ACU isolation to help prevent infection


Many St. Jude patients are at greater risk for infection. For the safety of all patients, please tell the staff about any illness your child might have that could be spread to others (contagious).

  • In the last 14 days, has your child been exposed to chickenpox (varicella) or another virus that spreads easily from person to person?
  • Does your child have symptoms of a cold or the flu, such as fever, cough, or runny nose?
  • Does your child have unexplained diarrhea, vomiting, or rashes?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, a St. Jude clinical staff member needs to examine your child before you allow him to be near other St. Jude patients.

What is isolation?

Isolation means keeping a person who has an infection away from other patients. Staff members will use isolation to fight the spread of known infections. The treatment team for your child’s primary clinic will tell you if they must isolate your child.

St. Jude has an isolation area in the Ambulatory Care Unit (ACU) for children who have illnesses that could spread to others. The isolation rooms have negative pressure air-handling systems. Negative pressure helps keep the air in the isolation room from flowing outside the room and possibly into other areas of the hospital. In this way, the system helps prevent the spread of airborne infections to other patients. For this air-handling system to work well, the door to each isolation room must be kept closed. Not all patients with an illness that could be spread to others need to be seen in negative pressure rooms.

Scheduling an isolation visit

If you suspect that your child might have an illness that could spread to others, a clinical staff member must examine your child before he comes near other patients. When it is time for your child to return to St. Jude, call the nurse scheduler in your child’s clinic and tell that staff member about the illness. If needed, the nurse scheduler will plan an ACU isolation visit for your child. If you are calling after normal clinic hours, ask to speak to the nursing coordinator.

Housing and getting to the hospital

If you are staying in St. Jude housing, you may be assigned an isolation room, where your child will not be around other patients. This means you and your child might have to leave the room that you were assigned before isolation started. You might be moved to a new room or to another housing facility. For certain types of infections, your child will be admitted to an inpatient isolation room. A Patient Services staff member will explain this process to you.

If the doctor orders isolation for your child, please go to Patient Services as soon as you can to arrange your housing and transportation needs. You will return to regular lodging when your child’s doctor writes an order to stop isolation.

Your child will need private transport to and from the hospital. Please do not use the St. Jude shuttle buses. If you do not have a personal vehicle in Memphis, call Patient Services so they can arrange shuttle or taxi service for you and your child. After hours, the nursing coordinator can arrange transport services.

You might want to bring items with you to help your child pass the time. During an isolation visit, your child will not be able to visit the outpatient waiting rooms or play areas. Remember to clean or wash these items before and after the visit.

Isolation entrances

Arriving at the hospital

You will enter the hospital by using the isolation entrance instead of walking through the Patient Care Center lobby. You will find the isolation entrance at the northwest corner of the Patient Care Center, where the driveway exits the underground, outpatient parking garage.

The isolation entrance has a set of double doors with glass windows. A sign to the right of those doors says, “Isolation Entrance.” The automatic doors open to a small waiting area. After you enter this waiting area, you need to call your child’s primary clinic, so a staff member can open the second set of doors and take you to an isolation room. On weekends and after 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, you should call extension 2441 to open the second set of doors. If you do not get an answer, call extension 4444 for help. These telephone numbers are posted beside the telephone, which is located just inside the door on the left wall.

Please do not park in front of the entrance doors or where the curb is painted yellow. If you are the only adult with your child, you may bring the child inside and call a staff member who will stay with your child until you can park your car.

Another isolation entrance is located on the south side of the Kmart St. Jude Life Center, where the driveway passes the front of the building and goes to the patient parking lot. The entrance has a single glass door and after you enter, you can use the telephone to call a staff member to help you. You may be asked by a staff member to use this entrance if your child needs to be seen in this building.

Your child's isolation visit

If you arranged an isolation visit and you received your child’s schedule card before arriving at the hospital, it will say “ACU isolation” instead of listing appointment locations. The card will also give a time estimate for the entire clinic visit. If you do not know which isolation entrance your child should use, ask the nurse scheduler.

When your child has an ACU isolation visit, most of his tests and exams will be done in one of the ACU isolation rooms. If an isolation room is not open or not needed, the staff might dress your child in a gown and facemask to transport him to a regular clinic room. With this protective wear, your child can be seen in a regular clinic room.

Some tests and exams, such as CT scans and MRIs, cannot be done in an isolation room. If your child needs one of these tests, a staff member will dress your child in a gown and facemask before taking him to the testing area. Because you have been exposed to your child’s illness, you might be asked to wear a gown, facemask, and gloves as you walk through the hospital with your child.

When your child’s clinic visit is complete, you will leave the hospital through the isolation entrance.

Your child’s St. Jude visits will continue this way until a member of your primary clinic treatment team tells you that the doctor has ended the isolation order.

Keeping hands clean

If your child is being isolated because of a suspected virus, please clean your hands and your child’s hands often to prevent the spread of infection to yourself, your family members, and other St. Jude patients. For some infections, the staff might ask you to use soap and water instead of alcohol-based hand cleaners. This is because not all bacteria are killed by alcohol. Sometimes rubbing your hands with soap and water is the only way to remove certain germs.


To learn more about using isolation to help prevent infection, talk to your child’s clinic doctor or nurse. If you think your child might have been exposed to an illness that could spread to other patients, please call before coming to the hospital. A nursing coordinator is always here to answer your questions and address your concerns. Call 901-595-3300 and ask for the nursing coordinator. If you are outside the Memphis area, dial toll-free 1-866-2STJUDE (1-866-278-5833).


This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.

St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.

ATTENTION: If you speak another language, assistance services, free of charge, are available to you. Call 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

ATENCIÓN: si habla español, tiene a su disposición servicios gratuitos de asistencia lingüística. Llame al 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

تنبيه: إذا كنت تتحدث باللغة العربية فيمكنك الاستعانة بخدمات المساعدة اللغوية المتوفرة لك مجانا. .يرجى الاتصال بالرقم. 5833-278-866-1  (الهاتف النصي: 1040-595-901-1).