Hospital Visitation

How Do I Help Someone Who Is In The Hospital?

by David Apple January 1, 2007

Visitation is an important part of caring about someone. Sometimes, visitation means going to a hospital when the person is sick. Most of us find hospital visitation uncomfortable. Here are some tips to help you.

What I Need To Know First...

  • A sickness can be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to a person’s problems in life. Be prepared for the person to either avoid discussions because of her fear of revealing the rest of the iceberg or of her opening up and pouring out on you the problems you might be unaware of.

  • Do not judge a person because of her sickness.

  • Do not try to take control of the person’s life.

  • Pray before and after you visit for a heart of compassion.

  • Show respect for the nursing staff and doctors irrespective of what past experiences you might have had in life.

What Are My Options For Action?

When visiting a person in the hospital here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Learn about the condition or illness before you visit.

  • Pray before your visit for a heart of compassion.

  • Wash your hands before entering the room.

  • If you arrive and the door is closed, ask at the nurse’s station if it is okay to go in.

  • If the person is sleeping, ask the nurse whether she should be woken up or just leave a note to visit another time. (Perhaps it is time for meds?)

  • Note any sign indicating that masks, gowns, or gloves are needed during visit.

  • If the room is crowded with visitors then come back another time.

  • Make the visit about 15 minutes in length.

  • After you greet the patient, ask "May I stay for a short time?" Sit in a chair, and position yourself where the patient can easily see you.

  • Start with a question such as “How are you doing today?” rather than “Are you still feeling sick?” It is best to ask questions that can’t be answered Yes or No.

  • Listen more than you talk. Be understanding. Don’t jump in with advice. Let the patient have some control.

  • The patient might still have very practical concerns such as child care, housekeeping, and finances, and needs to communicate these. But, be prepared for her to either avoid discussing them for fear of revealing too much, or of opening up and pouring out too much information.

  • Ask if you can read scripture (is there a special verse?)

  • Ask if you may pray. Then offer a brief prayer (three sentences) before you leave.

  • Help in practical things such as refilling the water pitcher, answering the telephone, asking a nurse to stop by.

  • Show respect for the nursing staff and doctors irrespective of what past experiences you might have had with hospital staff.

  • Do not touch or adjust any equipment. Do not second-guess a doctor, tell the patient that God will bring total healing, play down the care she is receiving, talk about gossip or bad news, or delve into her personal life.

  • Wash your hands after leaving and pray.

How Can I Learn More?

  • Talk to someone who has been in the hospital and ask what helped him and what did not help.

  • Go on the web and learn about the sickness or medical condition that required hospitalization.

  • Ask family or friends who have been visiting if there is something you can do to help.

© 2019 Tenth Presbyterian Church.

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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By David Apple. ©2019 Tenth Presbyterian Church. Website: tenth.org