Sunday, 30 August 2020

Hospitals should not allow visitors

My mom has just been in hospital for two full days, two nights and a morning for a hip replacement operation. As a result of covid, visitors were not permitted. And I'm glad!

Post-op, my mom spent most of her time in hospital sleeping off the anaesthetic, resting, seeing the physio and being monitored by the nursing staff - the usual regular blood pressure checks, drip maintenance, catheter check and removal, meds at set intervals, meals. It can be a busy time being a patient.

I was quite happy to let her rest and then have whatsapp contact with her when she was awake and I was there to pick her up on release.

My mom, Liz. Back from the hospital after two days and two nights there for a hip replacement.

From her side, she appreciated not having visitors too. She could drift in and out of sleep, not worry about how she looked and she didn't have to smile at other people's visitors either. Less noise too.

She spoke to some of her attending nursing staff about how they felt about the ban on visitors and they all appreciated that there were no visitors so that they could get on with their jobs of caring for patients and not attending to visitor whims and enquiries, which really disrupts their work.

It seems that wards at the hospital have been better arranged to group similar patients together. My mom was in a ward dedicated solely to orthopaedic patients. They're in-and-out in a few days and aside from needing some kind of bodywork, they are not ill and they are fully conscious and functional.

Of course, not all patients are as 'straight forward' as orthopaedic. There are patients with major illnesses, strokes, accident victims, terminal patients, unconscious patients and the like who spend not just two days in hospital. Adults and children can be in hospital for weeks (or months!).

So this is where I will add a disclaimer to the title of this post that says 'hospitals should not allow visitors'. Patients that have routine, elective surgery, and any other kinds of patients that are in-and-out in a few days and nights, do not need visitors. For their own healing and recovery, and for distraction-free, improved effectiveness of the nursing staff. And diminished spread of illness (from the visitors!). Mobile phones and wifi are a blessing and the patient can choose when to communicate - between sleeps.

We selfishly want to visit loved ones to satisfy our own need to see them, when what they really need is a whole lot of rest with no demand on their focus or conversational skills. They have enough disruptions with the nursing activities around them.

For critically ill patients, those rushed to hospital in an emergency and long-term patients, limited visitors would be beneficial (for the patient and the worried family). I'm not sure how many visitors maternity patients would welcome during their first days with their baby? I'm sure most would be happy for just the company of their partner and brief, limited visits from parents / sibling / in-laws (if any - they could just wait for her to go home)?

The flip side of not permitting visitors, is that there are always stories (true stories!) of patients left unattended for hours, drips that run dry, incorrect medication dosages that are given, meds that are not administered... And these errors are picked up by visitors. Do visitors keep nursing staff more accountable when the patient is unable to check themselves?

Optimistically, I reckon that with no visitors and minimised distractions in regular wards, nursing staff will be better able to do their jobs (less errors and neglect) and that patients can recover, rest and return home faster.

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