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Tips for Being a Good Hospital Visitor

As an ostomate, you have obviously spent time in the hospital even if only for your ostomy surgery.  During your hospital stay, some of you received support from friends and family, some of you received support from visiting nurses or fellow ostomates, some of you however may have started this journey on your own.  For this reason, a common practice among ostomates, friends of ostomates, and many ostomy chapter association groups is to visit new ostomates in the hospital before and after surgery to support and educate them.  Today we have some general ideas for you to be a positive influence and have a better impact on the people you visit in the hospital.

  • Be well-groomed and dress nicely:  You are being observed by both the patients and the health care team.  Make sure that your initial impression is a good one.
  • Be sensitive to the patient's needs:  Be cordial and friendly, speak softly and in a pleasant tone of voice.
  • Assure your patient's privacy:  If the patient is in a single room, be sure to speak softly so as not to have your voice carry into the halls.  If your patient is in a double room, ask if the patient would like you to draw and close the privacy curtains.
  • Engage in conversation:  position yourself so you and your patient can easily make eye contact with each other.  This helps greatly to ensure proper communication.  When you speak with your patient, make sure that you are not only listening, but actually "hearing" what your patient has to say.  Good listening skill are a must in a situation like this.
  • Non-verbal communication is very powerful:  Put away your cell phone, maintain eye contact, smile when you talk, if you are familiar with the patient and your relationship is appropriate touch can go a long way to establishing comfort.  Sometimes just spending time with your patient and being present with them can show that you care even more than words.
  • Encourage your patient to ask questions:  When your patient does open up and ask questions, make sure that you respond simply and to the point.  Give your answers in a  tactful and honest way.  If your patient asks questions about intimacy issues, feel free to answer again in a tactful manner.  If your patient is not comfortable with this level of conversation, do not push it.  If you do not know the answer to a question, be honest and say so and let your patient know that you will find the answer for him/her.
  • Be positive in discussing your daily life:  Briefly discuss the normal routines you carry out in your life with an ostomy, don't dwell on the challenges , your own surgery, or your own medical history.  Remember this visit is supposed to be about the patient.
  • Accept emotional responses:  If your patient is angry, frustrated, scared, or even feels like crying, do not stop them.  We all experience stressful situations in our own ways.  Be patient and supportive during this stressful time for a new ostomate.  Accepting and supporting these feelings will allow you and your patient to feel a closer bond.
  • Do not practice medicine or give medical advice:  This cannot be stressed enough!  Even if you ARE a physician or medical provider, leave the medical practice to the patients' Health Care Provider Team.  It is fairly common for the patient to want to show you his/her stoma or ask your opinion on his/her surgery.  Do not be alarmed at this, at the same time do not make judgements on the surgery or criticize the procedure.  Say nothing that will undermine the doctors or nurses and their relationship with the patient, and direct all questions on care or medical issues to their ET Nurse or Physician.
  • Help provide ostomy management techniques:  When your patient asks for tips on how you manage your ostomy, remind them that every ostomy surgery is as unique as the person it is performed on.  Feel free to share some of your learned tips and tricks accumulated through your own experience, however make sure you avoid pushing an agenda or bias onto another person.  Do not show your own appliance as an example, rather bring a sample with you instead.
  • Be considerate of the patient:  If your patient is showing signs of fatigue, try to end the visit so he/she may rest.  Suggest that you can come back to visit again at a later time.
  • Take responsibility to resuming contact:  Take the lead on staying in contact with your patient.  Make a follow-up visit, phone call, handwritten note, email, or invite them to a local ostomy association chapter meeting.
  • Make the patient feel welcome:  As it is with the visits, when bringing the patient (and even his/her family and friends) to an ostomy chapter meeting, make sure they are felt welcomed and supported.

Above all, be yourself, use sound judgement, and common sense.  Remember that you were in the same situation as well.  If you have any more tips or comments, please feel free to let us know!

Written by OstomyHelp Staff and Express Medical Supply
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