Eliminating visiting hour restrictions in hospitals

J Healthc Qual. 2014 Nov-Dec;36(6):54-7. doi: 10.1111/jhq.12035. Epub 2013 Aug 23.


Background: Hospitals typically restrict visiting hours to ensure a restful environment for patients and to allow clinical staff to work. With increased public reporting focused on patient satisfaction and renewed efforts to improve patient and family engagement, hospitals may want to consider evaluating their current restrictions on visitation. Liberal visitation practices can decrease patient anxiety and benefit patients and families.

Methods: Morristown Medical Center, a 690-bed tertiary acute care facility and a 78-bed rehabilitation hospital, initiated a 24-h visitation policy. With input from nurses, physicians, administrators, and security, we developed a policy that emphasizes patient and staff safety and places the patient at the center of decision making. Comparison of patient satisfaction scores before and after the open visitation policy was implemented, which was made using the chi-square test.

Results: In the first 8 months of the open visitation policy, the medical center received 14,444 "after-hours" (8:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m.) visitors. During this period, there was no increase in the number of complaints from patients or visitors. Incidence of security events did not change, despite the higher number of visitors. Patient satisfaction scores rose on both a commercial satisfaction survey and on the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems survey. Unit staff received fewer phone calls for patient updates and acknowledged that the experience had been positive.

Discussion: Our experience suggests that implementation of open visitation at acute care and long-term care institutions can be accomplished with little disruption, is well utilized by visitors, improves the patient and family experience, and is generally accepted by hospital staff.

Keywords: patient and family involvement; patient satisfaction; patient/client rights and responsibilities; process design/redesign/reengineering; quality improvement.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Humans
  • New Jersey
  • Organizational Policy*
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Rehabilitation Centers
  • Tertiary Care Centers
  • Visitors to Patients*