The Psychological Impact of Visitor Restrictions on End-of-Life Patients Open Access

Boyd, Pamela L. (Spring 2022)

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As healthcare facilities instituted restrictive visitation policies, designed to slow the transmission of the Coronavirus, many patients were separated from family, friends, clergy, and loved ones. This was one of the most devastating features of the Coronavirus pandemic: end-of-life patients were left to die without the comforting presence of those who were closest to them. In this project, I explore the psychological impact of visitor restrictions for end-of-life patients, their families, medical staff, and chaplains at Vidant Medical Center, where I serve as a palliative care chaplain. I begin with a description of this setting and the way visitation policies were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. While my study is focused on my own context, concern about the impact of COVID-era visitor restrictions is widespread. I discuss some of the emerging research in this area in the literature review section. Then, drawing on six interviews conducted in November 2021 with Vidant Medical Center palliative care staff about their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic, I show that restricted visitation has an impact on patients. I also show that VMC’s visitor restrictions affected family members perhaps as much as patients, and that they also affected staff. Understanding the impact of these policies is important for the health and welfare of patients, but has wider implications for healthcare institutions, clinicians, and spiritual care providers, as well. I conclude by discussing some of my recommendations in light of these findings.

Table of Contents

Introduction Institutional and Community Context Hospital Restrictions in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic Literature Review Methodology Findings from Interviews Biblical and Theological Assessment Implications and Recommendations

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