New COVID visitation guidelines aim to strike a balance

Massachusetts Coalition for Serious Illness Care Logo

As visitation policies due to COVID-19 continue to evolve, hospitals, long term care facilities and other health care organizations in Massachusetts are balancing the needs and safety of patients, families, caregivers, clinicians, and staff members.

New guidance from the Massachusetts Coalition for Serious Illness Care reflects lessons learned since the early days of the pandemic and offers overarching principles and advice for organizations as they update visitation policies and align them with state directives and guidelines for hospitals and other facilities.

After severely constraining visitors to protect the safety of patients, family and staff, many organizations found they needed to modulate their policies to allow visits from friends and family members, especially those who were critical to patients’ care and well-being. The Coalition’s guidelines — More than a visitor: Balancing safety, connection, and well-being at places of care in a time of COVID — take that learning into account and suggest principles to guide development of new policies and day-to-day decisions for individual patients.

On its website, the Coalition also presents video reflections from practitioners in different care settings, offering visitation and communication strategies. Many organizations with strict visitation guidelines redeployed staff to help care teams and patients use technology to communicate with family members. For many, that work was stressful, powerful and often very successful. In one video, Denise Schoen reports that Baystate Health found the new role of Provider Communication Liaison so valuable, they are now developing a job description for a permanent position. Emma Penti reports similar experience at South Shore Health, saying “These were some of the most valuable, meaningful moments we’ve had with patients ever, and we really don’t want them to end.”

Download the guidelines and view the videos on the Massachusetts Coalition for Serious Illness Care website.

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