Visit in the ICU are in fashion. 
At least an increase of interest about the subject is verifiable.

But we are probably  retarded in these aspects in the ICU, because in many cases we continue to maintain restrictive policies introduced in the last century. Policies that do not support a deep discussion with the same archaic arguments which were used at the time to establish them and that, surprisingly, are still using to justify that restriction.

Perhaps this subject looks like something new but in fact it is anything original. Multitude of authors in the last two decades have written about this topic.

And some even have transcended the concept of “visits” (as an exhibition) to consider the family as an active part of the decisions and the care of their relatives.

Perhaps, to increase visits without further more can make little sense. And that is why the term “visit” probably is not the most appropriate to refer to the need for family members to spend time with their sick family member:

They need to accompany and feel productive in the accompaniment.

More than one decade ago my friend Carmen, of the ICU of the Hospital Universitario Virgen de Valme in Sevilla, conducted a study published in Enfermería Intensiva Journal that wanted to assess the results that a program of participation of family members in certain care that did not require a professional preparation would have: “Family involvement in the critically ill patient basic care”.

Already in 2003, Carmen we reported that:

  • “The levels of anxiety in the family improve with the open visit policies and the participation of the family in basic care.
  • Cognitive status does not change after the intervention.
  • Nurse adapts to changes and improves their beliefs in a progressive way.”

Unfortunately, that message is still not fit enough and we continue disregarding a  demand for many patients and their families who, by the way, are simply intended to continue: They are families and not visitors.

And although this study was carried out many years ago, it is always good to look back to illustrate the discussions in which we are immersed and to thank Carmen for helping to open up the mind.

José Manuel Velasco.