Because families are more than visitors

Family Presence Policy enhances patient experience

Eating, laughing, chatting and reminiscing with grandma. Fluffing the pillows and holding your friend's hand through pain. Dozing off next to mom like you did as a child. Supporting your sibling through treatment. Having the time and space to say proper goodbyes. Witnessing your beloved family member's last moments. Being there means everything. 

This is why the Family Presence Policy is important. 

With advocacy from the Canadian Foundation of Healthcare Improvement and the Institute for Patient- and Family-Centered Care, North York General Hospital (NYGH) has launched a Family Presence Policy enhancing the ability of defined family members to have improved patient access. 

“NYGH respects and values family members as integral partners in providing excellent care,” says Jamie Campbell, Director of Organizational Development and Volunteer Services. 

Family and loved ones play an essential role in a patient's healing and open visiting hours have many benefits to patients such as:

  • Emotional support for patients; relieving anxiety and isolation
  • Improved quality of care
  • Easier communication and translation

Family and loved ones play an essential role in a patient's healing and open visiting hours have many benefits to patients.

Patients define their “family” 

In general, family presence policies let patients designate one or more family members or significant people in their lives to have enhanced access to them during hospitalization, regardless of the time of day. This approach allows family members to more fully participate in patient care by being present for physician and team rounds, and help with transitions in care.

“Research has shown that family presence not only enhances the patient and family experience it has been proven to enhance continuity of care, improve the management of chronic and acute illnesses and prevent hospital readmissions,” says Jennifer Quaglietta, Director of Patient Experience and Quality. 

The unrestricted visiting hours policy focuses on working with patients and their partners in care in decision making and care planning. The patient decides who they want involved during their admission at the hospital. Protecting the safety, privacy or rights of all patients is North York General's top priority. 

How many people are allowed at the bedside?
The number of people welcomed at any one time is best decided in agreement with the patient and the health care team and, in a shared room, with the other patient(s). The size of the room may limit the number of family and friends who can be present at one time. A general guideline is two to three people at any one time.

Are children able to visit?
Children are important members of a patient's family and are welcome to come and see their loved ones. While visiting they must be accompanied by an adult and supervised at all times.

What if I am sick?
It is recommended that you do not visit if you are feeling unwell, have an infection, symptoms of respiratory or flu-like symptoms, undiagnosed skin rashes, nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea. To help keep everyone safe, it is important that you wash your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub when you enter and leave a patient's room

What if the care team needs to provide care?
Family members may be asked to wait in the waiting area while the care team provides care.

What about rooms where there are multiple beds?
We must balance the wishes and needs of all patients in the room. Visiting may be interrupted to provide patient care, to protect the privacy rights of other patients or to maintain safety and security decisions. If a room is overcrowded, some family members may be asked to wait in the waiting area.

What about disruptive visitors, or patients whose needs are in conflict with each other? 
To ensure a healing environment, family members or visitors whose behaviour is disruptive or infringes upon the rights or safety of others may be asked to leave the unit and/or hospital.

This article first appeared in the July-August 2017 issue of The Pulse.

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