“The very first requirement in a hospital is that it should do the sick no harm”- Florence Nightingale.
Dear readers, the moment we hear someone is hospitalized we rush to visit them without really giving a second thought. Nothing wrong. It is part of human nature to be compassionate. But there is some etiquette that can be followed to make the patient and his family feel better because that’s what we ultimately want.
This thought came to my mind when my dad was hospitalized recently and was visited by some unruly relatives who not only made me and my family feel bad but also mad at them. But then in hindsight, I think we all get carried away and talk whatever comes to our minds, especially when we see a friend or loved one after a long time. I’m sure I would have also said or done something in the past which might have upset the patient when I was a hospital visitor.
This incident made me list out some guidelines for hospital etiquette which I promised myself to follow. Hope this would help you too when you visit someone in the hospital.
They are designed for the patients’ well being. Stick to visiting hours, speak softly not only inside the room but also in the corridors, turn off your mobile phone and keep your visit short. Even when the patient is not resting, he will be more sensitive to noise than normal, so try to keep noise levels minimum.
If you are sick
Sounds paradoxical, but avoid going to the hospital (to visit, of course!) if you are sick. There are always alternatives like speaking on phone or sending cards or just prayers. The patient’s immune system might already be compromised, the germs that we carry might delay/complicate the recovery process or even have serious consequences. This is exactly the reason why they don’t allow children to visit in some hospitals. They are likely to carry more germs and pass on to others, even if they don’t show any symptoms. Refrain from bringing children to hospitals unless absolutely necessary.
Make the patient feel comfortable and respect his feelings. If he prefers to talk, be a good listener. The hospital can be a very lonely and boring place, a short visit from a friend or loved one can cheer up the patient. On the other hand, if the patient wants to rest, politely excuse yourself. Be assured that you have already done your part by being there to comfort the patient. And never whisper in front of the patient or say something that makes him feel you are keeping some secret (even if he seems to be resting).
Patient’s convenience and privacy
Leave the room if the patient looks uncomfortable or if the doctor or any health care professional (even the dietician) arrives to examine or talk. The patient/doctor might be too polite to ask you to go.
What to talk
Don’t ask too many questions about the illness, not only to the patient but also to the family. It’s better to call someone in the family and inquire about the illness before heading to the hospital. If you really don’t know what to say, don’t be afraid to stay silent. A reassuring smile will be more comforting and meaningful.
What to bring
Get well cards are the safest bet. Flowers might grow mold or some patients might even be allergic. Food is a definite “no”, even if it’s the patient’s favorite. The patient might be on a specific diet plan and your goodies could cause serious problems.
How to help
You want to help but don’t know how? Ask. Be specific. Instead of just saying,”Call me if you need anything”, ask if you can help fetch the kids or if the caregiver needs to buy something from the store or get the house organized when the patient returns home, etc.
The patient and his family will always remember you for being a positive influence on the patient’s recovery. A cheerful heart is the best medicine. Help the patient to be lighthearted by talking about the nicer things in life or something that he likes (movies, songs, etc) or some funny incidents you were in together. Turn the negative environment into a positive situation.
What are your personal experiences at a hospital? Anything interesting that you can share here?