A constant in a pastor’s life are hospital visits. I know Ken had been to the hospital so many times, he could even tell you all about the doctors – which ones were good and which ones weren’t so good.
If a person was having an operation, Ken would try to get to the hospital before he/she went into the operating room. He would pray with the patient and often wait with the family, especially if the operation were serious or the family member didn’t have anyone to wait with him.
So what do you say at a hospital visit?
1. Learn the rules of the hospital. Many allow “clergy” in at all times, but not “clergy” wives. However, if it’s a friend or someone you’re close to (and you know your visit would be welcomed by the patient), you might be able to walk in with your husband without being questioned.
2. Make your visit brief (yes, there might be exceptions, but that’s the rule.)
3. (As Kristy commented) If the patient is on a special diet, don’t talk about the steak you’re having after you leave.
4. Don’t tell the patient about your Great Uncle Fred who had the same disease the patient had and died! Or Cousin Ethel who had the same operation and the doctor left the scalpel INSIDE of her. Just be quiet with your horror stories.
5. Don’t pass on information about some alternative cure you’ve heard about – the patient is under the doctor’s care and doesn’t need your advice. (Unless you personally know five people who were instantly cured using it.)
6. Take a notepad and pen (or help your husband get in the habit of taking one), so if the patient is sleeping or out of the room for tests – you can leave a note saying you were there and sorry you missed him.
7. Share a verse and pray.
8. If appropriate, say “hello” to the person in the other bed. They may not have many visitors and your friendliness can mean a lot.
9. Don’t make comments about the hospital food – even if it’s being left to wilt on the tray. (The doctor may be encouraging the patient to eat – don’t discourage her.)
10. Don’t announce at church what is wrong with the patient (unless the patient asks you to). There are some extremely strict rules now about breaking confidences.
Seriously, do not write down a person’s diagnosis on a prayer sheet. The laws are called HIPAA(Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and protect a patient’s privacy. (Check out the link, but don’t worry about reading the whole thing – just know you can’t talk.)