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The Impact of Coronavirus Disease 2019 Visitor Restrictions on the Attitudes of Emergency Department Staff.

INTRODUCTION: During the first 2 years of the pandemic, visitors for patients with COVID-19 were prohibited from emergency departments in the United States with few exceptions, leaving patients without their caregivers and advocates. Little is known about emergency nurses and nursing assistive personnel beliefs regarding this issue. Therefore, this study's purpose was to describe and assess relationships among emergency nursing and assistive personnel attitudes and perceptions regarding emergency department "no-visitor policies" for patients with COVID-19.

METHODS: This institutional review board-approved observational study was conducted in a health care system in the Southwestern United States. Nursing personnel (n = 180; 21.74% response rate) working in 11 emergency departments completed the survey during the fall of 2021. Bivariate correlations and multivariable linear regression modeling were performed to explore relationships among survey questions.

RESULTS: Most participants (61%) strongly/very strongly believed that restriction of visitors for patients with COVID-19 was necessary for the protection of staff and patients. In addition, 65% reported strongly/very strongly agreeing that it was unethical and 75% felt upset when these patients died alone. Most (81%) strongly/very strongly agreed that exemptions to the policy should be made in some cases, including imminent death. Respondents' recognition of patients' displeasure with visitor policy, recognition that a lack of visitors affected efficiency, and feeling upset when these patients died alone negatively predicted agreement that restriction was necessary.

CONCLUSION: Although most participants favored visitation restrictions for patients with coronavirus disease 2019, their beliefs were complex. Navigating stringent visitation policies and vulnerable patients' needs can result in moral distress for ED personnel.

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