a few hospital visiting ethics that should be kept in mind to make sure you do not cross any ethical boundaries:

1- Call Ahead

Most hospitals have strict visiting times and some wards might require you to make appointments, so make sure to call and confirm before scheduling a visit. After confirming with the hospital, call the patient you are planning on visiting or their guardian to know when or if they are willing to receive any visitors.

2- Do Not Go Empty-Handed

It is common courtesy to bring a gift while visiting someone in the hospital, along with the fact that they tend to cheer up otherwise depressed patients. Consider giving books, puzzles, board games or anything else that the patient might enjoy.

3- Maintain hand hygiene

It is vital to ensure hygiene and sanitation when visiting a patient who is hospitalized. Always wash your hands with water and soap or keep alcohol swabs and hand rubs on your person so that you can use them when entering or leaving the patient’s room. This also applies to the staff and doctors attending to the patient. Always make sure to ask them if they have done the same before they enter the patient’s room.

4- Be mindful of Illnesses

It is vital to seek advice from the ward before visiting a patient if you are unwell or are experiencing a fever, cough, cold, diarrhoea and any other condition which may be infectious or contagious.

5- Keep Your Opinions to Yourself

A common mistake that people often make on hospital visits is commenting on the patient’s appearance, the hospital’s physical state and environment and, worse of all, a self-diagnosis of their condition. Financial matters might have forced them to elect that particular hospital, and your words of criticism will only serve to hurt their feelings.

6- Refrain from Telling Horror Stories

Whether the person you are visiting is a terminal patient or recovering from a minor surgery, recalling stories of similar medical conditions of relatives or mutual acquaintances who had tough experiences is unlikely to be helpful, and may negatively affect the patient. Instead of telling horror stories, try cheering up the patient, and offer your moral support.

7- Do Not Overstay Your Welcome

Limit your visit to 15-20 minutes, regardless of your relation to the patient. The administered medications typically contain sedatives that make the patient drowsy. Also, most patients have to wake up every few hours for tests and doctor examinations, leaving them restless and craving sleep. Therefore, it is better to let them rest instead of forcing them to stay awake out of courtesy to you.

8- Remember that people can hear with their eyes closed 

It is possible for patients to be aware of what is happening around them even if they are in a coma or simply resting. Therefore, you should take care to not say anything you wouldn’t say if the patient was awake.

9- Avoid sitting on the bed

Sitting on the bed can lead to some discomfort or harm in the patient’s condition. Unless you are asked by the patient themselves, it is best to not take a seat there. There will usually be a chair in the hospital room for you to sit on but if there isn’t you should either ask for a chair from the staff or remain standing.

10- Have a light conversation

It is important to ensure you do not say anything stressful or intense to the patient during this time of recovery. Mentioning business or politics may do more harm than good to a patient’s health. You should think of some light and harmless conversation starters beforehand such as commenting about the weather or telling a funny story.

11- Respect the medical professionals 

A doctor or nurse may enter the room at any point in time to check on the patient. When this happens, you should honor the patient’s need to be treated and ask permission to leave the room. It is vital to maintain a positive attitude when leaving the room and wait outside during this time. As a courtesy you should also thank the medical professionals at the station when they are done with the patient.

What to avoid doing when visiting someone in hospital

  • You should not sit too close to the patient or on his bed as this increases the risk of spreading germs.
  • Avoid putting your feet on the patient’s bed.
  • Do not touch any of the medical equipment such as drips or any of the patient’s wounds as this can cause infections.

Do you know someone who needs medical counselling? You can refer them to oladoc.com and Book Appointments with Top Specialists in Karachi, Multan and Rawalpindi through oladoc.com. Or simply call our helpline at 042-3890-0939 if you need any help with finding the RIGHT Doctor for your needs.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Dr. Huma Anjum - Author Dr. Huma Anjum is a Family Physician based in Lahore. She is member of Pakistan Medical and Dental Councils and can be consulted for a range of medical conditions. Using oladoc, you can book appointment with Dr. Huma.
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