December 21, 2006

Cardiac, Neuroscience ICUs explore policy of open visitation

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Shuttle service along Medical Center Drive is being altered due to the impending construction of VUH’s third bed tower.
Photo by Dana Johnson

Cardiac, Neuroscience ICUs explore policy of open visitation

The Cardiac Intensive Care and Neuroscience Intensive Care Units are serving as prototypes of a new open visitation policy at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Since September, both units on the fifth floor of VUH have allowed family members to spend the night in patients' rooms.

The change was a long time coming, said Terrell Smith, director of Patient/Family Centered Care at VUH and Clinics. Smith moved to the adult hospital from the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, where family members were allowed to sleep at the bedsides of pediatric patients.

This was not the case in VUH.

“If you are in an intensive care unit, this is absolutely one of the scariest times of your life and it doesn't matter how old you are,” she said. “To think you have a natural support system to give you strength and encouragement through a huge crisis … it's part of healing too.”

With that information in hand, the hospital decided to test the concept. It is one that has been welcomed by medical staff, patients and families.

“Nationwide, as well as at Vanderbilt, visitation in adult ICUs has been limited,” said Susan Thurman, former nurse manager of 5N, cardiovascular intensive care. “At Vanderbilt, every ICU made its own rules. In some areas visitation was for 15 minutes, while in others it was 30 minutes at a time, but none of us allowed 24-hour stays.

The new visitation rules allow for up to two visitors in a room at a time and one family member is invited to stay overnight as long as the patient is agreeable.

VUH plans to introduce open visitation in a tailored format to every unit.

Clinical experts Jay Morrison, clinical educator, CVICU, and James Barnett, R.N., clinical educator, Neuroscience ICU, led the transition efforts for the units.