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ACU Isolation Precautions


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 the child near other St. Jude patients.

What are isolation precautions?

Isolation precautions are used to keep germs from spreading to others. These precautions sometimes include keeping a person who has certain infections isolated, away from, other patients. If your child needs isolation precautions, your primary clinic team will tell you which type to follow.  

St. Jude has an isolation area in the Ambulatory Care Unit (ACU) for children who have illnesses that are highly contagious, such as chickenpox. 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 illnesses that could be spread to others need to be seen in negative pressure rooms.

The staff will use either restrictive or non-restrictive isolation precautions, depending on the type of illness your child has or might have.

Restrictive isolation precautions mean that your child will not be allowed to visit waiting areas or play areas or ride St. Jude shuttle buses. The four types of restrictive isolation precautions are: special airborne, airborne, droplet restrictive and contact restrictive.

If non-restrictive contact precautions are used, your child will be able to visit waiting rooms, play areas, and public events, and ride St. Jude shuttle buses.

If non-restrictive droplet precautions are used, your child also will be able to visit waiting rooms, play areas, and public events, and ride St. Jude shuttle buses. But, your child must wear a face mask at all times when outside the clinic room.

Scheduling an isolation visit

If you suspect your child might have an illness that could spread to others, a clinical staff member must examine your child before the child gets near other patients. Before coming to St. Jude, call your child’s primary clinic and tell the care team about the illness. The team might ask you to come through the isolation entrance and be placed in an isolation room until they can decide if your child needs to remain on restrictive isolation precautions.

If you are calling after normal clinic hours, ask to speak to the nursing coordinator.

Getting to the hospital

If your child is on restrictive isolation precautions, you 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 Housing and Patient Services at 901-595-4501, so they can arrange shuttle or taxi service for you and your child. After hours, the nursing coordinator can arrange transport services.


If you are staying in St. Jude housing and your child is on restrictive isolation precautions, 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 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 Housing and Patient Services staff member will explain this process to you.

If the doctor orders restrictive isolation precautions for your child, please call Housing and Patient Services at 901-595-4501 as soon as you can to arrange your housing and transport needs. You will return to regular lodging when your child’s doctor writes an order to stop restrictive isolation precautions.

For patients on non-restrictive precautions

If your child is on non-restrictive isolation precautions, you will not need to change your housing room or facility, and you can ride St. Jude shuttle buses. If your child is on non-restrictive droplet precautions, a face mask must be worn at all times while outside the housing room. Covering your child with a blanket is not enough to protect others. If your child has trouble wearing a mask at all times, the clinical team will place your child on restrictive isolation precautions to protect other patients and staff.

Arriving at the hospital

Isolation entrances

If your child is on restrictive isolation precautions, enter the hospital 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. Then, a staff member can open the second set of doors and take you to an isolation room. On weekends and holidays, and after 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, you should call the Medicine Room at extension 2441 to let them know you are at the Isolation Entrance. 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. There are only a few parking spots for outpatients who are on restrictive isolation precautions. If your child is admitted as an inpatient, please move your vehicle as soon as possible.

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. After you enter, you can use the telephone to call a staff member to help you. A staff member may ask you to use this entrance if your child needs to be seen in this building.

If your child is on non-restrictive isolation precautions, enter the hospital using the main entrance of the Patient Care Center like patients who are not on isolation precautions.

Your child’s restrictive isolation visit

If you received a schedule card before arriving at the hospital, it will list appointment locations for your child’s visit. The card will also give a time estimate for the clinic visit. The card will show the type of isolation precautions needed and which isolation entrance your child should use.

Patients who are on restrictive isolation precautions will be placed in a room, and all services scheduled for the day will come to that room. Certain tests like CT and MRI scans will not, because the equipment cannot be transported. To go to these tests, the patient and staff member will dress in personal protective equipment (PPE), like gowns, gloves, and face masks. If your child needs to be carried by a caregiver, the caregiver will also wear the correct PPE for your child’s isolation type.

You might want to bring items with you to help your child pass the time. While on restrictive isolation precautions, 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.

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  the doctor ends the restrictive isolation precautions order.

Your child’s non-restrictive isolation visit

When your child has an outpatient visit on non-restrictive isolation precautions, tests, exams, and appointments happen in their regular service locations. You will enter and leave the hospital through the main entrance, not the isolation entrance. If your child is on non-restrictive droplet precautions, a face mask must be worn at all times outside the clinic room. Staff members entering the room to provide care, exams, and tests will wear the correct PPE (such as gowns, gloves, and face masks) for your child’s isolation type.

Keep hands clean

No matter what type of isolation precautions your child needs, please clean your hands and your child’s hands often. This helps 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. 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).

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