Dealing with family so draining

  1. 2
    I've always thought I've been a compassionate and patient listener. Many people tell me that all the time, especially my friends. Lately, I've been feeling so drained by dealing with family. I've been working a lot of evenings and I've found that there are a lot of visitors who I have to talk with and socialize with and if they are unhappy I have to try to fix it. If they have questions I have to stop and explain until they understand. If they are rude and sometimes even down right nasty, I have to be nice and compassionate. Customer service and patient satisfaction is a big deal on our unit. I'm so tired of it. I just want to interact with my patient, do the best job I can. I want to give an adequate explanation but if they don't understand or if they have complaints or whatever I don't want to take more than 10 minutes on this. I don't have 10 minutes. I have other patients who's physiological stability is my priority. The family is not my patient. How do you deal with this? I'm wondering if you have to deal with this in the ER? I know you get a lot of other craziness, but is there this great expectation of bending over backwards for everyone and being a doormat? I feel like I give so much of myself to patients I don't have anymore energy for the family and I don't like being the one to blame when things don't work out for the family.
    lindarn and Wise Woman RN like this.
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  3. 6 Comments so far...

  4. 3
    I hope you get a reply to this. I know this question has been asked in other roundabout ways. We are expected to keep patient/ family satisfaction up, but I don't like seeing it pushed to the point that other patients' care suffers because of needy families eating into time. On the other hand I do feel that most families are just worried about their loved one and have kind of the squeaky wheel gets the grease attitude. I'm still in student mode and haven't had the reality of the "real" medical world.
    lindarn, Wise Woman RN, and amzyRN like this.
  5. 6
    You are not always going to have the answers. Utilize your charge nurse, case management (if they have one, depending on the questions and situation), as well as any member on the health care team. Sometimes the best answer is "I will try to find out"; meaning. I may not have an answer now, but I can work to find a solution. Having the position to "fix it" can be overwhelming and taxing, hence your fatigue. The priority is provide safe, effective care; however that doesn't mean having the answers, sometimes the priority is navigating questions to the appropriate sources.
    DawnJ, lindarn, Always_Learning, and 3 others like this.
  6. 2
    If something is going to take a bit of time to explain to someone, don't be afraid to tell them that you have several things you need to take care of, but would be glad to discuss it with them later in the afternoon once things have settled down some. It'll also give you some time to talk to some people and figure out an answer, without making someone feel like they're getting blown off.

    I'm also a new grad and have run into similar issues with a patient's family. I just try to remind myself that, even though it's easier for me for a patient to be alone, it's so much better for them to have family around. My more experienced co-workers have also told me that once I have more experience and more confidence, answers will come more easily and will take less time. AND not to worry myself to death that my medications are getting out a little late.
    amzyRN and lindarn like this.
  7. 6
    Turf it, to the charge nurse, the unit manager, the house manager, especially complaints.
    That is why they are there, and they often have the time and patience and people skills to deal with it.
    Your job is the safety of the other patients, and if they are interfering with that, invoke the chain of command. If someone dies because you were listening to another family carry on, you are at fault.
    "Let me get ahold of someone who can help you." When you invoke the chain of command they feel like their concerns are validated. If patient satisfaction is a priority management should be there to back you up.
    GrnTea, DedHedRN, sarahaldean, and 3 others like this.
  8. 0
    One family member of a pt took up 20 minutes - 20 minutes! - of my time the other day. I had to hear all of her frustrations, and I did come to understand and felt badly for her, but this came after I'd already explained everything to 2 other relatives - one at a time because they arrived separately.
    The first relative in person was very nice. The second one came out swinging. She told me right up front that she was an RN and was thinking about getting a lawyer and on and on. I resented her but also understood where she was coming from.
    Believe me, I covered my butt that shift, as I always do with every pt, but I notified 2 different doctors of the family's concerns this time.
    Reminded me of how I had treated nurses when my loved one was ill. That is, dumping on nurses because I felt the whole situation was so wrong.
  9. 1
    We just implemented a strict "spokesperson" policy. Each patient can have max 2 spokespersons who receive all the updates on the patient. Any additional family and friends are directed to speak to one of the spokespersons. Of course, visitors may still have questions while they are there, but it does help to cut down on repeating yourself 10 times.

    I like the previous poster's idea of letting the person know you are busy right now, but that you are more than willing to talk a bit later.
    GrnTea likes this.


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