"Picture this: youíre a patient in the hospital, and the foremost thought in your mind is your health. In the room busts a loud, impolite visitor from church, who plops on the bed, says you look awful, and asks probing questions about your condition and treatment. Despite you requests to be alone to rest the visitor stays and goes on to tell you that her aunt, who underwent a similar procedure youíre about to have, died."
Illness is a physical, emotional and often a spiritual crisis. Visitation takes patience and practice. Remember that the person you are to see is probably not feeling well and is not excited about a long line of visitors. Keep in mind that the person you are about to see in is in hospital clothes, feels embarrassed to be seen disheveled, may be drowsy from medication, in pain, nauseated, or just grouchy for the ordeal they are going through.
Visiting a family member in the hospital is quite different than making a pastoral visit. A pastoral (elder) visit should be short, encouraging and to the point. You are not there to evangelize, preach or teach. You come only to offer comfort and encouragement.
Dress appropriately. Make sure you donít have B.O. or bad breath. Take a moment in the care before the visit to gather your thoughts and ask the Lord for his wisdom and words of encouragement. You would do well to at this time select a verse or short passage of scripture that would be encouraging.
You may arrive at an inconvenient time. The person may just have used a bedpan. (Thatís embarrassing!) If the door is closed ask a nurse if you may enter or knock before entering. There may be a small army of other visitors already there. In each of these cases you should consider going to the cafeteria for a cup of coffee and returning in 15-20 minutes. If the person is sleeping donít wake them up. Ask a nurse for advice. If you have traveled a long way perhaps you can wait until they awaken. Sometimes it is best just to quietly leave a note that you were there.
Keep your conversation positive and encouraging. Avoid probing questions about their physical condition. Be cheerful. Avoid discussion what you know about similar conditions. Donít share your negative medical experiences. Donít give any medical advice or criticize the doctors, nurses or staff. You are there to bring a ray of sunshine.
Each patient is different. Some enjoy visits, some do not. Some have already had three hours of non-stop visitors. Keep your length of stay to 10 to 15 minutes maximum. Ask if they would like you to read a verse or Scripture portion and pray with them. Keep it short. Your prayer should be compassionate, filled with thanksgiving, comfort, and faith. Leave something behind, a tract, Scripture verse, or a card, then leave. (Use your promise sheet or printed calling cards with verses on them.)