As a writer, for authenticity and to avoid distracting errors, I need to portray my story setting correctly. For example, I live in the UK and need to know whether guests can tay overnight at hospitals in the USA:

Character A is in a serious accident and is rushed to the hospital while unconscious. His significant other (Character B) is contacted and told he is in hospital.

Would character B be allowed to stay in the hospital overnight with the unconscious character A once he is stable? Sorry, this is so specific, but google was very vague and only supplied answers for planned overnight visits or specific locations instead of in general.

What is the best way to gather this information and create an authentic setting?

  • 3
    I think it's almost impossible to know this without knowing the exact nature of the injury, and the specific policies of the hospital in question. (Different hospitals have different policies.) It could also be influenced by the sympathies of specific staff members. In short, I don't think anybody can answer this. You can probably make anything you want happen in any story you write. – Jason Bassford Jul 9 '20 at 5:09
  • sharp.com/hospitals/memorial/…. – rolfedh Jul 9 '20 at 12:04
  • For the purpose of storybuilding - yes, this is absolutely plausible. And the opposite (visitors are allowed for limited visits only) is plausible too. For the purpose of knowing the policy in a particular hospital (and particular patient's case) - no, can't really tell. – Alexander Jul 9 '20 at 17:00
  • @S.Mitchell - I rephrased the question to make it relevant to a wider audience. I request that we reverse our close votes. – rolfedh Jul 10 '20 at 14:33
  • @user45032 I hope you don't mind: I rephrased your question to make it more widely useful to other writers. – rolfedh Jul 10 '20 at 14:47

If you can't visit in person, I recommend setting up remote interviews with first-hand participants in the environment you are writing about.

For example, to create a realistic hospital setting, I'd recommend interviewing former inpatients and nursing staff. If you have a specific region (e.g., Los Angeles) in mind, you could post a notice on the LA craigslist.com or maybe nextdoor.com. Announce that you are researching for a writing project and ask for volunteers to contribute their stories. Include notes about any specific aspects you're interested in, such as staying overnight. Promise anonymity. Avoid offering financial compensation: You'll get fewer volunteers - but they're more likely to be real ones.

Side note about the differences in our healthcare landscapes: I'm guessing that the UK's NHS has policies that apply equally to most hospitals. In contrast, hospitals in the US are run by a patchwork of non-public healthcare organizations. Each organization has its own policies. Although these policies vary, they are driven by many of the same financial, legislative, and legal considerations.


I worked at two different hospitals. Both used a visiting hour policy, but made exceptions as long as everyone was relatively quiet. Most exceptions involve coming to life and death: our labor and delivery only allowed 1 or 2 visitors so everyone else stays in the waiting room until they can see the baby through glass, hospice wards are similar except a few people can be in the room with the patient.

Most general floors are more strict with visiting hours. There are always exceptions based on individual staff members and extenuating circumstances of the family. Some hospitals have rooms for family or doctors on call where they can sleep overnight.

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