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Top 10 worst hospital visitors

Shutterstock | Robert Kneschke
Shutterstock | Robert Kneschke

This list? It comes straight from nurses who apparently have seen it all.

But maybe you’ve seen worse?

10. The man who snuck in three cats to visit his asthmatic mother

9. The visitor who ate all his father’s food, then rang the nurse to say that the patient was still hungry and needed another tray

8. The wife who asked you to take her stroked-out husband to the bathroom whenever SHE really was the one who had to go

7. The son who emptied his mother’s colostomy bag into the wastebasket

6. The husband who fell asleep in the patient’s bed while his wife was in the bathroom

5. The wife who discontinued her husband’s central line herself because “John likes to sleep on his right side”

4. The 80-year-old daughter of the 98-year-old man, who kept turning off her father’s continuous gastric feeding because “He never eats this much at home”

3. The children of one patient who insisted upon using their mother’s portable IPPB machine as a scooter in the hallway

2. The husband who kept sneaking in chocolates for his newly diagnosed diabetic wife

1. The man who never actually visited his mother, but called 12 times every shift to criticize the nurses, the doctors, the food and anything else that came to mind

Share your own nightmare visitor story!

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Compiled by Andrew Lopez, RN, for nursefriendly.com. Learn more about Andrew at nursefriendly.com.
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71 Responses to Top 10 worst hospital visitors

  1. OMG! Can’t hardly top this….maybe the patient who was brain injured (Rancho Los Amigos Level 4 to 5) whose husband never visited except when he wanted sex. Had to have a talk with this guy & explain that even though they were technically married…consensual sex implied knowledgeable consent on the part of parites and she just wasn’t there yet. STOP IT!

  2. Janice

    How about the family who moved into the patient’s room, and CLEANED OUT the patients kitchen, just like locusts

  3. Shauna

    The son who finally came to visit after 3 months in the hospital and had the nerve to ream on the staff for thier supposed poor care and treatment of his mother. Like really, how would he know what really happened???

  4. acey

    The families that bring in large shakes and fast food iced coffee drinks to their diabetic family members. I’d like to invite them to stick around so they can explain to the doctor when I call the reason for their mom’s blood glucose registering at 450.

  5. acey

    Just remembered this one – the wife of a hospice patient who made a blankets and pillows nest on the floor in the closet. When it came time for med pass, she stated, “You can just leave those and I’ll give them to him.” With ever med administration, there was a criticism. The head of the bed is too high. The angle of the straw is wrong. He’s had enough water. On and on and on. I realize now that this stemmed from her feelings of helplessness, but Lord help me, that was the biggest test of my patience this far.

  6. Barbara

    Had a family member who was trying to feed her unconscious family member because it had been hours since he ate last. And he needed nutrition to get better.

  7. Deb

    Then there is the friend who snuck in marijuana and alcohol to the trauma patient who was hospitalized because he caused an accident while driving his car the wrong way on divided road, while drunk

  8. Ghisty

    I love the significant others who climb in bed to snuggle with your trauma patient…and then complain of all the pain the patient is in.

  9. Grace

    The Doubter who thinks she or her ‘sister who is a nurse’ thinks they know better.

    The machine gun questioner, who fuddles you with dumb questions, and wants you to give them a full synopsis of all the rationales for every test, pill, IV fluid, or shot, etc. and then have the gall to tell you, ‘you don’t seem to care, all you do is rush in and out of dads room, if it was your father…. blah… blah…”

  10. gg

    Family Member Rules:
    1. Your family member is one of many patients I am taking care of, please let me do my job!
    2. Getting mad at me will not improve the care of your family member.
    3. If you want something, ask for it nicely.
    4. Focus on the patient, not yourself.
    5. We know how to do our jobs but Nurses are human too, we have feelings, and sometimes we make mistakes.
    6. If you are going to be a jerk, I will have a harder time being pleasant with you.
    7. We will NEVER have enough staff to always get you what you want, when you want it the first time you ask, the hospital is lying to you.
    8. Remember, there are 5-7 other family members just like you I have to deal with tonight. I’d rather be taking care of the patients, but the families keep interrupting me.
    9. Generally, you can talk to me when I come in your family members room, for about 5 minutes. After that, times up. If you want to know more, look it up on the internet, or ask a librarian.
    10. We can’t fix things that took 40-80 years to develop with a few pills and treatments. There is not a pill for everything.

    • sandravdw

      Absolutely. Wish we may post this on the unit’s entrance doors,

    • Leann

      I wish we had a nurses’ bill of rights like they have pt’s bill of rights.

  11. Chrystal LVN

    had a patient on Hospice in the nursing home. In the year that I had worked there I had never seen her family. Then when I called the daughter to tell her we weregetting close and the patient would soon be active she asks ” What about putting in a feeding tube” I nearly lost it

  12. JB

    I work with kids, and I’ve had many kids who are NPO (can’t eat or drink) and the family is in the room eating and/or drinking while the little one is crying for food. You may need your energy to take care of your child, but don’t do it blatenly in front of the kids. Go in the hall or the bathroom if you need to eat!

    • htarceno RN

      Amen. and please don’t eat sweets in front of your diabetic family member

  13. bhadleyrn

    Gotta love the family members I call the “helicoptors.” They hover around the bed and in the patients face. I work in Intensive Care so many of our patients are sedated but these helicoptors wont allow their family member the peace of sedation. They are constantly waking up the patient to ask if they need a drink or are hungry or if they are in pain. Um…NO! The patient is sedated and intubated!

  14. Granny RN x 35 yrs

    1-Visitor who came in barefoot and without a bra. ‘Swinging’ the DD ‘sisters’ while walking is a bad fashion ‘don’t’.
    2-Daughter who had a ‘juicer’ and brought in some green stuff she wanted to add to mama’s tube feeding.
    3-Visitor who had a black thong ABOVE her khakis whose butt was aimed at the patients’ door.
    I have quite a few more…

    • Zoaea RN

      Granny RN I don’t see how the family juicing some veggies would be a problem unless it contained things violating their medical diet (Idk like sugary fruits for a diabetic or grapefruit if they are on a med that doesn’t mix well). I’d do it my self if I was stuck on a g tube!

      The worst visitor was someone I heard of from another nurse, when i was on my l & d rotation. An abusive husband was having sex with his wife hours after the baby was born, she had also had torn and had stitches and was crying in pain. He then got violent with staff when they pulled him out of the room and tried to explain that his wifes body needed time to heal, and he was arrested for assult.

  15. Granny RN

    To: jb
    Eating in front of someone who is ‘NPO’ is just BAD MANNERS!
    Some people just weren’t ‘raised right’!

  16. Granny RN

    bhadleyrn:

    I miss the Good Ole Days when people were terrified to even walk IN to an ICU! Now everybody is HOUSE!

  17. Kimmie

    The girlfriend who comes and stays over and thinks what she’s “got” is better than what we’re doing for the boyfriend…….wink, wink, ALL NIGHT LONG!

    • Leann

      Woman admitted for headache, so bad she had to be in the dark and get dilaudid, caught servicing her boyfriend.

      Pts on video EEG making out or getting it on.

  18. missbette Caption Contest

    When I was working in a state mental hospital, a girl came to visit her boyfriend with her little girl. She left her little girl with her boyfriend(the pt.) and went shopping it town. Luckily while I was leaving for the day I asked where the mother was and he stated she was using the restroom. I went on out and started home but just had a bad feeling about it. Went back and found out mom had gone shopping. I reported it to my supervisor and she called the state police. Luckily nothing bad happened to the little girl but it could have since we also had sex offenders out on grounds, too. Mom was gone approx. 2 hours.

  19. kjkamk RN

    The people who bring little children to the hospital in the middle of the night because their friend is having a baby and then get angry with us because we don’t have a bed for them all to lay down in. Or the helicopter mother who gives an opinion on everything that you do because when she had her children, that’s how it was done- 18 years ago! Or the family member who refuses to leave because she’s in too much pain- ctx q10 minutes, closed, thick and sky-high! The mother of the 20 year old who called back to complain that they gave her daughter ambien to sleep through those q 10 minute contractions. I’m sure we ALL have stories. I appreciate input and feedback from family but there are limits!

  20. furbabymomma RN

    How about a spouse who moved in until her husband could walk again? She took over the room, criticized everyone and everything and sicked her friends and relatives on staff when she wasn’t around? Come to find out she was hitting her husband, putting powder on his chest at night (mind you, he was a COPD’er), and messing with his catheter and PICC line. Needless to say I LEFT that damn place after resporting the spouse multiple times for abuse.

  21. letmestyle

    How about the preacher that comes in to visit a pt who has to have a Colonoscopy the next day and decides to “help himself” to the bowel prep the pt has to drink. Later we was told he didn’t make it home with clean clothes.

  22. Smithteamracing RN

    Everyone who comes in is either a sister/brother, kid or other family member. So let’s see you have 15 kids & 10 siblings. And they all call everyday & want an update.

    Every flat surface in the room is covered with stuff. You come into the room with a meal tray & they just look at you while you try to balance the tray & clear a spot to put it.

    The family that expects you to provide food–every meal for their entire extended family.

    The patient who seems to have money for alcohol, cigarettes, street drugs & tattoos but can’t afford to pay for their discharge meds….often antibiotics fo an infection caused by using a dirty needle to inject street drugs.

    • LindaMattel96

      sorry SmithTeamRacing but addiction is now recognized as a disease. in my opinion it’s pretty sad that this patient could not afford his antibiotics but it’s even sadder that people in the health-care profession would not educate themselves in this because it is a large patient population – just saying. Linda Mattel, Canada

      • psychnurse52

        Thanks Linda! Addiction is a very scary, rampant, deadly disease that is incredibly misunderstood and affects more of the typical med-surg patients, geriatric patients and even peds patients than most health care workers realize. It’s a disease most nurses will see in their careers – and often.

        In my experience with substance abuse patients (because nobody deserves being called “an addict”) – they are all very aware of disease spreading through dirty needles. What a lot of people (patients, health care workers alike) don’t realize is that if you are reusing your own needle, sharing the water used to draw up the injectable can still transmit diseases – particularly Hep C. So, maybe what we need is education for patients instead of condescending nurses.

      • blackat20

        I’m curious, is it still considered a disease the first time when they CHOOSE to do drugs? Do the drugs give you the disease once you choose to do them, or are you a carrier for the disease and it only becomes evident once you do drugs?

        • drlscook

          Sorry, blackat20, the average age that most SUD patients take their first drink is 12. So, yes, it’s a choice, and a bad one at that, but 12-year-olds aren’t known for good judgment.

  23. Ivy RN

    My nightmare visitor is always the middle-aged flirt. Whenever a nurse enters the room, he temporarily forgets about his sick mother/sister/wife in the hopes that his witty banter will gain him a date with the caregiver. Once, I was giving an ICU patient a unit of blood when her son started chatting me up. He said, “I’ve heard people say that you nurses can sometimes be thinking about one thing while you’re actually doing something else. I told ’em they were crazy: nobody can do that!”

    I said, “You better hope it’s true, because your mother’s not the only patient I’m taking care of tonight.”

    Needless to say, he didn’t get very far with me.

  24. Belasko RN

    This list and the comments cover almost every one that I’ve seen. However I’ve got a couple still. 1)The “brother” of the new stabbing pt that would aggressively confront nurses coming off the elevator on their way to start their shift, demanding information on the pt and where he is. The pt did not have any brothers. He disappeared before security arrived.
    2)The son of the terminal cancer pt that was begging for us to kill her after she had been in ICU for 2 months on and off vent support. He would show up for 2 hours twice a week (he lived in town), and watch TV the entire time w/ no interaction w/ his mother then leave. If the topic of end of life care came up he would become very verbally abusive and stopped just short of physically abusive. Security was called twice before he was told if it happened again he would not be allowed in at all.

  25. Cyrren RN

    The mother of a 20yo GI bleed that got angry when we had to transfer her son off our newly built “posh” unit to the ICU because she had just unpacked all her stuff and the new room didn’t have a nice shower in it.

    • Colleen1266

      You can see how messed up society gets with this sense of entitlement coupled with ignorance. ” ‘Hey lady, this is not about you.’ “

  26. nurse ratchett

    #1 is the bomb!!

  27. jennstubb

    # 4 and 5? OMG! I would die! Every time I think I can no longer be shocked by something…someone proves me wrong!

  28. afallon1991

    Visitors who smoke in the restrooms should be another one. And in rooms.

  29. erina7997

    Or the “friend” that bring in a dozen cup cakes while I’m in active labor and can’t have anything to eat !!!
    You suck !

  30. AmandaRN

    The wife of a young pt (spine surgery) who not only claimed to be the pt’s advocate, he was A&O, she also got in the way of PT when they did try to stand him up, rated the pt’s pain for him, and attempted to get the pt out of bed alone… only hours after requesting we pull the pt up in bed so he can eat dinner because he couldn’t move (he refused to move).

  31. HeartofDixieRN

    How about the wife of an alcoholic ventilator patient who snuck in beer and put it through his feeding tube…..
    Or, the daughter of a patient who was in her mid-40’s but dressed like a young hooker, except wore no panties, and frequently took pictures of her “goodies” to send in text messages to potential “clients.”
    Or, the wife of one critically ill patient hooking up with the husband of another critically ill patient. They were celebrating the 4th of July in the parking deck when the man’s wife coded.
    I could go on and on…..

    • sahughes

      Had a family member shove chocolate cake in someone’s Peg tube…yep, it was her birthday, “jut not fair that she can’t have any cake!”

  32. jayce421

    I had a son who brought his dad (6hr post hip replacement surgery patient) a 24oz hospital-issued water bottle filled with Jack Daniel’s. Said it was apple juice.

  33. traumaqueen

    Had a wife ask me if she could have her family come with her Pastor and pray for her husband who is in the ICU and in critical condition. About 20 people showed up so I pulled the curtain to give them privacy. They gathered around the bed and I suddendly smelled something that should not be in the ICU. Each family member was holding a LIT candle and had placed incense sticks in the room!!!!! I have to admit I did not behave in a professional manner when I told them you DO NOT light fire around this much oxygen!!! These were well educated business people. I didn’t want to use the fire extingusher on them…I wanted to throw it at them

  34. NurseBarbiejlo

    How about the wife who came to visit her husband while his mistress was there and pulled a gun and threatened to shoot her! Our charge nurse was a tough old broad who told the wife “you better put that away and get outta here before the cops get here!”
    I’ve got a million more, but that one always floored me!

  35. Colleen1266

    I was working in ICU when I was taking care of a young female physician who sustained a fracture of her spine while gliding off of a Cliffside. She was manipulative and her family and visitors were awful! They were very disrespectful of the 2 people at a time rule; that didn’t apply to them, they refused to leave during shift change; that didn’t apply to them, a so called boyfriend (really a doctor that she was manipulating) watched one of the staff push the numeric combinations on the door and began to let himself in, help himself to the supplies and change her dressings. Her brother rolled in a roll away bed despite there being a rule of no sleeping in the patient’s room. This came to a head when the orthopedic surgeon came into the ICU and one of her visitors was left outside of her room so he started to wander into another patient’s room. This patient was in a bad accident and was sedated, intubated, restrained, and had only a towel laid across his hips because he was so febrile. That ass walked into his room and stood over him and stared at this patient! Needless to say, he was giving an earful and removed from the unit. This so called boyfriend/manipulated loser actually brought two small children to the waiting room and left them so he could go into her room and slurp on her tonsils! One of our nurses saw these two kids knocking on the door; her heart broke when she opened the door and saw heir little faces stained with tears! I guess I got on this boyfriend/manipulated idiot’s nerves and he called for the hospital administrator. My supervisor just wanted e to transfer her ASAP but as you can already read, it was getting worse by the minute. Well, the hospital administrator listened to him but did not scold me for not being as gracious as the other nurses! In fact, after all this went on in front of me but this physician actually apologized to me for making my job so difficult. I felt vindicated by that but as a staff, we should have established better boundaries and called the medical administrator ourselves. I did transfer my patient out of the hospital and even gave her an IM shot of Demerol or Dilaudid prior.

  36. mgsang

    The 8 children of one elderly patient who all started calling because one of them took the stroke education sheet we provided as proof that “Mama’s been having strokes and nobody’s told us!” And on the same day… The family members who can’t reach a patient on a phone that they have been harassing all day and insist that they be checked on… the patient is asleep with the phone under a pillow under her butt so she couldn’t hear it because she could never get any sleep for the incessant calls!

    The patient who was normal alllllll day long… until his wife finished visiting and left for the night and then all of a sudden became incredibly hyper, shadowboxing and “swimming” in his room, putting on his pants with a catheter in, bouncing off the walls. Would have dearly loved a tox screen on this one!

  37. sahughes

    The worst visitors ever were the family that brought their father liquor to drink….he was critically ill, had multiple surgeries, was confused, occasionally combative and on a CWIA scale!! Or maybe it would be the friends of a patient who brought him heroin to shoot up in his open abscess that was positive for MRSA and had vegetation around his mitral valve! It’s a toss-up!

  38. Nurse Ratchet01

    The friends of a young woman who would visit with their babies in tow right after she had a burst Fallopian tube due to an ectopic pregnancy that was a much anticipated first pregnancy. Seriously people? Have some common sense and sensitivity!

  39. Nnurse19670 APN

    I got two for you.
    1) How about the wife who slept all night on the floor in her husband’s room (totally sanitary :{, right) while he was awake for the good part of the night with insomnia, and no sleep aids were working, who tells my Spanish speaking coworker that the CNA and I didn’t come all night to check on her husband, yeah how else did I get his vitals, magic, thank good for charting and Omnicell.

    2) The family who kept feeding their semi-comatose dad in a C-Spine collar, water even thought the staff told them not to and then wondered why he chocked and went into respiratory distress and we needed to call a code blue.

  40. Leann

    Pt’s husband says to one of my co-workers, “I’m going to need you to clean me up and change my depends in a few minutes.”

  41. Leann

    Pt receiving cannabis derivative medication b/c has cancer. Pt’s friend brought him cannabis cookies. I didn’t know that was what they were. Pt had mental status change (goofy and confused) and I couldn’t figure out why, until the Palliative care physician clued me in to what the cookies probably were. Needless to say, she d/c’d our medication, since pt was using his own.

  42. Miaki Keni Oodle

    sickle cell patient who have a lots of visitor requesting to full blast the AC in the room, knowing their patient is sickle cell and too much cold triggers the pain lol….

  43. htarceno RN

    Lord have mercy, these stories are so real. I wish the general public were more aware of what real life is like outside of TV hospitals. I have many stories, but the one that come to mind first is the girlfriend who brought her boyfriend a knife hidden inside some food containers. [on a psych floor] He was involuntary and wanted to get out. He and another pt almost made it when they threatened the staff, but they didn’t know that another patient discreetly called security while the staff were unable to. After that, all outside food & beverages were banned from the unit.

  44. kumaire

    When I still worked on the floors,had 400 lb plus 40 y/o woman who had a stroke,leaving one side of her body paralyzed. Her husband would come in with KFC for the patient and want one of us to help move her when it normally took 6 of us to move her up in bed. This was in the early 90s right before the explosion of grossly obese patients,her bed would not work under her weight because hospital beds couldnt then under that much weight. I owe my bad neck to her because one day when 6 of us were getting ready to move her up in bed below what is good for body mechanics because the bed wouldnt work under her weight,counting 1,2,3…. somebody was still on 2 and felt my neck snap. And yet,the husband kept bringing KFC in and couldnt understand why we wouldnt assist in moving her without a minimum of 4 people. Someone on every shift got hurt by that patient

  45. ldrnc

    I am so grateful that the Lord has given me a short memory for such things! It’s a rare day that I really can’t get along with a pt or their visitors. If I’m having trouble, I use it as a teachable moment.

  46. Amy Lynn Tesch

    How about the family of a hospice patient who had recently expired, and as a courtesy, facility provided a bereavement tray with coffee, tea, soda, water, juice, with cookies, Danishes, crackers/cheese, or whatever the dining services had. I had one family member, say to me, “What? No subs?”

    Hey this isn’t Subway where you can eat fresh!!

  47. Iwonder

    The family who would take their brother out and buy him ice cream because “he wanted it!”. He had a feeding tube because he couldn’t swallow. They had been told that he couldn’t swallow for years, that allowing him to try was going to kill him one day. The last time they brought him back to the facility, I went off on them. Asked if they were trying to kill him. He died two days later from aspiration pneumonia.

  48. EDTECH

    I work in the ED and oh the visitors we see: Love it when the patient is there for non-emergent reason and the entire family shows up (aunts, uncles, children of all ages . Or the people who just have to visit the suicidal patient and want to bring that patient everything you can think of from flowers in a GLASS vase to balloons to cell phones to computers to all types of food. It is hard enough to work in the small rooms that we have without having to crawl over the visitors. Then the visitors want to stay the night and sleep in the bed with the patient (a big no no but the visitors always want to argue about it)!

  49. Amy Harris

    The mother of my patient brought in his CPAP for him from home and made sure to hide his weed in it for him which he smoked in the bathroom. I had another pt who’s boyfriend brought her meth which she injected into her saline lock, then told me she thought it needed flushed. I pulled back first, stuck it in my pocket, then flushed with another. Sent it to lab and bingo! We pressed charges.

  50. Kristym331

    The girlfriend who OD on heroin found non-responsive in the bathroom of the patient who was recovering from an OD of heroin.

  51. dlmurphy

    We have had visitors bring drugs onto our unit, alcohol brought in pop bottles.

  52. crazylpn49

    How about the patient that came in with a major brain aneurysm who is unresponsive and is breathing with the assistance of a ventilator, and having the daughter of this patient ask when will my mother start receiving PT?

  53. Bob Schmit

    Our group of homeless that take turns having “chest pain” during bad weather. While one plays the patient role the others move in demanding food, bedding, toiletries…etc. Sometimes they do have chronic issues that do require treatment, I’ll give them that, but most of the time everything is negative and the docs are just CYOB ing. I wouldn’t mind so much if they weren’t soooo rude. We are in a position to help those in need but how about a please or thank you every now and again.

  54. cliff reed

    A patients large group of family and friends in the waiting room that brought in a small BBQ to cook food In the room.

  55. Peggy Canfield

    The daughter who took a shower in her mother’s bathroom (mother was the patient) in an isolation room!

  56. Steffy44

    Hmmm…the 425 lb woman with 4 pages of medical issues…to include horrible COPD, diabetes, failing kidneys…on a fluid restriction whose family sneaks in giant bottles of sodas and then attacks the medical staff when they call them out. The same family who got in the ICU nurses face when they snuck in a bucket of Col Sanders and were told she couldn’t have it. The entire family gives white trash a bad name. Was it wrong we celebrated her being moved down to ICU last week after a month of being on our floor…screaming at every medical professional that walked into her room.

  57. lourdesflores

    I particulary remember 2 thigs avout different patients I took care of…
    1- The daughter of a 98 year old lady -“Mom… you must get well soon, I have spent my vacations stuck in this hospital room” !!!
    2- A family member of a VERY OLD patient (102yrs old) who had two strokes in less than a month: “Is she going to walk again ? I really hope so, because I couldn’t stand to change nobodys diappers, only thinking about it grosses me out ! “

  58. nevdevster

    The patient in the next bed took a bit of a turn last week and since then all his hillbilly relations have been visiting from 9 AM to 5 PM each day. They are so rowdy other patients, nurses. carers and cleaners can’t get in to tend the poor guy! They just yell to each other and not talk to him. Even their kids are there chucking tantrums which they ignore. The patient has rallied a bit but no one has noticed. He is almost mute and just groans. We’re in a shared twin room, but I’d be looking for a change!

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