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Published on April 18, 2019

Latex or Mylar Balloons: Tips for visiting patients in the hospitalTIps for visiting patients in the hospital

Don’t wear perfume or aftershave. And think twice before sending flowers.

Patients who are hospitalized due to illnesses or accidents enjoy seeing friends and loved ones, but there are things you can do to make visits better and safer.

As a hospitalist with Cape Cod Healthcare for the past 10 years, Ricardo Nario, MD, director of Hospitalist Physician Services, has spent a great deal of time interacting with visitors. He also asked some members of the nursing staff to weigh in on advice for visitors.

“With everyone working together—hospital staff, patients and visitors—we can make each patient’s stay the best it can be,” said Dr. Nario.

Each year, Cape Cod and Falmouth hospitals see more than 85,000 patients, whose visitors are asked to follow these policies:

  • Please do not visit if you are ill.
  • Cape Cod Hospital and Falmouth Hospital are smoke-free facilities.
  • Please do not wear perfumes or colognes.
  • Latex balloons or other latex products are not allowed (mylar balloons are permitted).
  • Please speak in quiet tones and be aware that your voice carries. Sound is magnified to someone who is ill.
  • Plan visits so that there are only two visitors in a patient room at one time.
  • Check at the Nurse's Station prior to entering a patient room.
  • Visitors may be asked to leave the room during tests or treatments or when the doctor or nurse needs to see the patient.
  • Obey all signs that may be posted on the door of a patient’s room.
  • Visitors in semi-private rooms should be considerate of both patients.
  • Use cell phones only in designated areas.

Preventing the spread of illnesses, especially the flu, is paramount. Remember to wash your hands before and after your visit and follow any infection control signs posted in the hospital or patient’s room, Dr. Nario said.

“Although it is not required, I think it’s important to wear masks when visiting patients who have flu, so we help prevent the spread of the infection,” he said. “We need to keep visitors and the community healthy.”

Commonly Asked Questions

One of the most frequent requests from families: “While my _____ (husband, wife, loved one) is in the hospital, can you run the test that is scheduled for a few weeks from now? It would be convenient to have it done while they’re in the hospital.”

Dr. Nario explained that this request is almost always declined unless it is part of the workup for their acute illness.

“We focus on treating the acute illness that brought them into the hospital, not any chronic condition that their primary care physicians might be treating. When these tests are not pertinent to the diagnosis that brought the patient into the hospital, we recommend keeping the scheduled appointment for the MRI, blood work, CAT scan or other test that is already scheduled,” he said.

The second most frequent concern among visitors: “When will the doctor be in?”

Hospitalists (physicians trained in hospital medicine and stationed at the hospital) have changed the long-held standard of doctors ‘rounding’ in the early morning. However, family members still have that expectation, according to Dr. Nario.

“Because we work on the patient floors all day, hospitalists see patients at various times throughout the day, which is a change for many people. We expect to see the sickest patients first. Some patients will see us late in the afternoon,” he said.

“We speak to patients at least once a day. We only expect to talk with a family member if the patient is not capable of understanding, as in the case of someone with dementia. In that case, given the number of patients hospitalists care for, we ask each family member to have one designated healthcare proxy whom we will talk with in person or by phone.

“We understand the fear patients and their loves ones can experience, and visitors can do a lot to alleviate some of that fear,” said Dr. Nario.

It can be boring to be in a hospital bed for three or four days, so visitors are welcome, but remember not to stay too long, he said. Patients are not at full strength and need their rest.

Cape Cod Healthcare’s website lists visiting hours, policies, directions and parking tips.

Cheer Cards” are also available on the website. You can select a get-well, birthday, new baby or “thinking of you” card. Add a personal note, and have the card sent by email or printed and hand-delivered. Hospital volunteers deliver Cheer Cards Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. - 4 p.m.