Open and patient-tailored guidelines have been recommended as the preferred visitation model in critical care settings; however, many critical care units continue to restrict visitation.


To determine whether a transition from minimally restrictive to unrestricted visitation hours improves satisfaction of patients’ family members and whether such a transition affects nurses’ satisfaction and nurses’ perceptions of satisfaction among patients’ families.


Using a prospective, observational design in a 24-bed intensive care unit in a tertiary care hospital, validated instruments were used to survey family members visiting patients and all nurses working in the unit before and after a change in the visitation policy. Visitation hour guidelines were changed from closed during nursing hand-off report (3 hours daily) to open at all times, depending on patients’ preference and clinical status.


One hundred three family members (50 before and 53 after the change in visitation guidelines) and 128 nurses (61 before and 67 after the policy change) were surveyed. Unrestricted visitation hours significantly improved family members’ satisfaction with the convenience of visitation hours and waiting room ambiance, and nurses’ perceptions of families’ satisfaction also improved.


Elimination of even minimal restrictions on visitation hours improved family satisfaction and improved nurses’ perceptions of family satisfaction with the visitation policy. Nurses’ satisfaction did not change. These findings support open and patient-centered visitation guidelines in critical care settings.

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