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Mental Health Direct Observation by Adult Visitor

Article Translations: (Spanish) (Hmong) (Somali)


Bringing your child to the hospital while they are experiencing a mental or behavioral health challenge can be very stressful and scary. While you are here, we want to help ensure your child is safe by partnering with you to never leave them alone. We need your help to provide constant direct observation of your child.

What is direct observation?

Direct observation means that your child must be within your eyesight and have your attention at all times. You need to observe their hands to help make sure they are not preparing to or harming you or themselves.

What must I do while providing direct observation of my child?

  • Watch your child’s hands. Make sure they are only playing with things they could not cut or otherwise hurt themselves on.
  • Never leave your child alone, not even when they are going to the bathroom.
  • While you may have your cell phone in your pocket for alerts, please call your nurse using the nurse call button before you step out of the room to reply to a text or make a phone call.
  • Lock all other belongings, including laptops and tablets, in one of the lockers provided to you.
  • Using the nurse call button, call your nurse if you need to leave the room for any reason (to go to the bathroom, eat, etc.).
  • Call your nurse right away if you are worried that you are not able to keep your child safe.

What if I am tired and need to sleep while I am observing my child?

Call your nurse to help find a different plan for direct observation to help keep your child safe.

What is a safer room?

You may hear the health care team talking about “safer rooms.” In these rooms, special actions are taken to keep a safe environment for your child. Some of these may include:

  • Your child will be given hospital-approved clothing that will be worn throughout the stay.
  • A light must be on at all times for you or staff to be able to observe your child.
  • Hazardous items, such as sharp objects, cords, and plastic bags have been removed from the room or secured.
  • No personal computers, tablets, or other personal electronic devices are allowed in the safe room. The patient may not have their mobile phone.
  • Only plastic forks and spoons may be used for meals. No soda cans, metal water bottles, or glass bottles are allowed.
  • No gifts.
  • No bags or purses may be in the room. A locked space is available to you.
  • Your child cannot leave the room, except to go to the bathroom, unless they go with a staff member for a test or procedure. You must go with your child into the bathroom.
  • Activities are limited to those approved by the hospital social worker.

Who can provide direct observation?

A legal guardian or a caregiver identified by the legal guardian who is 18 years or older may provide direct observation. This person must be able to stay with the patient and be attentive to the patient at all times.

If your child does best without you or your designated caregiver’s presence, we may be able to support them by providing direct observation in another way. Children’s staff also reserves the right to change plans for providing observation and decline or remove a guardian/designee providing direct observation at any time.


This information is not specific to your child but provides general information. If you have any questions, please ask your nurse, social worker, or provider.

Updated 2/2022

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This page is not specific to your child, but provides general information on the topic above. If you have any questions, please call your clinic. For more reading material about this and other health topics, please call or visit Children's Minnesota Family Resource Center library, or visit

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