The last two weeks has been rather difficult for me. I’ve been a regular hospital visitor for my Dad and consequently there’s been lots to do in addition to the usually busy daily routines. I work full time, I have a 9 year old daughter and my husband works night shifts. Last Monday, I went to the hospital at lunchtime to visit and also speak to staff, assuming that a ward round would have taken place, so presumably a good time to get an update. On arrival at the ward, the doors were locked so I rang the bell. I was stunned when I was met at the door and told that visiting wasn’t for another 30 minutes. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to come back, I had work to complete and l had to collect my daughter from school. I also knew that there would be no other visitors that day. Even after explaining all of this I still wasn’t allowed to visit until visiting time. I hadn’t even thought about visiting hours, no-one had spoken to me to explain anything. In fact it is incredibly difficult to get any information from anyone. Last weekend I couldn’t visit and so I rang the ward for information. I rang 8 times and each time, the nurse was either busy, with a patient, on her break, on the telephone, not on the ward etc. and each time I was promised a return call. Nothing. I then spent 2 hours telephoning the ward the following morning but nobody answered the telephone. This is incredibly frustrating and so a plea to all nurses…enable and value communication between patients, family and staff, it is crucial for all involved. Of course I understand that staff are busy but in addition to the practicalities, communication also reduces anxiety for both patient and family and builds trust. I am speaking from experience.
So this week I have found that visiting times are not always convenient for visitors…I work, I have family commitments, I live a long distance from the hospital, and the list goes on. I also wonder why on this particular ward, visitors are not welcome at mealtimes. Surely some patients would like visitors at mealtimes, so that they can enjoy the social element of eating a meal and maybe the visitors could/would like to help. So why do we even have visiting times…is it to give the patients some time alone? To limit noise? Because staff want to control routine? Do patients want visiting time or open visiting? Why don’t we ask? Why don’t we offer individualised care and enable the patient and family to negotiate visiting time? Visiting a relative in hospital is already problematic for many people, its a worrying time, its stressful, its expensive and its time consuming (it took me 45 minuted to find a parking space on one visit!), so another plea to all nurses…please review your visiting policies and consider what can be done to ensure that visiting is in the best interests of your patients and is convenient for relatives to visit. You may find it beneficial for your patients and families.
As a paediatric nurse, my experience has always been that open visiting is usually in operation, and one or both parents are able to stay with their children overnight. So I wonder why adults do not enjoy the same privileges? As a close relative of a patient in hospital, I have again experienced the frustrations shared by others every day. Please leave your comments, I’m really interested to hear your views on hospital visiting policies.