In response to COVID-19, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine issued an order on March 17 postponing all elective surgery statewide. Exceptions were allowed for essential operations, such as for cancer or emergencies. New visitor restriction rules were implemented at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center on March 20. With few exceptions, no visitors were allowed in the hospital beyond the first postoperative day following surgery.
Ohio State surgical oncologist Jordan Cloyd, MD, and trauma surgeon Heena Santry, MD, recognized the unexpected change in protocol as an opportunity to better understand how caregiver and visitor support impacts surgical patient experiences and recovery. In their study, “Impact of Visitor Restriction Rules on the Postoperative Experience of COVID-19 Negative Patients Undergoing Surgery,” the co-investigators interviewed patients who underwent surgery immediately before and after implementation of the visitor restrictions rules in order to compare patient-reported outcomes using validated instruments.
“We know that surgery can be an anxiety-provoking experience for patients,” says Dr. Cloyd. “Following surgery, patients must not only manage the symptoms of the surgery itself, but also the disruption in their normal daily routine, loss of independence and unfamiliarity with the hospital environment.” Such close juxtaposition of patient experiences—with visitors pre-pandemic and without visitors during the pandemic—created a unique window for understanding. As Dr. Santry explains, “The results of this study will not only elucidate the importance of caregiver involvement in the postoperative period, but also identify opportunities for improving the patient experience during challenging times of social upheaval.”