Why this nurse broke the visiting rules

Hemera | Thinkstock

There are occasions when breaking the visitation rules is the right thing to do–when a soldier or sailor has just arrived from overseas to visit a very sick relative, for example, or when the patient’s condition would benefit from such a “special” visit.

In one of the ICUs where I worked, we had a patient who was so ill with cancer that we couldn’t stabilize him enough to get him home, even under hospice care. Yet his heart’s desire was to go home and sit with his dog down by the pond.

At the time, there were two agency RNs on staff. One happened to have a SMALL dog–the kind you can fit into a tote bag. In an informal nurse’s station conference, those of us who would be on duty the next weekend decided to help arrange a “special” visit.

That Saturday, our dog owner slipped in with the little dog, freshly bathed and fully vaccinated, in her tote bag. The dog was sworn to silence and never made a sound.

The rest of us closed the door, turned off the camera and shut the window blinds so that the man could enjoy his special “visitor” for an uninterrupted two hours.

He was ecstatic.

As a result, his condition improved remarkably. He WAS able to go home and spent about two weeks with his own dog under hospice care.

Sometimes it is easier to beg forgiveness than to get permission (Rear Admiral Grace N. Hopper, US Navy, Retired).

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Nurse Rene

Nurse Rene has been an RN since 1978; CCRN since 1989 and attained a BSN in 2010. She has worked in virtually every specialty from Neonatology to Neurosurgery and is a Member of Sigma Theta Tau International Nursing Honor Society with a particular interest in helping students and new grads develop to their full potential. She's been married for 33 years and has a keen interest in history and in current issues as nursing continues to develop as a Real Profession. When not spoiling the grandchildren, she enjoys sewing, cooking, kayaking, camping and travel. She likes all music which does not hurt her ears, watching NCIS, Leverage, Top Gear and Criminal Minds and reads books written by Clive Cussler, Miss Manners, Erma Bombeck and Tom Clancy. She enjoys collecting Quotations for use in her writings.

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11 Responses to Why this nurse broke the visiting rules

  1. laura00seven LPN

    I work on a pediatric unit at a hospital. We had an 11 year old girl admitted a day before her birthday. Her 20 or 21 year old brother had accompianed her to the hospital and had been caring for her for several years as both of their parents were deceased. We were all impressed by his level of responsibility for his sister and he had taken on having a full time job and providing a stable home for her. Because she had no “legal” guardian, her care and guardianship was turned over to the state and her state worker had ordered that she not have any visitors or calls until they could have a background check and be cleared with her. They were both upset at this news, along with all my co-workers and even the doc, especially because she would have to spend her birthday alone, in the hospital without any family. When he came to drop off a cake for her on her birthday I greeted him at the door and let him into a visiting room. He even corrected me and said he thought she wasn’t allowed to have any visitors. I told him that I didn’t remember being told to me like that and to enjoy his visit. I knew my job was on the line if news of the visit got back to her state worker… but somehow it never did.

    • bnovicki RN

      As long as there was no physical abuse by the brother, that was a wonderful way to spend some time during the day to help a patient get through her birthday. Who knows maybe this girl was impressed enough to grow up and be a nurse because this meant so much to her.

  2. skwerlylove Student

    I have recently been hospitalized, after a procedure that was supposed to be outpatient. 7 days in to my complicated stay, I started getting depressed without my best friend, my dog, Elliot. With Elliot’s small size (a Chihuahua), and excellent behavior, my roommate (and Veterinarian) decided to stow Elliot away in her purse on a visit to my room one night. Upon seeing her big ears and buggy little eyes pop out of that purse, I felt so relieved to snuggle that little ball of joy in my arms. In that moment, my door opened and my nurse walked in.

    She took in the dog on the bed and the tentative, frozen smile on my face and decided to allow me time with my pooch. I was so grateful, just for those 30 minutes to see my little dog. It gave me the lift I needed to get out of there!!!!

  3. stevo7762

    A few years ago I worked in the CCU and had a request by the patient I cared for and the family to allow the patient’s grandchildren to visit. The grandchildren were just under 12 years of age and weren’t suppose to be allowed in the unit. This patient was to undergo a CABG the next day so I told the parents to wait until the regular visitation was over and I would come to the waiting room door and signal them. I couldn’t deny the family’s request due to the gravity of the surgery this patient was to undergo. Sometimes we break the rules just because it’s the right thing to do.

  4. anne

    I had left Cleveland Clinic’s OR and was now working on a med-surg floor in 1978. My father had been in and out of the Clinic’s CCU for several months now since his second leg had been amputated. He was morbidly obese, diabetic, and had arrested at least ten times. As an experienced RN who the doctors knew, the oldest of my parents’ five kids, and with a mother who also had many chronic illnesses, I was the liaison between the docs and the family.

    One day when my father had been comatose for several days, the docs approached me and told me that my dad was third-spacing. He was missing three liters of fluid – probably locked in his gut. He most likely had a necrotic gut and certainly wasn’t a surgical candidate. He had a 99% chance of dying within the next 24 hours.

    I told my siblings. We decided that the only possible recourse was to somehow remind him of life and the future. We were all in our 20’s and had no grandchildren to remind him of. We decided we had to take a pet.

    That night, obviously risking my job and maybe my career, my sister and I went into the glass-walled, glass-doored CCU with a bookbag on my back which contained a friend’s kitten. The cat seemed to know he was on a lifesaving mission; he cooperated fully and didn’t budge. I set my backpack down on my father’s bed, unzipped the top, and fit my father’s unresponsive hand into the bag on top of the cat.

    After a few minutes of nothing, my father started petting the cat.

    They never found the fluid he was missing. He arrested a couple more times before they were successful in stabilizing his heart and transfer him to the floor. He went to a great rehab unit for several months. He died in 1983.

    • bnovicki RN

      I wish hospitals could get through and work something out for more patients. we have one hospital that I know of that does pet therapy, but not sure if they let them in the critical care units. Wouldn’t that be good for very sick patients who need this tlc to help them through these times

  5. anne

    I had a situation like this with my father. We snuck a kitten into the CCU, which brought my father out of a previously unresponsive state. He subsequently lived another 5 1/2 years.
    I tried to post more details, but I couldn’t post.

  6. Deidra47 RN

    I’m a retired R.N. Back in 1994-95 my 12 year old son was battling his cancer which he did lose his battle with. He loved ferrets and had several at home. To brighten him up, my husband bought him a new baby ferret and snuck him into the room. I had to tell the nurses as we needed to keep the door closed. There was never a problem. But our pedi hospital was always so good about making the kids happy they would often keep “closed eyes” in situations like this.