Hospital program reimagines patients’ ability to visit with loved ones

January 26, 2021 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health

Anyone who has ever been hospitalized will tell you, it can be a scary and intimidating experience. You find yourself relying on your hospital care team — people you just met — to help you recover. Your connection to family and loved ones is crucial for support.

But the COVID-19 pandemic took that connection away. A responsibility to control the spread of coronavirus forced hospitals to limit, or even eliminate completely, the presence of visitors. Being separated from their families is traumatic and lonely for hospitalized patients.

At Edward-Elmhurst Health, we know that loved ones are crucial to a patient’s physical and emotional health and play a critical role in their healing. We found ways to give patients what they need to heal — a connection to their support system — while ensuring the safety for our patients and teams in the hospital.

Care Partner program returns

In July 2020, we brought our Care Partner program back for patients. The program allows patients in our hospital to elect one or two Care Partners, age 18 or older, during their stay. The number of Care Partners allowed varies by hospital department. Check our visitor policy to learn more.

Care Partners work with the patient and our hospital staff to ease the transition to the hospital and back home again. Care Partners are more than just a visitor — they serve as a designated member of a patient’s support system and care team.

To ensure everyone’s safety, we’ve put a number of strictly enforced guidelines in place. A patient’s Care Partner will:

  • Remain the same person throughout the patient’s entire stay.
  • Undergo a temperature screening and symptom check upon entering the hospital.
  • Receive a wristband that must be worn throughout the patient’s admission.
  • Be required to practice appropriate hand hygiene and wear a surgical mask (provided upon their arrival) during their entire hospital visit.
  • Avoid coming to the hospital to visit a patient if they begin to feel sick or experience COVID-19 symptoms. They should notify the patient’s care team if they develop a fever, cough, shortness of breath, nausea or diarrhea.

A Care Partner can visit each day between 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. Overnight visitation is not allowed at this time (with the exception of Labor and Delivery and pediatric patients).

Upon re-opening, the Care Partner program was offered to any inpatient unless they were in isolation for COVID-19 or suspected COVID-19. We knew we still needed a way to support those patients who were admitted with COVID-19 without compromising the safety of our hospital staff, patients and community.

Virtual visits for patients fighting COVID-19

Megan and iPad

Megan Sulich, Patient Experience Manager at Elmhurst Hospital, is holding an iPad used for staff-facilitated video visits.

Since the summer of 2020, we have been offering staff-facilitated video visits for patients fighting COVID-19 and their families. These visits have given families and patients the opportunity to see each other, to connect and to offer support. 

Families at home imagining the worst have benefitted from seeing their loved one in the hospital, to tell them they love them and to share special moments. Patients who are in isolation have been able to continue to participate in their families’ special events and feel the support and love of their support system.

One patient’s family reached out because the patient’s grandson was having a birthday and didn’t want his grandmother to miss out on singing “happy birthday.” With nothing more than an iPad and a desire to help, our staff was able to be in the room with the patient while the family was having their celebration at home. By the time the candles had been blown out, everyone was in tears. The patient said “I have been sad all week that I was going to miss it. You helped me be there.”

Many families have relied on the video visits to see and speak to patients during what turned out to be their final days. COVID-19 can be quick and brutal when it causes a person’s health to deteriorate and takes away the opportunity for families to come together to cope, grieve and make difficult decisions.  With the video visits, staff have been able to provide a little more of that togetherness during a devastating time.

One family member expressed, after one such video visit, “We thought he was going to die without us ever seeing or talking to him again. You will never know the gift you have given us, providing us this time to say goodbye, even through a screen.”

Of course, a video visit once a day can’t be everything and at Edward-Elmhurst Health, we wanted to do more to keep our patients’ Care Partners at their bedside.

Introducing the “Meet My Care Partner” program

In December 2020, we created the “Meet My Care Partner” program. We started making calls to the families of patients admitted with COVID-19 and inviting them to send a few pictures of the patient and their families. We print the pictures, put them in frames and place them at the patient’s bedside.

Patients love having their family pictures where they can see them and staff love seeing what the patients look like in their real lives. This connection to what brings the patient joy helps the patient feel motivated and helps the staff create a connection. The patients nearly always take time to “introduce” our team to everyone in the picture.

Everything we do at Edward-Elmhurst Health is with our patients in mind. Our hospital staff has always strived to deliver care through the eyes of the patient. We know that this means more now than ever before. With these programs, we hope to create a more meaningful and memorable experience for our patients and their families. 

Because everywhere else, it’s healthcare, but here, it’s personal.

If you have any questions, please contact our Patient Experience line at 331-221-1115.

For updates on our planning and response efforts as we work to stop the spread of COVID-19, please check

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