In the hospital environment, the physical body in crisis is given the most attention. The medical field, perhaps as a result of societal acceptance, is gradually acknowledging the ramifications of the emotions in the healing and getting sick process. But the spiritual dimensions and implications are, for the most part, being neglected. It is in this area that the visitor can play a vital role in the total healing process.
Because the changes that are occurring are rapid and many, it is easy to understand why patients feel powerless. As a visitor, you have the ability to give them back a measure of control. By simply asking such questions as ‘Do you feel like visiting?’ or ‘May I sit down?’ or ‘Is this a good time to talk?’ you are letting them direct the visiting situation. Rather than being just another person telling them what they must do, you are, by asking, allowing them to take control as they see fit.
Visitors let the patient know they are not alone. They can relieve the great sense of isolation that surrounds the patient.
Visitors who have an especially close relationship with the patient can act as patient advocates, making sure questions get answers and basic needs are met. Interceding for patients when they are too intimidated or too debilitated to fight their own battles is advocacy at its finest.
From chapter 2 of Bedside Manners – a practical guide to visiting the ill, published by Baker Books 2005