How to Visit Someone in the Hospital
Hospitals creep me out. I never spent much time in hospitals until I got married. My wife was born with a genetic lung disease and has spent ample time in and out of hospitals. After we got married we have occasionally had to go into the hospital so that the doctors could provide her the care she needed.
We’ve all been there. A loved one from our family, friends, or home group winds up in the hospital and we feel the desire to go and visit them. We want to communicate that the person is (or people are) loved, that we are praying for them, and that we want to bless and encourage them, but how do we do that?
Between being in the hospital with my wife, making hospital visitations as a pastor, and traveling with my father as he made his pastoral hospital visits while I was growing up, I wanted to help you learn how you can use hospital visits to show love, encourage, and demonstrate the gospel to those you are visiting. So, here are ten quick tips for a good hospital visit.
1. Communicate You are Coming. Patients are put on schedules when admitted into the hospital, and that schedule exists to maximize the efficiency of the medical care they are receiving. You will serve them well by making sure you are coming at a time that won’t interrupt their care.
2. Come in Small Groups. Hospital rooms are not large. Most rooms can comfortably contain 3-4 visitors at a time. It is more encouraging for the person to receive a few visitors multiple times during a hospital stay, than to receive 15 people all at once.
3. Ask if You can Bring Something. If you have the means to pick up something (meal, coffee, snack, or flowers), offer to bring something to the patient or their spouse. A gift from the outside world can be a fun way to bless the people you are visiting.
4. Prepare Your Heart before Entering. Depending on the situation you are walking into, you might need to take a moment before coming into the hospital room to compose yourself, prepare your heart, pray for the person, or ask the LORD for compassion. Don’t ever enter a hospital room expecting a nice, tidy, put together situation.
5. Be Yourself. If you are generally a sober serious friend, don’t go all “Patch Adams” on the patient. If you are a jokester, don’t feel like if the patient laughs they might pull a muscle. Unless the situation is dire, and sometimes it is, feel free to be yourself and give your friend or family member the best of you.
6. Keep It Brief. Unless the patient has asked you to stay for an extended period of time, a reasonable suggestion is staying for 15-20 minutes.
7. Ask Questions. You don’t have to pretend that they aren’t in a hospital. Ask the patient or family questions about the condition, but don’t offer your own diagnosis or critique the treatment that is being provided. Unless you are a medical professional, they need you to listen, not call into question the work being done by nurses and doctors.
8. Encourage with the Gospel. After listening to the patient and/or their family describe the condition and needs, encourage them with the Gospel. If the patient or their family are unbelievers, this is a wonderful opportunity to stress that only those in Christ have hope in their suffering. If the patient or their family are believers, then remind them that God has been and will always be faithful to His covenant people. I often remind them of scripture like Psalm 27, Psalm 42, and 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.
9. Pray with Them. Before you leave, conclude your time with them in prayer. If able, I encourage you to lay hands on them and be confident to pray for God to heal them.
10. Send a Message Later. Follow up your visit with a quick text message or email affirming your availability to serve them in any way they feel is necessary. Also, set a reminder in your phone for the next seven days to pray for them. When you pray on those days, message them and let them know that you just prayed.
You have a unique opportunity to minister to people when they are in the hospital. Be confident knowing that God will provide you with the words to say and a heart that is willing to listen to the groans of those who suffer.