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When can I visit? A review of hospital visitor policies during the SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic

Reviewed by Clare Marlin, MS, BSN, CIC; Shirley Ryan AbilityLab 

Often engaging the ethical principles of public protection from harm and individual liberty, hospitals adapted their existing visitor policies during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic for a variety of reasons including protecting the health of patients and staff and preserving personal protective equipment (PPE).  This study’s authors sought to more fully explore such adaptations and their justifications by examining a deliberately selected sample of 13 hospitals in Michigan. Features of the hospital visitor policies analyzed included: 1) how to access the current visitor policy; 2) identification of the stakeholders who developed the policy; 3) how visitor policy exceptions could be arranged; 4) exceptions for patients who were end-of-life or SARS-CoV-2 positive, among other characteristics.  A conceptual content analysis of the respective 13 visitor policies revealed differences in guidelines referenced (i.e., national vs. state), ambiguous guidance regarding visitor exceptions, and a lack of uniformity in definitions (i.e., end-of-life).  As healthcare workers and hospitals look to learn from the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic and move forward in ways that foster respect, dignity, and empathy for the patient and their respective visitors, institutional and community participants must be involved in visitor policy development, a clearly articulated visitor exception process must be implemented to ensure equitable access to hospitalized patients, and there must be acknowledgment of flexible family dynamics by not limiting visitor titles to “parents” or “immediate family.”

Reference:

Weiner HS, Firn JI, Hogikyan ND, et al. Hospital visitation policies during the SARS-CoV-2 PandemicAmerican Journal of Infection Control 2021; 49: 516-520. 

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