When most people hear the phrase "hire a sitter," they typically think of an evening away from the kids. But LDS Hospital has given new meaning to the the word "sitter" with the introduction of its new Patient Sitter service.

"Some patients become disoriented while in the hospital and need to have someone in the room with them around the clock. This way they won't wake in the middle of the night and unknowingly try to get up, pulling out their IV (intravenous) lines," said Deanna Grimsrud, director of nurse staffing at the hospital and supervisor of the Patient Sitter program."In other cases, patients have undergone medical or surgical procedures that require them to remain in bed. But here again, if they wake up in a strange room, they can easily forget where they are and why they're there. So they may try to get out of bed and possibly re-injure themselves in the process."

Grimsrud added, "Problems like these could be prevented if someone was in the room when the patient woke up who could offer a reassuring word or two."

The sitting concept isn't exactly new. Hospitals traditionally ask family members and friends to stay with patients who are confused and disoriented.

"Yet there are times when either no one is available or those who have been staying with the patient need a break," Grimsrud said.

Because of the state's most severe nursing shortage, assigning a nurse to sit with a patient isn't feasible at LDS or other hospitals.

"We knew there was a better way," Grimsrud said. That better way came about when unit secretaries and messengers had their hours reduced. "We asked them if they would be interested in supplementing their hours by serving as sitters, and several said they would."

Grimsrud said since the sitters aren't providing any kind of medical care, the only extra training they needed was to become certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Each patient or family who hires a sitter is provided with a handout explaining exactly what duties the sitter does and does not perform. "We don't want anyone to be confused about the role of the patient sitter. Each patient continues to receive standard nursing and medical care throughout his or her stay in the hospital. Having a sitter doesn't replace this care in any way," Grimsrud stressed.

Whether a sitter is needed is determined by the doctor or nurses. Other times the family requests one. "Regardless of who does the asking, we're committed to doing everything we can to provide one," Grimsrud said. "Unfortunately, there have been a few times when we've had more requests than we've had sitters. But that's rare.

"We believe this is a great solution to an ongoing problem. And best of all, it's a solution that's good for the patient, for the family and for the hospital."