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by Abigail Van Buren

Hospital Visitors Should Practice Simple Courtesy

DEAR ABBY: I have been a nurse for 35 years, and over time, I have noticed a decline in simple courtesy from people who visit friends or relatives in the hospital. Several things visitors should keep in mind:

1. If you don't know what room the patient has been assigned, ask. Don't wander in and out of rooms until you find the right one.

2. Be prepared to give the first and last names of the patient when asking for directions.

3. Abide by the visiting hours and the number of persons allowed into a patient's room at one time. Remember, patients need dedicated time for treatments and procedures.

4. Do not bring small children to the hospital unless they are visiting their parent or sibling. You needlessly place them at risk by exposing them to infections.

5. Make sure any food you bring to the patient is allowed by the physician.

6. Never question the staff for information regarding the patient's diagnosis or condition. It is against the law for a health care provider to divulge patient information to an unauthorized individual. Ask the patient.

7. Get permission before plugging in your cellphone charger.

8. When taking the elevator, use public elevators. And when the doors open, stand back and allow the occupants to safely step out before entering. -- PATIENT-CENTERED NURSE IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR NURSE: If readers take to heart your suggestions in the spirit they were given, everyone will benefit. That visitors would charge into hospital elevators, wander the halls, barge into patients' rooms, and drag small children into sickrooms is an indication that there has been not only a decline in courtesy but also common sense.

Patients are in hospitals because they need intensive treatment and REST. Creating a party atmosphere in which the patient is expected to entertain numerous "guests" is physically and emotionally draining and a danger to the person's health.

Read more in: Etiquette & Ethics | Health & Safety