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Some hospital patients require more individual attention than doctors and nurses can provide. Hospital sitters fill the void by providing non-medical care, such as comforting patients, alerting medical staff to urgent patient needs and monitoring the level of service from healthcare providers. Some hospital sitters are privately hired by patients or their families, but others are employed by third-party service providers or the hospitals where they work.
Most employers require hospital sitters to have at least a GED or high school diploma, but some require a college degree or limit positions to individuals enrolled in accredited medical programs. Experience working in a medical setting may not be required, but applicants with such experience may be given preference. Before hospital sitters are left alone with patients, some employers require them to complete orientation or a training program, and to pass a criminal background check.
More Than Just Sitting
Hospital sitters need to be in good physical condition to meet the demands of the job. Patients may be substance abusers, delirious or suicidal, and the hospital sitter may have to take action to ensure that these individuals do not hurt themselves or remove medical equipment. Other patients rely on their hospital sitters to run errands. In the event of an emergency, a hospital sitter needs to be able to promptly seek assistance.
Communication is Key
Good communication skills are essential. A hospital sitter must interact with patients from diverse backgrounds in a caring and respectful way, and maintain a professional demeanor while interacting with patients' families, visitors and co-workers. Hospital sitters must be able to relay messages between hospital staff and patients who are, in some cases, suffering from confusion. They need good writing and reading skills, because some patients ask hospital sitters to read to them. Some employers, meanwhile, require documentation about patients' progress and the level of care they receive from the medical staff.
Providing Responsible Care
Hospital sitters must always provide dedicated, responsible care. They must be able to follow oral and written directions, and respect employer and hospital policies, such as confidentiality agreements. Even when patients are asleep, depressed or unconscious, a hospital sitter cannot take naps or pass time with distracting activities, such as watching TV or talking on the phone. It's important to be attentive at all times and to provide the level of care appropriate for each patient's age and condition. Sometimes, it may be necessary to console sick children who do not have family members to visit them, while other patients may need support coping with terminal illnesses.
Hospital sitters are commonly hired on a pooled or on-call basis, which requires a flexible schedule. Shifts can include evenings, nights, weekends or holidays, and may range from eight to 12 hours. Sometimes, hospital sitters are required to float between hospitals. Although some employers allow hospital sitters to pick up only the shifts they want, others require working a minimum number of shifts to keep the job.
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- Angelo State University: Career Development Services: Hospital Sitters
- St. Lukes Medical Center: Job: Hospital Sitter Float Pool
- Caring.com: Hospital Sitters: The Little-Known & Invaluable Resource for Hospitalized Alzheimer's & Dementia Patients
- Hudson Valley Hospital Center: Nursing Administration: Sitters
Felicia Dye graduated from Anne Arundel Community College with an associate's degree in paralegal studies. She began her writing career specializing in legal writing, providing content to companies including Internet Brands and private law firms. She contributes articles to Trace 775.com.