There are many different aspects to being a minister including making hospital visits. Hospital visits can be a hard thing to do because you never know what condition the patient is in, how they are feeling or what they are thinking. There are things you should and should not do when you go to visit someone in the hospital. The point of a minister visiting someone in the hospital is to bring comfort mentally and spiritually to the sick. We bring hope and encouragement to those who are struggling with something, and we carry knowledge that God does care and that we care as well. We also work to help them feel like they are important not only to God but to others as well. As ministers we need to go in with the right attitude. If we are having a personal issue to deal with, we leave it at the door. First a foremost ministers should never promise a healing but give scritpure according to healing matters.
There may be times that we won’t be able to talk to the patient themselves, so it is always a good idea to leave a note with the nurse, by their phone with some scripture and prayer assurance. You can follow up with a phone call and see how they are doing. When you enter the hospital always remember you are under the authority of the hospital. Walk in humility and shouldn’t try to think too highly of ourselves. If hospital staff are in the room, wait outside or rather offer to come back at a more convenient time. If the person you are visiting happens to be in the intensive care unit (ICU) minister to their family and don’t try to get into see them, rather let the family have that time. After you arrive as well as before you leave wash your hands. You don’t know what germs are on your hands when going in and if you are visiting someone sick, you don’t want to make the others around you sick. Everything we touch has germs and we do not want to bring them into someone’s room who is already sick.
Before you enter into the room ask at the nurses’ station if it is alright to enter the room and then knock on the patient’s door and ask them for permission to enter the room. If there are certain precautions that need to be taken such as wearong gloves, masks, shoe covers follow those directions, again you are under the authority of the hospital, not above it. Always identify who you are, you never know if the patient would recognize you or if you are visiting a friend of a parishoner, they may not know who you are. If the person you are visiting is asleep, you should ask the nurse if it is okay to wake the patient. Quietly call their name when you walk into the room, if they easily wake up go ahead and visit, but do not go to great lengths to wake them, you never know when a person needs their sleep. Sometimes a person can be so stressed in the hospital that they don’t get any sleep, so if you cannot wake the person with just saying their name, don’t try harder.
If the person you are visiting if watching television or listening to the radio, ask for permission to turn it off, if they say no, respect that and ask if you could at least turn it down. The length of time that you are there is determined by the condition of the patient, not you. The usual length runs from 5 to 15 minutes, but it can be longer if you are well acquainted with the patient. If the patient looks tired allow enough time to talk and let them know you are there and they can contact you, but leave to allow their rest. Assess the situation, quickly glance around the room to see who else is there, the condition of the patient as well as the kind of equipment that is being used. If there are other people in the room, identify yourself to them as well and include them into the conversation. You do not want to isolate friends and family of the patient. That could seen as rude, and make the patient as well as their guests unhappy.
There are may different dos and don’ts with hospital visits. First and foremost you do not want to lean or sit on the bed, you want to give the patient their personal space. Don’t give the impression of prying into the patient’s medical details and don’t ask sensitive or extremely personal questions. You want to let them lead the conversation to their illness, don’t bring it up first. Offer to leave the room if someone from the staff enters the room, the patient may want the privacy for whatever is going to happen. DOn’t argue or try to convince the patient of some issue and don’t get trapped into playing the “isn’t that awful” game. You don’t want to upset the patient and get them all riled up, try to keep things calm and relaxing.
Do not bring bad news, always be cheerful and bring good news to them if you can. If something good happened in thc church tell them or tell them how good they are looking. Be natural! Never act differently around someone who is sick, act the way you normally would with them. If you joke and pick on them, keep doing it. You don’t want them to feel like there is something wrong to the point that you cannot be yourself with them. Offer to read some scripture or prayer if the patient wishes, if they say no, let the subject slide. As stated, be cheerful don’t be sad and depressed when around the patient, try to be as uplifting as you can. Don’t do all the talking. Let the patient say something, better yet let them lead the conversation. Ask questions about different aspects of their lives which can lead to a common topic. You want to recognize which topic the patient is most concerned about and talk about that. The topic the patient has on their mind the most may not come out until you are about to leave. The first few moments of talking to the patient, they are feeling you out to see if you really do care or if you are there out of duty.
One thing you need to remember do not assume that a person in a coma cannot hear you. Share in the manner you would with any other patient. Talk to them, share information, talk pray, give scripture in the same way that you would with anyone else. Do not treat a coma patient any different simply because they are in a coma. Lastly be respectful of all the other people present. Talk to them, bring them into the conversation. Let them have their time with the patient, just be an added person and if there is other people in the room don’t take up their time with their loved one. Another thing you need to remember is keep the HIPAA regulations in mind, do not share any information about the patient with anyone else. This is a federal law.
Visiting someone in the hospital can be a hard thing to do, especially if you do not know the person personally. Just go in and act as if you have been friends for a while. Talk to them, give them encouragement the same way you would to a friend. Ministers have a certain expectation on them when they are visiting hospitals, and you could be the one minister who breaks that mold and expectation. For some you could be a spiritual guidance, others you may be the only visitor they get for the day. Be professional in your visit, but also be cheerful and have fun with the visit.