Pamplin Media Group – OPINION: Family members should not be separated in our hospitals

Ashley Corey: “There’s no rush that should take that away from a patient right away.”

I am a nurse. I have the right to advocate for patients openly and without fear. I am sometimes a patient. I have the right to loving and respectful care. I have the autonomy to make decisions for myself. Sometimes I am a supportive family member for the person I love the most.

I believe the patient’s bill of rights should include keeping a family or support person with them at all times in any medical setting, except in unique cases like the operating room.

As a patient, considerate and respectful care means always having the person I need by my side. It means I’m not under undue stress levels to be separated from the people who know me best and help me the most when I need it most.

It is essential for patient safety – for proper diagnosis, for appropriate intervention, and for the psychological and physical well-being of patients and their family/support person – to always be together in a medical setting. Family members fill in the gaps when patients do not remember all of their symptoms, verify what a patient is actually doing (or not doing) at home, listen to provider explanations, and ask additional questions about things the patient is too sick to ask about. Family members/support people provide essential psychological and physical support to patients, which increases their chances of achieving the best health outcomes and significantly decreases risk.

There is no rush that should take that away from a patient right away. Family members can sign a waiver if they are required to take additional risk of exposure to certain communicable diseases when these are a current local concern. It is the decision of the patient and family member; each patient should have complete autonomy over their own health and physical well-being, and this autonomy includes the family as the client.

I know many people who would choose to avoid hospital care when they are seriously ill because they do not feel safe in a hospital setting, especially if they are separated from family members.

We know mistakes happen. We know we are understaffed and cannot give our patients a sip of water every 15 minutes. We know that healing happens best when we are not under intense stress. So we know what is right. We know that family members and support people should stay with the person they love. They took them to the ER because they were watching them – and they should never be turned back at the door.

Ashley Corey is a resident of Metzger.

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