We have an "open" visitation policy in our 16 bed Trauma/Surgery ICU and have had that policy since we opened the new unit about 5 years ago. The rules are made very clear to family members upon the patient's arrival to the unit. And I think this is a crucial part of the policy. We inform our family members that the visitation policy is at the discretion of the nurse and circumstances in the unit. We allow no more than 2 visitors at a time and one person is allowed to spend the night with the patient. We also encourage our family members to go home and rest because their family members will need them more once they are moved to the floor. And many times they do go home.
Overall it has been a great experience, yes there have been folks who try to push the boundaries but our nurses and sometimes nurse manager have had to intervene. At times we have had to "lockdown" the unit because of situations, and family memebers are asked to leave. Certain patient circumstances, such as neuro trauma, have set visiting times and they are very strict. The majority of people understand and want to do what is best for their loved one. We also allow family members to participate in the patient's care such as oral care, bathing, etc.
It is often helpful to you and by them participating it gives them comfort.
The nursing staff did not look forward to the new policy, but once we began we found that it was not nearly as bad as anticipated and now we really like it. I suggest you be patient, keep an open mind and put yourself in the family's position. I would want to be there, wouldn't you?
Set the rules from the initial moment with your family and stick to them. Also stick to them as a unit, don't have one nurse more lenient than others, that just causes problems also.
Best of luck!!