The compassion of Jesus Christ is something witnessed throughout the Scriptures (Mt. 9:36; Jas. 5:11) and something expected among His followers (1 Sam. 23:21; Mt. 9:13, 18:27; Phil. 2:1; Col. 3:12). I think we’d all agree that perhaps the greatest act of compassion is to visit someone in the hospital, yet I think we’d all agree that the most challenging part of this endeavor is knowing how to act and what to say when we arrive.
Recently the elders were visited by Jersey Shore hospital Chaplin, David Cotton. He passed along some great advice that I believe will also arm you with some relevant tips to make your visitations as pleasant and meaningful as possible.
1. Pray that the Lord will use you as a channel of His strength and peace.
2. Study with your eyes the context of the situation when you enter the room. Shape your intentions and disposition to the particular environment. Let the patient’s needs dictate your agenda.
3. If it is not obvious, remind the individual who you are and why you came to visit. It is estimated that the average hospital patient sees seventeen visitors in his or her room each day.
4. Keep your visit brief, but not rushed. Fifteen minutes is an appropriate stay.
5. Remember, not all patients necessarily want to simply be “cheered up.”
6. Make it your priority to listen!
7. Read Scripture with the individual. Perhaps share what you are personally studying or a recent sermon you heard from the church. You don’t need a formal Bible lesson customized to the particular situation! Keep it short and to the point.
8. Sit down close to the patent’s bed, but do not sit on the bed.
9. Touch or hold the patient’s hand if you feel it is appropriate.
10. If the television is on, politely request to turn it off.
11. Rather than ask, “How are you feeling?” it is better to ask, “How is your day going?”
12. Talk about the person’s health concern, but try to take the conversation to a spiritual level that transcends the customary “chit-chat.” “What has God been teaching you?” “Are you worried about anything?” “How are you responding to this trial?” “Where is your source of strength and hope?” “How may I pray for you?”
13. Offer to pray with the patient and the other visitors that might be in the room.
14. If the situation is dire, move the patient from “giving up” to “letting go.”
15. Speak only what you are able to deliver. If you promise a return visit on a certain day and certain time, it is essential that you follow through!
16. Information about your visit should be shared only on a need-to-know basis.
May the Lord use all of us at Grace to be a tool to shepherd those in the hospital with the love, friendship, compassion, mercy, encouragement and hope of Jesus Christ!