Objective: To investigate visiting policies in Italian intensive care units.
Design and setting: Descriptive survey: a questionnaire was sent to all 303 units of the Italian Group for the Evaluation of Interventions in Intensive Care Medicine.
Results: Response rate was 85% (257/303). All ICUs except one had restricted visiting-hour policies. In five ICUs (2%) visits were not allowed. Median daily visiting time was 60 min (range 15 min-18 h); 55% of ICUs had one daily visiting slot. There were restrictions on number (92% of units) and type (17%) of visitors, and on child visits (69%). Policies were not modified for child patients in 9% of ICUs, nor for a dying patient in 21%. No waiting room was provided by 25% of ICUs. Gowning procedures were compulsory for visitors in 95% of units. In 35% of ICUs visitors were not required to wash their hands. A formal process for revision of visiting policies was underway in 33% of ICUs. In 66% of ICUs informative material on the unit was provided to the family on patient admission. Phone information on the patient was given relatively frequently (often/always, 34% of ICUs). Regional area and volume of admissions significantly influenced visiting hours. A visiting period longer than 60 min/day was significantly associated with more "open" attitudes towards visitors.
Conclusions: Italian ICUs have very restrictive visiting policies, which are only partially liberalized when the patient is dying or is a child. However, one-third of ICUs are rethinking their policies. This survey may contribute towards the liberalization of visiting policies in Italy's ICUs.