Hospital Rules and Etiquette

Becoming familiar with the hospital rules and etiquette well help eliminate some of your worries, if you are planning on visiting a family member or friend in the hospital and are worried about what to bring or what to expect.

Before driving out on the open road, you learn the rules of the road. Before you attend a company dinner, you brush up on your etiquette. Learning codes of conduct ahead of time can make this a lot more enjoyable. The same is true when you are visiting someone at the hospital.

Here is an outline of some basic hospital rules and etiquette:

  • Visiting Hours
    Your friend/family member will be kept busy during the day with physician's visit, physical rehabilitation sessions, follow-up studies and getting some much needed rest.

    While popping in for a quick visit outside of the scheduled visiting hours may seem innocent enough, you will be disrupting the care your friend/family member requires to get on the road to recovery that leads to home.

    Before you go to the hospital, make sure you know the visiting hours and stick to them!

  • Phone calls
    ...there is nothing more frustrating than having to jump over all sorts of hurdles to reach your ringing phone only to have it stop ringing once you finally reach it.

    This situation is even worse for your friend/family member in the hospital. They hear that phone ring and desperately try to dive to catch it before the caller hangs up.

    To avoid catching your friend or family member in the middle of a procedure, try calling around scheduled visiting hours or after dinner when things have slowed down a bit. If you plan on calling the next day, schedule a time with them when you will call.

    If you are calling the hospital staff for updates...

    Please remember, whether they are following the law or an oath to protect the privacy of their patients, healthcare providers are very limited in the amount of information they can provide you about your friend or family member.

    It might be helpful for you to know that nurses receive report about their patients at change of shift (around 7-8am, 3-4pm, 11-12midnight if the hospital is on eight hour shifts or 7-8am and 7-8pm if the hospital is on twelve hour shifts).

    If you were to call around the change of shift, you would be calling at the craziest time of the day. The nurses are trying to receive report on your friend/family member, pass medications, complete their assessments, prepare patients for surgery, the list goes on.

    So how do you receive information about your friend/family member?

    The best way to obtain information about your loved one would be to contact the friend/family member your loved one has selected to provide updates to others.

    Another wonderful option is offered by CaringBridge provides patients and family members the opportunity to post updates while keeping the information private (via a password). This is a great idea!!!

    While healthcare providers understand your anxiety and the need to know how your friend or family member is feeling, we also know you want the nursing staff to focus on caring for your loved one and not fielding calls.

    Please follow the hospital rules and etiquette to make things easier on all involved.

  • Fire safety laws restrict the number of chairs that are allowed in a hospital rooms

    Typically, only two chairs are allowed in one room. This is not only a fire safety regulation; it is also for the protection of your friend/family member. Should an emergency occur, hospital staff must be able to easily access your loved one. Trying to dodge multiple chairs can delay the delivery of emergency care.

  • Avoid wearing perfume or cologne when visiting the hospital

    Many people suffer from allergies which can be triggered by cologne and perfume. In addition to allergies, perfume and cologne can trigger strong waves of nausea for people recovering from anesthesia or on various medications.

  • When visiting your friend/family member, leave your cell phone in the car or at home

    Believe it or not, you will survive without your phone (laptop, or other electronic device) for the duration of your visit with your family/friend. If something is really urgent you can use the phone in the room or down the hall.

    no cell phone use

    As long as your cell phone is on, it can cause electromagnetic interference. This interference can affect cardiac monitors and other life monitors within the hospital.

    People tend to be very sensitive to the fact that cell phones can disrupt or interfere with the cardiac monitoring devices if their friend or family member requires careful monitoring. Unfortunately the general public tends to show less compassion and sensitivity when their loved one does not require cardiac monitoring.

    Please be sensitive to the needs of others. To prevent temptation, please leave your cell phone in the car.

  • If your friend or family member shares a room with a roommate, be considerate of their needs and privacy.

    This may seem to be an obvious part of hospital rules and etiquette, but you would be surprised at how many people use their "outdoor voice" instead of being respectful to the needs of the other patients.

    If your friend/family member is fortunate enough to have a room of their own, it is still important to keep the noise level down and respect the privacy of others.

  • When trying to decide if you should bring a "gift", check with the hospital first and keep it small

    In general, bringing flowers or a plant is not a good idea.

    Why not flowers?

    Flowers can trigger allergies and plants can harbor bacteria, mold or bugs in the soil. All of which hospitals strive to avoid. In certain Units such as intensive care (ICU), plants and flowers are strictly forbidden for this very reason.

    Bringing food or candy can also be problematic if the person you are visiting is on a restricted diet or if they are battling nausea.

    So, what can you bring that will be a safe bet?

    Safe bets include, a heartfelt card, a balloon, magazines and/or "activity books."

    If you are planning on bringing a book or magazine, you may wish to consider if your friend/family member has any visual limitations (did they have surgery on their eyes? Do they need reading glasses?).

    Did you notice I wrote "a" balloon? That is because "more" is not always "better."

    Above all else, remember you are the best medicine, the best gift, you could bring to your loved one!

  • If at all possible, please leave your children at home

    Perhaps that sounds harsh but, for the safety of your child, hospitals advise that you leave them at home or, at the very least, in the care of someone outside the hospital.

    This not only allows you to focus on your visit with your loved one but it also protects your child from being exposed to infectious disease which their immune system cannot fight off.

    In addition to your child being exposed to serious illnesses, they also can get restless and get into things which may also be harmful to them.

    Allowing your child to explore on their own is not only potentially unsafe, is it can be disturbing to those around them, leaving the hospital staff with no other choice than to ask you and your child to leave the facility.

    Hospitals can also be very scary places for children. For your child's sake, please make arrangements to have someone watch your child outside the hospital.

  • Watch your purse!

    With respect to purses, if I were visiting a friend or family member, I would never put my purse down!!!!. Heck! I usually limit my "purse" to my ID and keys and leave the rest at home!


    Despite every attempt possible to keep things clean, your purse can be a magnet for bacteria. Studies show that the purse is the dirtiest thing in your home. Knowing what has fallen on hospital floors, I would have to say your purse can also become the dirtiest thing in the hospital as well!

    This brings me to number one of hospital rules and etiquette

  • WASH YOUR HANDS!!!!!!!

    Wash your hands when you arrive. Wash your hands after you leave the room. Wash your hands when you get home...wash your hands!!!!

    I will say it again. Hospitals are filled with germs!!! Bringing germs home with you would not be a very friendly thing to do.

    If your friend/family member has been placed in "isolation", check with the nursing staff before you go into the room and obey the rules associated with the isolation protocol.

    Sometimes a person's resistance is low, making them very vulnerable to infections. In this case, they may be placed in "reverse" isolation, which means the hospital staff is trying to protect them from any germs you may give the patient.

    In other cases, the patient themselves has an organism which may cause you to become sick or, if you don't wash your hands properly, you may become a carrier and make someone else sick.

    Please stick to the hospital rules and etiquette. They are there for your safety and the safety of those you love!

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