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Family visitors to ICU patients help in recovery, study shows

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Posted at 7:33 PM, Jan 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-05 21:38:02-05

MURRAY, Utah – A group of Utah doctors say restricting visitation to the intensive care unit is wrong and actually detrimental to patient healing.

A study from Intermountain Medical Center, published in the January issue of the American Journal of Critical Care, is showing support for open visitation. Dr. Samuel Brown said the findings show allowing family and friends to be at the patient’s bedside helps on a medical and human level.

“Our philosophy is, ‘let them in,’” Brown said. “Bring the partners that a patient wants to be present into the room, into the conversations.”

Brown is the director of Humanizing Critical Care at IMC. He said they started change at their hospital two years ago.

The study interviewed patients and nurses before and after the change. The results showed significantly improved family, patent and staff satisfaction, with no increased risk of infection or disease.

“The stuff you bring from home, with the exception of the flu is much milder and gentler, than any of the infections that would tend to circulate among patients who are sick in the hospital,” Brown said.

Brown said the rules allowing only two visitors during staff changes were started just because doctors said so, with no real medical basis.

He said there is actually medical evidence to prove having family at the bedside can help patients heal faster.

A study published out of Italy that showed patients recovering from heart attack were less stressed when family was allowed to visit.

“If you have open visitation, no restrictions, the person with a heart attack, has fewer dangerous heart rhythms afterwards,” Brown said.

Already a handful of hospitals across the country are adopting open visitation, but Brown said it’s still a minority. He hopes the study is a catalyst for change.