Story last updated at 1:24 p.m. Thursday, November 14, 2002

Open letter to hospital visitors
It has been my privilege to be a nurse at South Peninsula Hospital for more than 18 years, and I continue to be impressed with the response of family and friends when loved ones are hospitalized. Homer patients are blessed with lots of attention, help and concern.

I have a few suggestions as to how that concern might be best manifested.

1- Remember that your family member/friend is preparing for or recovering from surgery or illness, and that they need rest. They will get out of the hospital sooner and back to their regular activities if they can rest and recuperate. It is tempting to settle in for a good long visit because the patient isn't going anywhere, but you may be cutting into their much needed nap time, so please keep your visits short. You may also think about taking turns rather than visiting in large groups. A big entourage can be festive, but sick people aren't usually feeling like a party.

2- Hospital rooms are not always private, and health concerns should be kept private. Please do not ask the staff about your friend's condition, diagnosis or treatment. It puts us in an awkward position to have to tell you that it's none of your business, but that's the truth. The same goes for questions about someone who is not your family member. It is illegal and unethical for us to give health information to anyone who does not have a professional need to know or a personal right to know (immediate family members and persons specifically named by the patient). We will protect your privacy and ask that you help us to do that for all our patients.

3- Please don't take it personally if we tell you that you can't visit right now. It is our job to protect the patient's need for rest and privacy. It rarely happens that anyone is specifically kept out, but rather that the patient just doesn't have the energy for visiting right then. By my observation, most folks would rather not be seen when they don't feel well, and a well-intentioned visit may actually cause embarrassment, annoyance or genuine upset. If there is a sign on the door not to visit, please respect it. The staff will be more than happy to relay any messages. If we know that the patient has awakened or is expecting someone in particular, we can always check to see if they are ready for visitors.

Our goal is to provide the best care we can to our patients, and you can help us do that by giving them the chance to rest when they are staying with us.

Gayle Claus, Fritz Creek