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Tips on visiting a patient

We only have the best intentions when visiting someone in the hospital. We think about cheering them up, keeping them company and how our visit might comfort them. However, there are some behaviours and gifts we should avoid when visiting a hospital patient to make it a pleasant and safe experience for everyone.
We want your hospital visit to be as safe and pleasant as possible.

Some reminders to make a hospital visit a good one:

Flowers: They're pretty and can certainly cheer up a patient. Be mindful however, that the patient may have allergies to those flowers or if they are sharing a room with another patient, that person may be allergic. Remember that NYGH is a scent-free environment so avoid flowers with a very strong scent. Flowers like roses, carnations and chrysanthemums have the pollen inside the flower and are among those flowers recommended for hospital patients. Our Gift Shop can arrange for flowers or a gift to be delivered to a patient.

Food: You may think that a patient would feel better if they had a taste of their favourite food, but make sure the patient is not on a special diet first. At North York General Hospital we ask patients to check with their nurse or a dietitian before eating gifts of food because they could interfere with their treatment. Also, it's not a good idea to eat from the patient's hospital tray while visiting. Health care staff may think they are eating, when in fact they are not.

Hand hygiene: Always wash and sanitize your hands before entering a hospital room and upon leaving. Germs are easily transferred due to lack of hand sanitation.
 
Don't visit if you're feeling sick: If you are not feeling well, especially if you have symptoms of a cold or flu, please don't visit a patient in the hospital as their immune system may already be compromised.

Visit length: Unless you are an immediate family member, please keep your visit short. Patients are in the hospital because they need to rest and recover. While visitors are appreciated, patients get tired very quickly so recognize that a short visit is better than a long one.

Health care staff: It is always difficult to see a loved one unwell in a hospital and it's normal to want to ensure they are receiving the best care. Patients and their families who are currently receiving care as an inpatient or clinic patient and have a question or concern should ask to speak directly with the staff or manager of that unit/department. This will ensure a timely response directly from the team involved in the patient's care. To ease communication between all parties, remain calm and non-aggressive. Our goal at NYGH is to provide an exceptional care experience for our patients and their families.

Relationships: Sometimes if a relationship is strained, one may think it's a good time to smooth things over by visiting the other person in the hospital and use the opportunity to discuss a situation while the other is confined to a bed in the room. However, this may cause the patient undue anxiety and stress. If you know the patient will be released in the near future, wait to visit them in their home. If not, then call first and ask if it's ok for you to visit them at the hospital. If they prefer that you don't, then you can still send a small gift or card as a thoughtful gesture.

Cell phones: Cell phones can interfere with sensitive electronic equipment in the hospital. Please review where cell phones are restricted at NYGH. Pay attention to any notices in the hospital that ask you to turn your cell phone off. Even when you have your phone on, it's best to turn the ringer to silent or very low so as to not disturb the patient you are visiting and neighbouring patients who may need to sleep and don't want to be disturbed with a loud ring tone.
 
For more information

Learn more about visiting a patient at North York General Hospital and our Family Presence Policy.
Get health and safety information as well as the amenities and resources North York General offers.
 
March 6, 2019


This article first appeared in the March 2019 issue of The Pulse, North York General Hospital's community newsletter. Subscribe to receive 10 issues per year.

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Next: Read the article: Partnering with palliative care patient and family advisors.

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