This is a hot topic in the CCU I work. Our policy is 30 minutes visiting 5 times a day. Our staff would like it to stay that way, but it never does. It is very difficult to enforce strict visiting times. I have a difficult time myself enforcing the policy, and usually do not for the simple matter of personal experience. I spent several days with my husband in a large hospital, 2 hours from home, worried that he was going to die following an MVA. Their visiting policy was visit for 5-10 minutes then leave, no one was supposed to stay at bedside for long periods, and the unit was locked down (no visitors, no exceptions) for 4 hours in AM & 2.5 in PM. It was locked down during those times, for personal care, and the Drs to make rounds, change of shift, etc. The nurses were very nice to me, though, I stayed at his side 90% of the time there was not a lock-down, only leaving long enough to sleep. Didn't need to drink, that would mean I'd have to leave and go to the bathroom.
I have told the staff I work with what I feel is fair to all. The patient comes first. I feel that one family member may stay at the patient's side with the following exceptions: when a procedure is to be done, at assessment time, at bathing, BRP, etc. The families should not trek back and forth down the hallway, changing out every 30 minutes. The family member needs to stay in the room, not looking out down the hallway, or in another room. By all means, I would like the family member to be able to talk with the physician, ask them the questions, and then I would be able to re-iterate what the physician has told them and help them to understand it. The family member should be supportive of the patient, not argumentative or disruptive to their rest. There should not be several family members in the room constantly, just the one. At visiting times, I would understand 2-3 visitors, for patients who are stable. Unstable patients, those with lines, on vents, post-op, should be allowed to rest without disruptions of visitors trying to talk with them, and the visiting times should be enforced. Patients who are DNR's & are not expected to live long should be allowed to have family to visit as they wish, as long as the nurses are allowed to care for the patient appropriately. And, families should not be allowed to sleep in the unit, they should return to the waiting room for rest, or go home, no exceptions to that rule. Every family thinks that their situation is unique and is as critical as the next, your staff will need to be strong in enforcing the rules as you set them out.
There is another thing that you should consider if you are contemplating a strict visiting policy: will your manager be supportive and enforce the policy when a family complains? Ours was never enforced by a manager, they always seemed to break under the complaint and tell us to let a family visit as they wish. If that happens, then you can never seem to get it going again.