Visiting Patients During Chemotheraphy


After yesterday’s chemo treatment, I thought that I should write this post today regarding visiting patients while they undergo their chemotherapy. During my time at the clinic I have found myself on numerous occasions being irritated by visitors for a number of reasons.

I first want to describe the room for you, give you an idea of those in the room, and how busy the place is. Please bear with me as I paint this picture for you and then we will get to my reason for writing this post about visiting patients. I kindly ask that you please have patience and that you read this through…

For those who have not been to a treatment room, it is a fairly large room with the treatment chairs in a “U” formation (in my clinic there are 10 chairs) around the perimeter of the room. All of these chairs are recliners so they are fairly big chairs. Next to the chairs are the IV poles that have two monitors on them with a circular tray below that is the same size as the stand. They take up room! A patient and an IV pole is the width of two people. Here is a sample photo of what a room looks like.

A chemo room in Littleton, CO - Photo courtesy of MyLittletonHospital.org

A chemo room in Littleton, CO – Photo courtesy of MyLittletonHospital.org

Situated in this area is a huge nursing station central to the “U.”Now around the nursing station are numerous carts and some chairs for visitors to use crowding the room even further.

Behind this is the room where the meds are, and there are two hallways: One to the restroom for the chemo patients and the other to the Dr.’s suite of offices and additional rooms for certain procedures. (Side note: Please ask your visitors to use the other restroom as they can inadvertently get a chemo treatment from using the restroom in the treatment room.) There is also a station for patient’s that has a refrigerator for juices and water, and items that they can snack on if they need to.

As a patient undergoing chemo, if this is your first visit you are anxious and nervous. I actually had to be giving Ativan to help with these feelings because my pulse and heart rate were elevated. Other patients might have had a bad night or are not reacting well from the chemo, and they are tired and feeling ill. You can just see it in their faces. Others are full of energy and doing well with treatment.

In the clinic that I go to, at any given time there are seven nurses taking care of patients. The two Dr.’s at this clinic come in and out as needed, as do their support team. So the room is bustling.

What I want to write about, and I am sorry it took so long to get to this, is visitor courtesy in the chemo treatment room.

The reason I say this is yesterday all the chairs were full. This is the first time I have seen this. As a chair was vacated, a new patient was settled in.

When visiting a patient, please remember that the person you are visiting is not the only one in the room. Look around the room and take a good look at rest of us. We are not important to you, only the one you are visiting is. Do not keep a blind eye and really look around and see the nervousness and anxiety in those newcomers faces. Look around and take notice of the tiredness in some of the faces. Look around and take notice that there are patients sleeping.

One of the most important things that I ask of you visitors, on behalf of myself and others, is that you use quiet voices as you visit. I found myself drifting off to sleep, which was much needed, as the drugs can make you sleepy. I was woken up by loud boisterous laughter that one would expect to find in a bar, not in a chemotherapy treatment room. This is not the first time I have experienced this. As a patient, if you would please speak to those who visit with you, kindly ask them to keep their voices down.

If they need to take a call on their cell phone, please ask them to take the call outside of the treatment room. For some reason, when a person gets a cell phone call, they talk louder than normal. No one needs to hear the visitor describing for 20 minutes how to handle something at the office, or about who did what to whom.

Yesterday, visitors were so loud that the nurses had to shout just to hear each other, and the information they are sharing is important to the patients!

You know that guy who speaks so loudly because he wants everyone to hear what he has to say, not that what he has to say is truly important, please remind him that this clinic is no different than being in a ward in a hospital and ask him to tone it down.

Now as a patient there are times when you have to use the restroom. For those visiting please be aware of your surroundings and move out of the way when you see a patient walking your direction with their fully loaded IV pole. Please make room for them to get around you. Some patients have to get to that restroom quickly.

When you come and go, watch where you are walking. All patients have needles in them with IV tubes. Most patients have the foot rest up to be comfortable. When you knock into the chair, you jostle the needle and it hurts! So please watch where you are walking.

As I also mentioned, there is a snack and juice bar for the patients to use. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen visitors having “lunch” at one of those stations. That costs us as patients more for your grazing. It gets embedded in what we are charged for by the clinic. If you are a patient, gently remind your visitor that this is not for them to eat.

What this all boils down to is courtesy. On behalf of me and other cancer patients going through chemotherapy, please speak softly, laugh softly, be aware of your surroundings, and eat breakfast or lunch before visiting.

Thank you!

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6 thoughts on “Visiting Patients During Chemotheraphy

  1. I am so sorry that you even have to write a post about inappropriate people. What has happened to common courtesy? I love you and I hope that you do not have to deal with this again.

  2. Well said, Jane. I can certainly understand how annoying the behavior you describe must be. The visitors may be feeling a lot of anxiety about the chemo their loved ones are undergoing, but that’s no excuse for being inconsiderate of the other patients. I’m glad you described the setup of the room, so we can better understand what you’re experiencing. I hope all goes well for you today. Hugs.

  3. At M D Anderson, they have private rooms for the patients. There is a TV & the patient is in a hospital bed & there is a chair for one visitor. I normally go to sleep after getting the benadryl. Last Wed, I was finished in a little over 3 hours (getting Rituxan) & I probably slept for at least 2 hours.

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