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Visiting policies in acute care institutions affect patients and families. The study sought to answer these questions: What are current hospital visiting policies and accompanying provisions for families? How are nurses implementing these policies? A questionnaire was developed, and reliability and content validity were established. The questionnaire was mailed to a randomly selected, stratified sample of 125 approved hospitals in 10 US states, with a 40% return rate. Consent and anonymity were explained in an accompanying covering letter. Results indicated that there was a wide range of general hospital visiting hours. Limitations on general visiting hours were primarily due to hospital policy (age, children, number of visitors) and nursing judgement (visitor illness, length of visit). General visiting hours and intensive care area visiting hours for paediatric patients were more extensive than for adult patients. Factors which influenced exceptions to visitation policies in intensive care areas focused on patient acuity and patient needs. Recovery room visiting was limited. If the patient was in a private room, visiting hours and provisions for family members were extensive. Provisions for family members of intensive care patients were minimal. Nursing judgement significantly influenced implementation of. visitation policies.