Hospital Visitation Tips

How do I conduct myself when visiting someone who is hospitalized?
Visitation is a “ministry of inconvenience” because few people can foresee they will be hospitalized and later desire a visit.
Therefore, planning ahead for everyone is often challenging.
Someone who visits a patient must prepare to be unprepared.
Here are a few things to keep in mind…..


<>Bear in mind that visitation ministry is a privilege – not a right.
<>Be properly motivated.
<>Understand that the needs of the patient are paramount.
<>Remember that ministry is often more difficult in a medical setting than anyplace else.
<>Pray beforehand for a heart of compassion and to have a meaningful visit.
<>Remember you represent Jesus in that hospital room.
<>Know that your visit can alleviate fears, anxieties, and despair – replacing them with peace, confidence and hope.
<>Place yourself in their shoes: view things from their perspective.


<>Leave it all at home.
<>Don’t bring patients your personal problems.
<>Know your own emotional level and keep your feelings in check. Your emotions can cause you stress, particularly if you have had a similar illness.
<>Go into a visit with a strong dependence upon what the Holy Spirit will have you to say.


<>Never visit a patient if you are sick.
<>Hospitals have numerous germs – from both visitors and others.
<>Use hand sanitizer before and after every visit.
<>Phone ahead to the patient, when possible, to affirm the proper time to visit.
<>Carry your credentials.
<>Dress appropriately.
<>Remain sensitive to the patient’s schedule.


<>Be polite to everyone.
<>Realize that The Health Insurance Potability and Accountability (HIPAA) law of 1996 restrict medical staff from providing information regarding patients.
<>Keep any information strictly confidential, unless it involves suicidal statements, abuse, exploitation, or neglect.
<>Never attempt to discuss the patient’s condition or discharge plan with medical personnel.
<>If visiting on a surgery day, arrive before they are sedated.
<>Phone the proper nurses station regarding the best time to visit this patient.
<>Use designated parking areas.
<>Hang your minister’s or chaplaincy tag on your rear-view mirror.
<>Wear the proper name identification.
<>Be aware some hospitals restrict cell phone usage.
<>Put your cell on ‘vibe’ or turn it off.
<>Know the floor plan of this hospital.
<>Follow all hospital policies.
<>Know the specific visiting hours in that institution.
<>Identify yourself at the nurses station.
<>Don’t block ‘traffic lanes’ – such as hallways.
<>Keep a clear bedside path for medical personnel.
<>Do not assume you will be allowed to visit: physicians have a right to restrict visitation.
<>Remember when you visit: you are entering someone’s bedroom.
<>Never wake a sleeping patient.
<>Ask the nurse if this patient can be awakened or if you should return later.
<>Have note cards with you so you can write a short note to the patient if you do not get to visit.
<>Read any and all signs posted on the patient’s door, such as ISOLATION or NO VISITORS.
<> If signs are present, consult the nurse.
<>Some signs may include the necessity of hospital gown, mask, booties and gloves.
<>In burn centers, you may be required to scrub before and after your visit.
<>If you have worn a coat to the hospital, remove it before entering a patient’s room. Wearing it could imply you are in a hurry to leave.
<>When you arrive at the patient’s door, knock gently, identify yourself, and wait to be invited in.
<>Identify yourself to a patient you have not previously visited.
<>Ask the patient if this is a good time for a short visit.
<>If the patient’s door is closed, have the nurse go in first.
<>If the curtain is drawn around a patient, ask the nurse for advice.
<>Check with the nurse before participating in the care of a patient – including feeding or re-positioning.
<>Never help a patient out of bed.
<>Never touch any medical equipment.
<>Ask permission from the nurse before plugging in ANY electronic device in a patient’s room.
<>Use a public restroom: never the one in the patient’s room.
<>Coordinate your visit with the patient’s treatment schedule.
<>If other visitors are present when you arrive, shorten your visit.
<>Leave the room if hospital staff arrive during your visit – even if the patient says it’s OK to stay.


<>Do not have The Lord’s Supper with a patient when unbelievers are in the room.
<>Dietary restrictions may prohibit a patient from taking Communion.
<>Be aware of feeding schedules.
<>If you arrive during mealtime, ask the patient if you can come back after they have eaten.
<>Due to possible dietary prohibitions, never bring food as a gift.


<>Never express shock or distress at a patient’s appearance, comments, or attitude.
<>Do not react to unfamiliar sights or odors in the patient’s room.
<>Never overload yourself with perfume or cologne – it can become nauseous.
<>Avoiding germs is important. However, don’t use hand sanitizer in view of the patient:
    it can inadvertently send an offensive signal that you believe the patient is infectious. 
<>Know the patient’s name: – if it is an unusual one, learn how to pronounce it.
<>Bring a positive spirit into the room.
<>Be cheerful and make pleasant conversation.
<>Be gentle with both the patent and other visitors.
<>Let the patient initiate a handshake.
<>Take the patient’s hand gently: never hug.
<>Ask permission to sit.
<>Sit neither too close for comfort nor too distant to communicate warmth.
<>Position yourself in the patient’s line-of-sight.
<>Let the patient initiate the conversation.
<>Your job is to listen accurately.
<>Allow the patient to “control” the conversation and set the agenda, while keeping your purpose for the visit in mind.
<>Make your visit friendly, casual, and encouraging.
<>Don’t chew gum.
<>Sincerity is paramount.
<>Never discuss past illnesses or operations with a patient: yours or theirs.
<>Do not talk about their current physical condition.
<>Remember you are a visitor, not a physician.
<>Never discuss hospital staff, policy or procedure.
<>Demonstrate respect for the patient’s ‘space’, property, and wishes.
<>Try to determine how the patient feels physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
<>Never talk or whisper within earshot of the patient – even if you believe he/she is asleep.
<>Do not assume a comatose patient cannot hear you.


<>Be sensitive regarding what stories you tell.
<>Don’t be nosy.
<>Never gossip.
<>Focus on what they need from this visit.
<>Should the patient bring it up, always negate or minimize the time, funds, or inconvenience this visit may have cost you.
<>Avoid controversial subjects, such as politics.
<>Realize they have lost a degree of control due to this illness.
<>Understand that their current illness may be only the ‘tip of the iceberg’ of their real problems in life.
<>Listen carefully with undivided attention.
<>Listen without feeling you must respond.
<>Don’t be afraid of either silence or tears.
<>Shape your conversation from the patient’s ‘cues’.
<>Ask clarifying questions rather than giving advice.
<>If you mention surgery, never refer to it as “going under the knife”. It’s a ‘cutting’ remark no one appreciates.
<>Possible questions you might ask a patient can include:

“What thoughts bring you the most peace and joy”?
“What gives you the strength to cope”?
“How has your time here affected your life, spouse, and/or family”?
“Has this illness caused you you to reevaluate your spiritual life”?

<>At some point in the conversation, inquire about their relationship with Jesus.
<>Never ask what worries them the most.
<>Don’t aggravate their situation.
<>Do not argue with a patient.
<>Never engage in theological debates.
<>Assume the patient is on some form of medication and my not be “themselves” 100%.
<>If they become irritated, make a polite retreat.
<>Cut your visit short if the patient’s temper flares.
<>Be genuinely empathetic and sympathetic.
<>Don’t use the phrase “I understand” – unless you really do.


<>Know when to leave.
<>Don’t wear out your welcome.
<>Better to under-stay than over-stay.
<>Limit your visit to about five minutes.
<>However, constantly checking the time sends a negative message.
<>Even if the patient wants you to stay longer, it may not be best to do so.
<>Look for non-verbal signs that it’s time to go.
<>Watch the patient’s body-language:

Are they uncomfortable?
Are they showing signs of fatigue?

<>If they say “Thanks for coming” – it’s time to depart.
<>If they sigh deeply, you should go home soon.
<>To make your visit memorable… need not be eternal.


<>Do not assume they will want prayer. 
<>Ask permission to touch them, pray with them, share a Scripture, or anoint them with oil (James 5:13-16).
<>Inquire what he/she would like you to pray about.
<>Pray for freedom from pain, their family, for God’s will to be accomplished, and for their recovery.
<>Never say, “Everything will turn out for the best”.
<>Don’t give the patient false hope.
<>Do not make promises.
<>Never assume God will give them a total healing.
<>Assure them of the prayer-support of your church family.


<>Thank the patient for allowing you to visit.
<>Ask if and when you can return.
<>Clarify expectations for future visits.
<>Provide your contact information.
<>Leave only quality literature.
<>Contact them after they are released.
<>Invite them to your church.
<>Remember the point of your visit is to help them grow spiritually: this encounter may be a key step in their discipleship process.
<>Pray regularly for everyone you have visited.

Maxim of the Moment

If the shoe fits, you are not allowing for growth. - Vernon Law