Sitting on a patient’s bed, by visitors or doctors, is prohibited by infection control

Iona Heath, general practitioner from London comments on this issue in BMJ:

"I learnt recently from senior nursing colleagues that sitting on a patient’s bed, by either visitors or clinicians, is now also prohibited, apparently in the interests of infection control. A quick internet search of "sitting on the bed" and "infection control" produces a huge list of leaflets from a variety of hospitals, each reinforcing the prohibition.

Doctors should never be discouraged from sitting, because patients consistently estimate that they have been given more time when the doctor sits down rather than stands. Standing makes the conversation seem hurried even when it is not; and, in the hospital setting, sitting on the chair does not seem to work nearly as well, because the levels are somehow all wrong."

Sitting on a chair next to the patient's bed is the best approach.

Do not sit on the bed -- Heath 340: c1478 -- BMJ.
Image source:, public domain.

1 comment:

  1. "Sitting on a chair next to the patient's bed is the best approach."

    I never knew, until about two years ago, of the importance of this little sentence. I did an internship in a hospice while graduating as an RN. I was with the physician in a room where a new patient was going to be spending his last months and she was actually thinking of where to sit, so she could address both patient and family in the most convenient way during the first they were going to have. I also was there when the actual conversation was taking place and the sheer rest the physician radiated was inspiring. Now of course that is not only about sitting down, but without it, so I guess, it would've been impossible.

    About two years later I myself needed urgent hospital care during which my lookout on the future was thoroughly destroyed. (when you're still in your twenties, that's a bit of a bummer). Of the gazillion doctors I saw during the first three weeks in hospital, there was ONE who sat down at my bedside.

    I should also stress that, sitting aside, I received excellent care.

    Btw: did you know that when shooting scenes for films directors make us of our predisposition for 'eyelevel contact'? Dialogues that are supposed to be 'good' get the eyes on the same level, while 'stressfull' dialogues use eyes on different heights on the screen.