UVM Medical Center Creates "Welcoming" Policy, Getting Rid of Scheduled Visiting Hours

Burlington, Vt - Scheduled visiting hours are being cut at the University of Vermont Medical Center, allowing family members to check in on patients any time.

Hospital officials are calling it a "welcoming policy," and they hope it'll improve recovery and healing. Visiting hours varied depending on the floor, but this policy lifts them entirely throughout the facility.

It's a welcome change for Karen Kelley from Burlington.

"If you're having a really bad day, they know you well enough and they know what to do for you," she said.

Kelley says she's been in the hospital too many days to count over the years. Kelley struggled with reoccurring e.coli infections. In April, she was admitted to the medical ICU for another illness.

"I had really bad pneumonia and was going into respiratory failure and they were putting me on a vent," Kelley said.

Kelley was in the hospital for nearly 20 days. Her husband of 33 years, Paul, was always by her side when he could be.

"I was sleeping a lot, so he would just be there. And I would wake up and he was there. and it was everything," Kelley said.

Patient and family-centered care was a main driver to get rid of scheduled visiting hours, according to the hospital's President & CEO Eileen Whalen.

"Really understanding the value at the bedside of having family members participate in the care," Whalen said.

Whalen says doctors and staff pushed for the changes, seeing how important it was for treatment.

"It's really about the right people being with the right patient at the right time," Whalen said.

Patients are now able to identify their loved ones biologically, legally and emotionally. There are no age restrictions as well, although children 13 years old or young must be accompanied by an adult. Decisions about visitations are made in consultation with nurses or other members of the health care team.

"What we've asked the patient to do is determine who their family is. We really encourage the family to be the person who is visiting," Whalen said.

There isn't a formal check in policy for the UVM Medical Center, but you can head over right to the welcome center in the lobby. Volunteers will tell you where your family members are and get your where you need to go.

You have to sign in at night at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire for security reasons. Hospital officials say the medical center has always had open visiting hours.

The new "welcoming policy," hospital officials hope, will make access to loved ones easier, being a helping hand during difficult times.

"Sometimes just been there and hold your hand, it's so. It means so much," Kelley said.

These changes are only happening at the center in Burlington. Whalen says the rest of the UVM Medical Network is looking into the policy changes as well.

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