Preparing for Surgery When You Can’t Have Visitors

The thought of not having someone with you when you go in for surgery can be scary. Here are 5 things to consider if this is causing you anxiety over a much needed procedure.

As part of their COVID-19 precautions, many hospitals and medical facilities around the country are implementing restricted visitor policies. This can mean anything from permitting only one designated visitor per patient to not allowing visitors at all. These strict visitor policies are intended to protect staff and patients, and slow the spread of the virus. Despite their good intentions, these policies don't necessarily make it any easier for you as a patient.

After all, having a loved one by your side before and after surgery can be incredibly comforting—and useful. Your loved one can help advocate for your needs, arrange the necessary steps for discharge, and even help you recover following your procedure by asking your medical team instructions on:

  • Handling medications
  • Providing physical assistance
  • Scheduling follow-up appointments

The thing is, you may not want to delay or put off something like a knee, hip, ankle, or shoulder replacement if you can help it, even if there are restricted visitor policies at your surgical facility. The pain and dysfunction you experience due to chronic joint pain can be incredibly debilitating. Plus, many surgeons are now resuming elective surgeries, so this may be a good opportunity to get your joint replacement rescheduled.1

So, what to do?

Even if your loved ones can't be right by your side during, or right after your surgery, you don't have to feel like you're facing everything on your own. Here are 5 things that may help during these unusual times:

1. Come prepared to your preoperative visit

Whether it's in-person or via telehealth/remote care, your preoperative appointment with your surgeon is a valuable opportunity to get answers to any questions you have. So you’re prepared for your appointment, brainstorm questions with your loved ones ahead of time and write them down so you won't forget to ask them during your visit. The more you know about your operation and what to expect, the better prepared you'll feel when the time comes to head to the hospital.

2. Consider outpatient surgery

Talk to your doctor, if you're an appropriate candidate, you may be able to have your surgery done in an outpatient clinic or ambulatory surgery center (asc). These outpatient procedures are often done in smaller stand-alone facilities dedicated solely to orthopedic procedures like hip, knee, ankle, or shoulder replacements. 

3. Pack appropriately

Surround yourself with things you love and that’ll keep you entertained as you recover from your surgery. Suggested items to bring with you include:

  • Comfortable clothes and shoes
  • Electronic devices and their chargers (extended chargers if possible)
  • Books, magazines, or arts and craft supplies
  • A few photos of your loved ones
  • Writing material (for jotting down questions, medical information, or even sending letters to your family and friends)

4. Use video calling services

Video calling services like FaceTime and Zoom are great ways to "see" your loved ones even when they're still back at the house getting things ready for you. Video calling can also be useful if your medical provider—such as a nurse, physical therapist, or occupational therapist—needs to do patient and caregiver training with you and your loved one.

5. Get to know your medical team

The number one priority of your healthcare team is to keep you safe. One study shows that having a positive provider-patient relationship can improve outcomes, so building a good rapport matters, too.2 Find ways to bond with your medical team, such as sharing about your family members, favorite hobbies, and so on. A little connection can go a long way.

It’s ok to feel nervous about not being able to have visitors before or after a surgery. At the end of the day, you’re the one who will need to decide if the anxiety you feel about not having visitors is enough to keep you living in pain. Talk to your doctor about how you’re feeling. Likely, they hear similar concerns from other patients and may be able to help you decide what’s the best course of action for you.

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  1. (2020, Apr 17). Local resumption of elective surgery guidance. American College of Surgeons.
  2. Kelley, J., et. al. (2014, Apr 9). The influence of the patient-clinician relationship on healthcare outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. PLoS One. 9(4).

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