The Significance of Family Presence and Open Visitation Policies in Hospital Setting

July 17, 2023
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Annually, the United States witnesses more than 36 million hospital admissions, and nurses play a pivotal role as the largest percentage of the healthcare team, providing continuous bedside care to every patient. However, patient care extends beyond the individual and encompasses their entire family. Family-centered care is a paramount focus for healthcare providers, and open visitation policies have a profound impact on patients, families, healthcare staff, and medical facilities. The presence of family members at the bedside through open visitation policies yields numerous positive outcomes, such as enhanced communication, continuity of care, and increased patient comfort and morale. Nevertheless, there are challenges associated with open visitation that require careful evaluation and resolution to ensure optimal patient care and safety.

Positive Outcomes of Family Presence and Open Visitation

Family members who remain with the patient in the hospital play a crucial role in providing vital information about the patient's history, preferences, and needs. This information contributes to improved care outcomes. Moreover, family presence fosters better communication between patients, healthcare providers, and the family, leading to a more cohesive and effective care plan. The presence of family members also holds healthcare providers accountable, ensuring a higher standard of care delivery. Numerous studies have demonstrated that when patients and their families desire open visitation, both the family and the patient experience increased comfort and morale, ultimately leading to more positive treatment outcomes. Open visitation policies have been linked to rapid recovery times, reduced hospital stays, and heightened patient and family satisfaction.

Challenges and Considerations of Open Visitation

While open visitation policies offer numerous benefits, they also present challenges that necessitate careful assessment. Expanded roles for nurses may be required to educate, involve, and comfort family members at the bedside. Hospital facilities should be adequately equipped to accommodate additional family members, preventing overcrowding that may impede medical procedures and cause increased stress in the hospital environment. Nurses must be prepared to address questions and concerns from patients' children, who may find the hospital setting foreign and stressful. Safety considerations are paramount, as vulnerable immunocompromised patients must be protected from infections brought in by visiting family members. Privacy and rest periods for patients should also be respected and provided.

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During medical procedures, some patients or visitors may find it traumatic to remain at the bedside, and it is imperative to provide visitors with the option to stay or leave during treatment, with the patient's consent. Ultimately, patient care lies at the core of nursing, and ensuring a patient-centered approach is critical for achieving positive outcomes.

Family involvement in patient care has been supported by evidence-based practice, leading to improved patient outcomes and satisfaction. Challenges to this practice must be carefully assessed, and appropriate resolutions should be implemented. Patient-centered care with family presence is applicable to all hospital units, and open visitation policies have demonstrated significant contributions to positive patient outcomes.

Promoting family presence requires collaboration among patients, families, nurses, and medical staff. The patient's desire for visitor presence and consent are crucial, and nurses and medical staff play an integral role in ensuring family involvement in care. Attitudes and beliefs of nurses significantly influence the effectiveness of patient and family-centered care.

Studying the experiences of parents visiting infants in NICUs offers valuable insights into factors that promote or inhibit visitation. Factors such as accommodations, staff care, and a family-friendly environment significantly influence the time spent visiting by family members. Lessons learned from NICUs can be applied to hospital units of any specialty to facilitate patient and family-centered care through open visitation policies.


Family presence and open visitation policies have profound effects on patient care and outcomes. While challenges exist, they can be mitigated through evidence-based practices and addressing safety and privacy concerns. Promoting family-centered care with open visitation policies enables patients and families to actively participate in the care process, leading to improved satisfaction and better healthcare outcomes. Hospitals must recognize the significance of family presence and encourage its facilitation to enhance patient care and overall well-being.


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