24 hour visitation is the thing in my hospital, only two visitors at a time and no food, drink or cell phones in the patient rooms. The rules are pretty much ignored until there's a real problem . . .
What might be a real problem, you ask?
There was the 19 year old lung transplant patient whose mother and her friends hung out in the room 24/7. They had all kinds of food and drink in the room, and couldn't seem to understand that since the patient was intubated, he couldn't eat or drink. One of our newer nurses told the mother that it was OK to wet the kid's mouth with a toothette sponge, even showed her how. I happened to be the nurse that followed her. The mother came up to me before we even finished report and told us that she had given the kid three bottles of Snapple via the toothette, and she was all out now. Could we order more Snapple so she could give it to her kid? I started to explain why that wasn't a good idea when Mom and three friends encircled me, calling me a *itch because "that other nurse -- the nice one -- said it was OK." The kid vomited, aspirated and coded while the mother and her friends carried on about the Snapple. Sadly, he died. I often wonder whether that mother realizes that she killed her kid.
There was the visitor who insisted on staying the night "to comfort Mommy." Mommy was constantly calling for the nurse to hold her hand while the visitor snored. Finally, I turned all the lights on and made enough noise to wake the visitor. I explained that I just had to check Mommy over, and that she was free to move her chair closer to the bed so she could hold Mommy's hand and comfort her. The visitor replied "That's YOUR job. I need to get my sleep."
There was the physician whose father had heart surgery. He brought his mother up to visit on Saturday morning. And drove back home, 200 miles away, leaving her there. The mother had Alzheimer's, and she was very, very confused. She wandered off looking for the cafeteria and didn't come back. Security found her eventually, on another nursing unit sleeping in the bed of a patient who had been off the unit for tests. This went on for two days until I came to work and was informed that my assignment was the two patients in her husband's room and keeping track of her. I called the son and told him his mother needed food, sleep and clean clothes and asking him when he was coming to get her. "Next Saturday" was the response. My manager (bless her!) called him back and told him if he wasn't there in two hours, she was reporting him for elder abuse. He was there in three hours.
There was the visitor who couldn't find the bathroom and was spotted on the security cameras taking a dump in the hallway in front of the nurse's station. I think she had Alzheimer's, too. She was also spotted streaking a few times.
There was the husband of a patient who would strip to his tighty whities every night and stretch out in bed next to her. The other patient in that room had a problem with it -- especially after he offered to "give HER some lovin'". Interestingly, the night nurse who had the assignment the previous three nights didn't think it was a problem.
There was the family that took over our break room, locked it and refused to admit anyone who didn't use the "special knock." When the charge nurse managed to follow one of them into the room, she found a sound asleep six year old and three toddlers playing with partially full bottles of booze and "Mommy's purse" which contained both a handgun and a knife.
These are just a few of the special situations which have not resulted in a substantial change in our visiting policies.