Guidelines for Ministry

For most patients and their families, going to the hospital, even for a short time, is a crisis time in their lives. Listed below are some general rules and guidelines to keep in mind when visiting those who are hospitalized. They may appear, at first glance, obvious and patently elementary. The thoughtful visitor will not disregard them.

  • Do not enter any room when the door is closed without knocking.
  • Check with the nursing station and watch for “No Visiting” or “Isolation” signs.
  • Avoid sitting on the bed, and be careful not to jar the bed.
  • Be alert not to disturb any apparatus or equipment about the bed.
  • Introduce yourself clearly and distinctly.
  • Let the patient or family member take the lead in shaking hands.
  • Sit or stand in the patient’s line of vision.
  • Speak in moderate tones, neither too softly nor too loudly.
  • Avoid telling case histories of people you have known with a similar condition, especially if the consequences were poor.
  • Do not whisper or speak about the patient in low tones to other persons in the room, even if the patient is asleep or unconscious.
  • Assess the situation and be prepared to leave the room when a hospital staff person enters.
  • Leave the room when the patient’s meal is delivered.
  • Do not bring the patient meals or snacks without permission from the hospital staff.
  • Try not to show shock or repulsion at unsightly wounds, deformities, emaciation, odors, tubes and wires, etc.
  • Watch for signs of the patient’s tiring or being in pain and leave promptly when you observe them.
  • Do not overload the patient with outside problems.
  • If the patient already has visitors, return another time. Hospital policy calls for visitation by only two visitors at one time.
  • Help the patient relax by being relaxed yourself.
  • Be natural; be yourself. Avoid playing the roles of diagnostician, therapist, advisor, prophesier.
  • Be cheerful and assuring, but not phony. Follow at the patient’s or family’s pace when discussing the illness and prognosis.
  • Respect the patient or family’s own religious views. Coercion is not appropriate.
  • Above all, accept the patient’s or family’s feelings, whatever they may be. Allow the patient to express any emotion. You should not attempt to dissuade or explain feelings or to solve problems.
  • Keep your visits brief. It is better to make several short visits than one long visit. Most callers stay too long.
  • It is best not to visit a surgical patient until the second day post-operative.
  • Do not visit when you are sick or have been exposed to communicable diseases.
  • Let the family know when you will be coming so they can tell the nurses.
  • Because of other duties, refrain from asking staff to participate in your bedside ministry.
  • It is inappropriate to raise your voice with staff.