open visitation in neuro ICU

  1. Hello fellow neuro nurses!

    I currently work in a very busy 32-bed neuro ICU. Our hospital system has adopted open visitation throughout the system in all units, including ours. While I understand the benefits of having family present (can calm patients, help keep them in bed, decrease PTSD symptoms in patients and themselves, participate in rounds, etc) we do not have any "guidelines". There is also no door on our unit so anyone and everyone can come in. These things together have led to some dangerous situations for the staff and patients.

    When it comes to visitors, per management each bedside nurse is to "own the room" and let visitors know what is best for their work day and the patients healing. While senior nurses have little problem limiting visitors, the newer nurses feel like they have nothing to fall back on since there are no rules. For example-The night nurse might want 2 visitor at a time and the day nurse fine with 5. This leads to confusion and anger with some families.

    What I'd like to know from people in other neuro ICUs is what are your visiting guidelines? limited hours or open? do you limit the number of visitors? age limit? phone calls? food/drink? is your unit locked? How do you let visitors know about these expectations?Any suggestions and information I can take back to my units shared governance would be helpful!

    Thank you
  2. 6 Comments

  3. by   Kooky Korky
    A nurse anywhere but especially ICU should not have to burn energy and be distracted by having to deal with visitors. The nurse should be able to focs on her patient.

    Having had loved ones in ICU, I know it's hard on family to be limited. But I believe it's better for the nurse to be able to care for the patients than for family to be with their loved one. Family will invariably ask questions, get in the way, be a distraction. Nurse will have to either ask them to step out or do things to the nude patient that should not be done in the presence of just any family.

    That said, I was super grateful to the nurse who let me stay with my LO for several hours during an ICU overnight stay.

    OP, just say something like, "I know you want to be with your wife/son/Granny but I need some time to get him cleaned up, turned and repositioned more comfortably, and do some things that require him to be exposed. So if you could please wait in the waiting room, I will come get you in a short while".

    And don't feel rushed. "An emergency arose with another patient that I had to help tend to, but please come in now".

    Some staff can think clearly about the pt while talking to family or having family ask questions. I am not good at that. So glad I do little bedside care any more.

    What do your co-workers think? I have a feeling this totally open door policy/no door policy won't last too long. What about HIPAA?
  4. by   SICUmurseCCRN
    where i work we only allow 2 visitors at a time from 8a-8p. we also run into the same problems where the 2 visitors at a time rule is broken and can become difficult to enforce. on occasion i will allow 1 visitor to spend the night if the patient is confused so that the patient does not fall. my hospital does not give sitters for confused patients. we let patients stay in the waiting room 24/7 if they want and they can come in during the night to see their family member (multiple times if they want) but cannot stay in the patients room. we also ask visitors to leave at change of shift due to distractions with questions and potential HIPAA violations. lastly, we are very strict with infection control so all visitors must clean their hands coming and going as well as no food or drinks in the rooms.
  5. by   turtle_RN
    In our neuro ICU, our visitation policy is as follows:

    24 hour visitation policy.
    2 visitors per patient every 10 minutes (meaning they can switch out that often)
    No visitors allowed during change of shift (7a-8a and 7p-8p)
    as well as at the discretion of the nurse. We have them step out during CHG baths and blood draws. If the patient requires a lot of interventions that night, we tell the family that we will be asking them to leave at a certain time so that they are aware.

    The key is to be confident. You are your patient's advocate and while family in the ICU is great, sometimes family visitors can be more disruptive than calming.
  6. by   sunny77
    In my Neuro/trauma ICU and all of the other ICUs in the hospital we have a two visitor policy and ask them to step out for an hour for shift change at 7am &7pm. We have a closed door that they have to get buzzed into. We also have a camera to see who is trying to get in to visit. Additionally, we don't allow children under 13 in and only one visitor can stay the night but are not allowed to sleep in the room. We have signs with our rules posted all around the unit.

    Unfortunately, these rules are regularly broken or not completely enforced. Some visitors follow behind a staff member to get in and frequently come back with more than 2 people. When I encounter someone who has had leniency with the rules I apologise and tell them that I don't make the rules and it is in their loved one's best interest. That usually works. I'm not one to be super strict on the two visitors rule if the patient may be dying but I let them know I am breaking the rules and respect the next nurse who may want only two. Our rooms are not big and I usually limit it to three or four. We also have two panic buttons on the unit which notifies security to come ASAP. I've only seen it used once for an irate family member.

    While these rules are often broken, it brings me some comfort knowing they are there and I can enforced them and use the "don't shoot the messenger" attitude. ;-)

    I would strongly encourage your work to have some rules in place for your safety and the safety of the patient.

    On a side note I also tell visitors not to over stimulate my patients and allow for rest. Often times we are doing q1h neuro cks and they need their rest in between.
    Last edit by sunny77 on Sep 12, '17
  7. by   applewhitern
    WOW, I can't imagine having to step around 5 visitors in a busy neuro unit, or any ICU for that matter. I don't trust visitors to keep their hands off equipment, and I don't like it when you ask your patient a question and a visitor pipes up and answers for them. About 30 years ago, I had a visitor cut the ties on a trach because she thought the patient was choking. I've had a visitor start "praising Jesus" and carrying on until she finally fell right smack in the middle of the floor (in the patient's room) because she was just overcome with the "spirit." I literally had to step over her and keep on going. I've had them refuse to leave the room so I could set up for a Swanz (sterile). We lock our doors now, and two visitors can come in for a few minutes on every even hour until 10 pm, then no visitors until 8 am the next morning. Its working for us.
  8. by   dchicurn
    The open visitation is irritating and somewhat dangerous. It can be very distracting to have to respond to family when administering meds, titrating gtts etc...They do not have a clue what you are doing so they think they can just ask questions and converse with you everytime you walk in the room. Plus they ask for all manner of things like blankets, water, meals extra chairs and anything else they can think of. Our DON and admin think that having patients families present during the shift change is important and gives them time to ask questions and meet the oncoming nurse. And yes, this is an ICU I'm talking about. It's absolutely horrific. Good luck getting your situation changed. I'm in OR now because this seems to be the trend all over the country...