The Opinions of Doctors and Nurses about Visiting Hours in the Intensive Care Unit

Background: The admission of a patient to the intensive care unit (ICU) is one of the most stressful events that a person can experience. It may cause feelings of fear, insecurity and anxiety due to limitation of physical movement, restriction of visits and sleep deprivation. Patients in the ICU seek the presence of their families because this makes them feel more secure and protected. The way for the relatives to be close to the patient during hospitalization in the ICU is visiting. Aim: Investigation of the attitudes and beliefs of doctors and nurses about visiting in the ICU. Method: The study population consisted of 179 health professionals, doctors and nurses, working in the ICUs of 4 hospitals in Attica, Greece. A specially designed questionnaire developed by the researchers was used, based on international literature and specifically on studies of Berti, Vandjick and Hunter and their respective co-workers, with their approval. Data analysis was performed with the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) v. 17. Results: Of the 179 health professionals who completed the questionnaire, 65.9% were women. Their average age was 34.3±6.9 years and 59.2% were nurses and 40.8% doctors and 44% were married. In their responses, 94.4% stated that visiting hours in the ICUs where they work are limited and the permitted duration of stay is <1 hour. Physicians and nurses agreed that visiting patient in ICU has beneficial outcome provided that it takes place at a particular time of day and for a specific duration. Doctors believed more strongly than nurses in the beneficial effect of visiting for the patient in ICU, with a statistically significant difference (p=0.001). Conclusions: Physicians and nurses both believe that visiting is beneficial for the patient in the ICU, but at a specified time of day and for a specific duration. Perceived disadvantages are increase in the likelihood of mistakes in patient care during visiting, and exhaustion of patients’ family members who would feel obliged to be with the patient throughout the day.