Children not allowed to visit...?

Specialties Oncology


Specializes in Oncology, Palliative Care.

Hey y'all! I'm a new grad on a busy oncology unit and I always love hearing the advice of allnurses members. On my unit we have a sign posted stating children under 14 are not allowed on the unit, but every day I have families bringing small children to patients rooms.

My question is this: exactly what is the reasoning behind not allowing children? Is it because of the chemo/radiation exposure or is it because kids tend to be germ-ier than the rest of us? Many of my co-workers simply ignore the policy & do not ask families to take their kids off the unit- & honestly, if this is likely the last time my patient & his grandchild will see each other, I ignore it for a little while too so they have a few minutes to say good bye...

What I the best way to explain the need for this policy to very emotional families??

Specializes in Oncology.

It is an infection control issue. Children can expose patients to all kinds of viruses and bacteria that are no big deal for kids, but can have dire consequences to chemo patients that are immune suppressed. A BMT unit I worked on had an RSV outbreak because - as well as they could trace it - one patient visited a grandchild in the lobby. The RSV came back up to the unit, patients were infected, and outcomes were not good. Explain to the families that chemo suppresses the immune system and cold and flu bugs that are fine for most could be fatal for cancer patients. Most families are understanding of this. Your unit needs to crack down on this before something bad happens, IMO.

It's an infection/immunocompromised issue for the patient, as well as a rapidly growing cell issue for the kids. People in an oncology unit can be exposed to different scans and radiations that can be very toxic to a child's rapidly dividing cells if exposed. Due to most children being in school as well as their usually less than stellar universal handwashing techniques, they are more likely to carry bacterial and viral infections. While a perfectly healthy person might be able to fight them off, oncology patients and their compromised immune systems may suffer deadly consequences from a common cold. You think you are being nice, and I totally get your thought process, but in the end, it might be doing more harm than good. Explain to the parents and your patients why the policy is what it is. I'm sure the grandparents/parents don't want expose the children and vice versa.

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