Visiting someone in the hospital is an important assignment of any ministry leader. It’s an opportunity to care for somebody in a moment of crisis. Thus, it will have a huge impact–whether good or bad.
One of my most embarrassing moments early in ministry was taking a group of the young men I was discipling to visit a guy in our group who had just had an eye removed due to infection. As I closed our time of prayer, I prayed something like, “Well, Lord, thank you that it’s better to go to Heaven with one eye than to go to Hell with two.” Not a comforting, empathetic prayer.
Since then, I’ve learned some helpful things. So, here’s a simple guide to help the visit go as well as possible.
1. Let the patient sleep. Leave a card or note that you were there and tell the nurse’s station.
2. Identify yourself. When people are sick, sleepy, drugged, or in pain they often can’t remember names.
3. Be cheerful and smile when you enter. They want to be cheered up. Be glad to see them.
4. Have an unhurried attitude. You won’t be there long, so give them your best while you’re there.
5. Ask how they are feeling and then listen. Pay attention with eye contact. Give them time to answer.
6. Remember there is no such thing as a “minor surgery.” Any surgery is a major concern for the patient, so be careful not to downplay it.
7. Pray for them. Ask if they mind if you pray, “I’d like to pray if you don’t mind?” Hold their hand or touch their arm when you pray. If family is in the room, you could join hands around the patient. Prayer together is the main reason you’re there. Do whatever is natural for you and appropriate for the time. Share a verse? Read? Remember to be yourself, and think first of the patient!
8. Sit in a chair instead of the patient’s bed. When you’re in pain, any movement is very uncomfortable, so sitting on a bed may cause discomfort.
9. Refrain from comparing illnesses. Your story, stories of relatives, newspaper/magazine articles, or movies might not be all that comforting. You do this in an effort to relate, but it’s usually not helpful.
10. Keep the visit short. This varies with the individual. Anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes is appropriate. It takes a lot of energy to make conversation, so be sensitive.
What experiences have you had — good or bad — with either visiting or being visited in the hospital?