Do NOT bring your children to a hospital. Any children under the age of 8 or 9 should be left at home. Not only do they get bored incredibly rapidly in a hospital, but they carry bacteria and other contagions much more efficiently than adults. Patients in a hospital have lowered immune systems and the smallest thing can set their healing process back days or weeks.
Wash your hands constantly. Most hospitals offer hand sanitizers, use them before you enter the room, if you touch anything, especially your nasal area, and after leaving the room. Infections stemming from bacteria living in your nose are the most common and preventable infections. MRSA (Methycillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus) can be carried by anyone and show no symptoms. Most health care workers are carriers for MRSA, but if you have a decent immune system, it can keep it in check. When visiting a sick loved one, touching your nose and then touching them could have bad consequences. Washing your hands is the number one most important thing to do, in hospitals and anywhere else in general.
Don't overuse the call button. It's there for a reason, to call the nurse in an emergency. Remember that you're in a hospital, NOT a hotel. Nurses are not waiters that are to respond to your every whim. If you are in pain, call the nurse, if you are experiencing any heart palpitations, call the nurse, if your cold, call the nurse. Do NOT call the nurse if your food is cold, if a trash can is full, etc. If you treat the staff nicely and don't pester them for silly things, you will receive the best care. You can get bad care in a good hospital. Annoy the heck out of your nurse and see what happens, you're much better off being nice and not a nuisance.
Give the nurses and staff time to respond to a call bell. There are exceptions depending on the floor you're on, but most nurses have between 4 and 10 patients. Yes, they know about your mother's room being cold, but their patient down the hall has a heart rate of 210, and she can't take care of both things at the same time. If your loved one is conscious, talking, laughing and watching TV, they're in better shape than most of the patients in that hospital. Understand that nurse's are busy, some of them will work for 12 hours and not get a meal break and have just enough time for one bathroom break. They are overworked and underpaid, and anything that you can do to make their life easier will be greatly appreciated.
As a visitor, try to limit the number of times you go to the nurse's station to find the nurse. If your loved one needs something like ice water, go to the nurse's station and see if you can get it yourself. Most hospitals will allow you to get supplies like ice and blankets for a patient on your own. Just ask first!
Don't ask the nurse what every drug that the patient is getting does. Hospitals have insane backup systems put in so that your loved one is getting the drugs they need with no interactions to other drugs or their allergies. Pharmacy will have at least two people verify that the order the doctor wrote is right, two people to verify that it's filled correctly, the nurse will match the drug sent with the order, and some hospitals have barcoding systems so they have to scan the patients' wristband and then the drug, and the system will verify that the right drug is being given to the right patient. News shows constantly cover medication errors, and they do happen, but not as frequently as they'd like you to believe, and most of them result in no harm being done to the patient. Keep in mind that the nurse may have 8 patients, but pharmacy is filling orders for 300 or 400 patients, and half of those patients may be critical, meaning they need that order filled as fast as possible. Speed has consequences, but hospitals do everything in their power to eliminate errors.
Nurses are responsible for most of the stuff that you receive while you're in the hospital. Doctors account for very little, a lot of doctors will ask the patient's nurse what they think they should do. The doctor's are seeing 20 or 30 patients, it's hard for them to know the intricacies of the patient, but your nurse knows that you get cold easily, that you like cherry jello, and that salmon is not something you should eat. Trust your nurse, she has a lot more medical knowledge than a lot of doctor's do. Working in the pharmacy in a hospital, I've seen doctor's write orders for patients that would overdose an elephant, and I've seen them write for orders that the patient is allergic to. Nurses know the in's and out's of your patient, doctor's just have to write the prescriptions. Stay on your nurse's good side and you'll get excellent care from the doctors and rest of the staff.
After your loved one is discharged, a letter of thank you to the nurse or hospital floor they were on is an excellent way to improve patient care. Nurses go unrecognized for a lot of things that they do, and a short letter of thanks to a specific nurses or nurses goes a long way. If you're a great patient for a nurse, and you have to come back to that unit, they'll remember you and make sure that you're well taken care of. If you're a pain, they'll remember that too.