Our Southern culture promotes visits, hugs, and friendship. It's an atmosphere steeped in love. No matter the circumstance, a good visit with a friend will always make you feel better. But should we always visit someone at the hospital?

Certainly a short visit is appropriate. Your friend or loved one will know you are concerned and you can wish him or her speedy recovery. Remember that if someone is in the hospital, he or she is sick. The last thing a patient should worry about is entertaining visitors. Often, the most important medicine is rest. With all the procedures, lab tests, x-rays, therapies, and doctor's visits, the patient is already tired. Then 15 people drop in to say "howdy" and the poor patient is now exhausted! So really consider the necessity of your visit with a hospital patient.

Cards are always a great way to say "get well soon" and "I love you" without interfering with the patient's rest and recovery. Minimize phone calls as well. Call someone close to the patient to get an update. Patients don't need to repeat the same story over and over as to the latest status of their condition. This is tiring, too. Try to save your visits for when the patient goes home. Most people could use some help once they are discharged from the hospital. Visit your friend or loved one at home and carry over a meal to help out. Or better yet, clean the bathroom while you are there or run the vacuum. There are so many things that can be done in addition to a friendly visit that will really help to get your friend or loved one on the road to recovery.

If you do visit the hospital patient, what about all those isolation signs? If you see one of the colorful signs on the door, stop and reconsider your visit. Stop and read these signs. Follow the instructions. You should talk to the patient's nurse to determine whether you should visit or not. There are many conditions that require isolation. Isolation means that the patient either has a known or suspected condition that is easily transmitted or the patient requires additional protection because of a weakened immune status.

The most common form of isolation is called contact isolation. Simply by coming into contact with the patient or the patient's contaminated environment can transfer germs to you. Let's face it. Sick people come to the hospital. So it stands to reason that germs are going to be at the hospital. Remember that many organisms can be spread simply by touching a contaminated surface. Contaminated surfaces can be found anywhere. These surfaces are not only at the hospital but at stores, restaurants, even our homes.

Often, people who have some of these organisms, especially the drug resistant ones, don't even look sick. So really reconsider visiting, especially if you have a small child with you. Children are very susceptible to picking up these organisms. They often explore their world through touch and taste. Be very aware of good hygiene and practice good hand washing at all times, wherever you are.

The hospital encourages good hand hygiene and has available alcohol foam hand sanitizer in every patient's room as well as other key locations. Everyone is encouraged to use the foam. If hands are visibly soiled soap and water are more appropriate. Bottom line is to be sure to wash your hands, be aware of surfaces you are touching, and really consider the necessity of your visit to the hospital. This will not only protect the patient, but protect everyone.

For more information about Cumberland Medical Center's Infection Control policies or if you have questions, please contact Kathy Howard, director of Infection Control/Employee Health, at 459-7129.

Recommended for you