Tuesday, September 14, 2010

From the Other Side of the Hospital Bed

As a minister, I have made trips to the hospital many times. I have rejoiced those who are celebrating the birth of a child and I have cried with those mourning the loss of a loved one. I have sat at the bedside of those battling cancer and I have prayed with those who are scared of what the doctor is going to say. But last weekend I was given a new perspective. I was the one in the hospital bed.

I first want to say that I appreciate all the love and support that was given to me by those who called, visited, emailed, texted, facebooked, and prayed. But I also experienced a few things that were not so positive. For years I have had people say to me that people with good intentions often said and did discouraging things while they were in the hospital. After this past weekend I can say that this is true. And I do not write this as a rant, but as to teach.

So after my experience over the weekend, and years of people telling me of their experiences, here are a few pointers if you have a loved one or a friend in the hospital:
• Keep visits short. Normally the patient will be tired from tests and/or medication.

• During the visit, focus your attention on the patient. Talk to them, not about them to others in the room.

• Do not give reasons why you think they may be in the hospital. Even if you think they brought it on themselves because of stress or lifestyle, it is probably best you keep that information to yourself. Job’s three friends did great until they started telling him why he was sick. Then in 16:2 Job refers to them as “miserable comforters.” They best thing you can do for someone is be there. You don’t have to say everything you think.

• Be careful about using sarcastic humor. Sometimes the patient may not be in the mood for joking and humor and may take it more personally than you intended.

• Be patient with the patient. Don’t lecture them or get frustrated with them even if you think they are being crabby or feeling sorry for themselves. If you have not been in their shoes, you have no idea what they are feeling.

This experience has made me see some changes I need to make when I go visit others. It has also helped me to see I need to do a better job not making excuses and just go. Now that I have been in those shoes (actually brown socks with sticky stuff on the bottom) I have a new perspective. I hope all who read this will take it with the spirit intended. Not as a rant, but as an opportunity to teach and help us all better learn to “encourage one another—and all the more as
you see the Day approaching. (Heb. 10:25)”


  1. Another thing to remember is that sometimes the person in the hospital only wants company of the silent type.

  2. That was one of my points with Jobs 3 friends. It's only when they opened their mouth that they messed up.

  3. I spent a night in the hospital a couple of year ago and had similar observations. I had often wondered about the folks who didn't want visitors. I came to understand that. I got to be a regular church member for less than 24 hours: didn't really want company, pleased with the ones who came for a brief visit and the chance to harbor resentment for those who didn't come visit or check on me.