Video: Limits lifted on ICU visits to kids

By Robert Bazell Chief science and health correspondent
NBC News
updated 8/26/2005 7:35:55 PM ET 2005-08-26T23:35:55

Jennifer Palmer sits by her son Joel’s bedside night and day. Joel has a severely obstructed airway. "Seeing your child hooked up to a bunch of machines is the most intimidating part of it all," says Palmer.

Recently, some medical experts have said that visiting hours in critical areas of hospitals should be abolished — allowing family members at the bedside whenever they want.

Children's Hospitals like Cincinnati Children's have been leading the way with this openness. "I think when families come here, they lose a lot of control, so we bypass that by letting them come in here as much as possible," says Dr. Hector Wong who heads the pediatric unit.

For the nurses and doctors, including the residents and medical students-in-training, practicing in front of families means making decisions in the open.

Sometimes, parents object to medical procedures.

"If a family really lays down and says 'Absolutely not, you cannot do this,' then we do have to kind of re-order what the plan of care is going to be," says Head Nurse Anna Sheets. "There's a lot of anger, there's a lot of hurt, there's just a lot of pain involved when a child is in intensive care unit. Parents demand to know what is going on and you still have other things that need to be done."

"That's a challenge every day,” says Dr. Wong, “to really sit down with them and answer their questions."

The nurses and doctors here say that the presence of family, while challenging, makes for fewer errors and better medical decisions.

And for parents like Jennifer Palmer is makes a very difficult time just a little  easier.

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