Information for Family and Friends for the Day of Surgery

Time to Read: About 4 minutes

This information explains what to expect on the day your friend or family member has surgery at MSK’s main hospital.

Because of COVID-19, we may change our visitor policy more often than usual. Please visit for the latest information.

Back to top

COVID-19 Information

We understand how important it is to be with your loved one before and after their surgery or procedure. Thank you for your understanding as we do all we can to keep our patients safe.

For everyone’s safety and convenience, visitors should register 1 day before their visit by using our visitor registration form. Visitors must be at least 12 years old.

We screen all visitors for recent COVID-19 symptoms. Anyone who has symptoms will not be allowed to visit.

Patients, visitors, and staff must wear masks in all patient care areas at all times. This includes patient rooms, waiting rooms, and the lobbies of all buildings. Visitors in the cafeteria must wear masks when they are not eating.

Visitors must show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or show proof of a negative result from a COVID-19 PCR test. These tests must be taken no more than 72 hours (3 days) before the visit.

Back to top

Before the Surgery

We will ask the patient for the contact information for the person who will meet with the surgeon after the surgery. This person will also get updates from the nurse liaison during the surgery.

If this is an outpatient procedure, we will ask for the contact information for the person who will take them home. Patients having a procedure with anesthesia (medicine to make you sleep) must have a care partner who will take them home.

Once the patient checks in at the concierge desk, they will go to the Presurgical Center (PSC). There, they will be examined before their surgery. Sometimes, they may need to wait before they are admitted to the PSC.

Patients may have 1 visitor. Visitors can wait in the lobby or cafeteria during the procedure if there is enough room. Otherwise, you must leave MSK until the patient is able to have a visitor after the procedure.

When the operating room (OR) is ready, a member of the surgical team will take the patient into the OR. They will get the patient ready for surgery.

Please remember the following:

  • Do not bring food or drinks to the waiting area. Patients can’t eat or drink before their surgery or procedure.
  • You must show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or show proof of a negative result from a COVID-19 PCR test. These tests must be taken no more than 72 hours (3 days) before the visit.
  • Our patients are at high risk for infection. Please do not visit if you have any COVID-19, cold. or flu symptoms. This includes fever, sneezing, sniffles, or a cough.
  • You must wear a mask.
  • We ask patients not to bring any valuables with them to the hospital. Anything valuable must be left at home or with the care partner.
  • Sometimes surgeries are delayed. We make every effort to tell you when this happens.
Back to top

During the Surgery

After the patient is taken to the OR, please wait in the main lobby on the 1st floor. This is where you will get updates from the nurse liaison. If there is not enough room in the lobby or cafeteria, visitors must leave MSK. They can return when the patient is able to have a visitor after the procedure.

While you’re waiting, here are some things you can do:

  • Food and drinks are available in the cafeteria and gift shop. You can also bring your own food and eat it in the cafeteria.
  • The coat-check room is located at the bottom of the escalator on the ground level. It’s open Monday through Friday from to
  • Wireless Internet access is available in most areas of the hospital. The Wi-Fi network name is MSK_guest. You can also use the computers in the room off the main lobby.
  • Please be respectful of others while using your cellphone. Use the designated area for any calls on your cellphone. It may be helpful to bring your phone charger with you to the hospital.
  • The Mary French Rockefeller All Faith Chapel is an interfaith chapel. It’s in room M106 near the main lobby on the 1st floor. It’s open 24 hours a day for meditation and prayer.
  • The Patient Recreation Pavilion is open daily from to for patients and their visitors. Children are allowed in the pavilion as long as they’re supervised by an adult. The pavilion has arts and crafts, a library, an outdoor area, and scheduled entertainment events. To get to the pavilion, take the M elevators to the 15th floor.

Surgery updates

A nurse liaison will keep you updated on the progress of the patient’s surgery. They will give you information about the patient. The nurse liaison will call a family member’s cellphone to give an update. 

To contact the nurse liaison:

  • From outside of the hospital, call 212-639-2000. Ask for beeper 9000.
  • Ask the information desk staff to contact the nurse liaison for you.
Back to top

After the Surgery

Limited visitors to patients in the Post Anesthesia Care Unit

After surgery, we will take the patient to the Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU). When patients first get to the PACU, they’re often sleepy and want to rest.

We do not allow visitors in the PACU except for certain patients. We allow 1 visitor only if the patient:

  • Is a child.
  • Had outpatient surgery (they go home the same day as their surgery).
  • Has an exemption (permission) to have a visitor.
  • Is only staying in the PACU because MSK has a high census (no beds are available on that floor). If this happens, the patient can have 1 visitor for 30 minutes.

No one is allowed to stay overnight in the PACU with the patient, except for caregivers of pediatric patients.

Please follow these guidelines before your visit in the PACU:

  • Put on an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (such as Purell®) or wash your hands before entering. There are hand sanitizer stations located throughout the hospital.
  • Do not bring food or flowers into the PACU.
    • Flowers can be stored in the flower room located on the entrance floor of the main hospital. Patients usually are allowed to have them once they move to their inpatient room.

While visiting the patient in the PACU:

  • Speak quietly.
  • Respect the privacy of other patients by staying at the bedside of your friend or family member.
  • If any PACU patient needs special nursing attention, we may ask you to leave or delay your visit.
  • After your visit, a staff member will direct you to elevators that will take you to the lobby.

The recovery room

We will give you a phone number to call into the recovery room. When you call, we can update you about the patient’s recovery. If you need more updates from the recovery room, please identify 1 person who will call.

Note: We allow 2 care partners to visit a minor in the recovery room.

As soon as the patient is awake and ready, we will give them their personal belongings, including their phone. If they don’t have a phone, we will give them a way to contact you.


Back to top

Tell us what you think

Tell us what you think

Your feedback will help us improve the educational information we provide. Your care team cannot see anything you write on this feedback form. Please do not use it to ask about your care. If you have questions about your care, contact your healthcare provider.

While we read all feedback, we cannot answer any questions. Please do not write your name or any personal information on this feedback form.

Questions Yes Somewhat No

Last Updated