Having a family member or loved one in the hospital can be overwhelming at times. Nurses from units across Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center offer these important tips for family members of patients staying in the hospital.

Ask about bringing outside food

As tempting as it may be, it’s not always the best idea to bring outside food to a loved one staying in the hospital.

“There may be dietary restrictions in place as part of your loved one’s care plan,” said Erin Snyder, RN, heart and vascular unit. “Before bringing in outside food, I’d recommend checking with the nurse or care team first.”

Pick a family representative

“We appreciate family being involved in the care of their loved one,” said Ruth Shaffner, RN, medical surgical unit. “Instead of having several members of your family communicating with a physician, nurse or other members of the care team, select one family representative to serve as primary contact in order to streamline communication.” Coordinating check-ins also allows the medical staff to spend more time with patients.

Ask about being involved in rounds

In some cases, a patient’s care team may round on each room throughout the day. This could be an opportunity to get involved and ask questions. Ask your family member’s nurse if bedside rounds will occur, what time rounding is expected and ask if you can attend.  

“Having a family member present at rounding can help with education and reinforce goals of care,” said Carl Scott-Jones, RN, critical care unit. “If the family representative can be there, I’d highly recommend it.”

Don’t give over-the-counter medicine to a patient

A normal dose of ibuprofen won’t hurt anything, right? Not necessarily.

“When a patient is in the hospital, there could be a variety of medications being provided to them through an IV,” said Eric Love, RN, heart and vascular unit. “Ibuprofen may seem harmless, but could cause unintended side effects when combined with other medications. When in doubt, ask.”

The discharge process may take longer than you expect

Getting the “OK” to go home from a physician doesn’t mean your family member can leave immediately. There are a series of steps that must be taken before departure. Follow-up appointments may need to be scheduled or arrangements for care at home may need to be made before a patient can leave the hospital.

Check before helping patients out of bed

It’s great when family members want to help care for the patient, but check with the nurse before you try to get a patient out of bed and help them to the restroom, said Erin Snyder, RN, heart and vascular unit. Frail or ill patients are at greater risk of falling and nurses and others are trained to help keep them safe.

“You shouldn’t be afraid to ask your nurse for help,” Snyder said. “It’s our job to care for our patients and getting them safely to and from the restroom is part of that care.

“We have a lot of protocols in place to make sure our patients and others in the hospital are safe,” Snyder said. “If a nurse or physician is explaining a safety protocol to you, engage in the conversation and try to understand why the protocol is in place. It’s not just for you, but for everyone around you as well.”


If you stay with a patient, pack light

Packing for an overnight hospital stay should look different from packing for a vacation.

“If you are staying with a loved one in their hospital room overnight, pack a small bag with only the necessities,” said Sana Beg, RN, BSN, medical surgical unit. “There are a lot of people who need to come in and out of a patient room and it is easier to access the patient if we don’t have to step over suitcases.”