Dealing with pt's unhappy family

  1. Ok guys, listen to this--
    A physician at my hospital was performing a colonoscopy on a client with potential CA of the bowel. She (the physician) ended up putting the scope right through the bowel wall--the client (86 years old) survived the incident after long surgical intervention and aggressive antibiotic therapy, but now has a colostomy.
    By the way, the pt never had CA after all.
    Anyways, the ct's family were livid, and weeks after the incident, I was eating lunch in the caf, when they approached me. They were verbalizing their utter disgust towards this physician, and asked me for my personal opinion of her as a Dr. They also were asking me if this happened frequently, or if she was just a quote: "quack". They wanted my "professional opinion" on the matter as a whole. I declined to offer any information (especially regarding that of my personal opinion of the physician), and tried to get them to talk to the Dr. directly if they had questions.
    The family went to my nursing supervisor and told them I was an unhelpful nurse, with no compassion for them or their family. I agree we are to be educators, but couldn't you just smell a lawsuit here? It was as if they were trying to quote me directly---other nurses on the floor said they were discussing legal action at the time of the incident. Some nurses agree with me, some say I should have taught them all about colonoscopys and their risks. Who knows?
    Well?
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  2. 21 Comments

  3. by   sanakruz
    I certainly hope your supervisor backed you up 100%!
    They have no call to approach you as you are EATING LUNCH!
    Good Grief!
    Tell me supervisor did not wimp out and co-sign your being "an unhelful nusre with no compassion'' WHILE EATING LUNCH.
    I'm sorry you were humiliated in this way.
  4. by   renerian
    Good Grief. You did the right thing.

    renerian
  5. by   P_RN
    You are absolutely correct not giving candid opinions.
  6. by   SmilingBluEyes
    You were right. They were upset but wrong to bother you. But in their shoes, with their limited understanding/knowledge of the whole situation and given their emotions, you can see why they did what they did. You did the right thing and kept yourself out of some serious HOT water in so doing. Best wishes and go easy on yourself. I am sorry this happened for all concerned.
  7. by   ktwlpn
    Originally posted by canadiannurse21
    Ok guys, listen to this--
    A physician at my hospital was performing a colonoscopy on a client with potential CA of the bowel. She (the physician) ended up putting the scope right through the bowel wall--the client (86 years old) survived the incident after long surgical intervention and aggressive antibiotic therapy, but now has a colostomy.
    By the way, the pt never had CA after all.
    Anyways, the ct's family were livid, and weeks after the incident, I was eating lunch in the caf, when they approached me. They were verbalizing their utter disgust towards this physician, and asked me for my personal opinion of her as a Dr. They also were asking me if this happened frequently, or if she was just a quote: "quack". They wanted my "professional opinion" on the matter as a whole. I declined to offer any information (especially regarding that of my personal opinion of the physician), and tried to get them to talk to the Dr. directly if they had questions.
    The family went to my nursing supervisor and told them I was an unhelpful nurse, with no compassion for them or their family. I agree we are to be educators, but couldn't you just smell a lawsuit here? It was as if they were trying to quote me directly---other nurses on the floor said they were discussing legal action at the time of the incident. Some nurses agree with me, some say I should have taught them all about colonoscopys and their risks. Who knows?
    Well?
    YOu did the absolute correct thing-perforating the bowel is probably the first complication listed on the surgical consent form...You were nicer then most of us would have been-I would have walked away.....
  8. by   lucianne
    What?!?!?!? They were asking you to possibly slander a doctor so they could use it in a lawsuit?

    Some people!
    luci
  9. by   NRSKarenRN
    Agree with the above, you did the right thing by not saying anything about the doctor. However, you could have led them to other hospital employees that could give the family guidance.

    Does Canadian hospitals have patient representatives or patient ombudsman? These staff members have responsibility for problem solving and assisting patients who have concerns regarding care issues, lost dentures, dissatisfied hospital stay. If not, then I would have had your unit manager or nusing supervisor speak with the family.

    Lawsuits often arise over misscommunication. This family clearly was looking for information and needed someone from the hospital to listen to their concerns. Pt Rep/ombudsman would address with family too any inappropriate solicitation of staff opinions regarding physicans care. Keep that in mind for next time similar incident occurs.
  10. by   LLDPaRN
    Canadian nurse
    You were totally correct in not offering any opinions about the doctor. I can empathize with them over the fact that they were upset about their family member and what happened but it was inappropriate for them to have approached you the way they did. I'm with the others who say that I hope your supervisor backed you up 100%! Good luck to you

    Laurie
  11. by   atownsendrn
    As hard as it is, we should never give slanderous (is that a word) opinions of doctors. I, too, think you did the right thing as far as this family was concerned. I think I would also have directed them to the doctor or to administration. This issue is probably something that should have been addressed by the doctor or nurse manager before the family could seek you out.

    As far as them approaching you during your lunch, we have to remember that we are representatives of the hospital at all times. I agree that we should get "down time" where we aren't disturbed, but families/visitors don't always take that into consideration. And I don't believe they are trying to be rude. I think they just don't realize how much we truly need the break sometimes. I guess that I am more aware of this since I started working in a small hospital in a small community. I am sometimes approached in restaurants or in the grocery store with complaints and complements regarding recent visits to the ER. It is hard to stop this behavior. But I have gotten where I will say to the person - "perhaps I can call you at home/work tomorrow and discuss this with you. I would really like to review the chart and see what happened" That usually works. But sometimes I just listen to the person and deal with the issue during my next shift.

    Anyway - I hope that your supervisor supports you in this problem. Good Luck!!!:wink2:
  12. by   ScarlettRN
    Why do we seem to cease to be fellow humans when we put on a uniform and step inside a hospital??? You did the right thing not telling them anything about the doctor. But, unfortunately we have to put customer service on top of the list.....so maybe you should have directed them to the pt advocate or rpresentative.
    It almost makes me want to choke on my own words saying that. One thing that crawls up and down my spine is hearing a patient refer to my care as "waiting" on them.
  13. by   Mira
    Even to bad mouth a colleague where a patient can hear is unprofessional.As for the relatives,I think they have a good case,the doctor should be accountable for what she has done,perforation is always a complication of colonoscopy but considering the age of the patient(80s) and the possible diagnosis, she should have been very careful. To have a colostomy bag at the age you are supposed to be enjoying the remaining years of your life will not be on anyones wish list.The explanation about the procedure and its risks should have come from the one who is going to do the procedure.If there will be a lawsuit your defense is good documentation.Diathermy or adrenalin injection might not help w the perforation,but have you used it?
    You have done the right thing,you might be annoyed by the approach of the relatives but it is because they are upset and looking for sympathy and possible witness against the doctor,your supervisor is in the best position to advice you about your concerns.
  14. by   canadiannurse21
    I did direct the pt's family to the physician who performed the procedure. As for pt's representative--nope not in this hospital--we take the policy that if you have issues regarding your care, you go directly to the health care provider who gave the care, or to the unit manager. Which I did inform the family of. I don't really mind them coming up to me at lunch (I realize alot of families just don't think of things like that), but when I told them to talk to the physician or the unit manager (in a really nice manner), I didn't think they were going to complain about me!! LOL. My supervisor called me into her office and had no idea of the situation--she was just shocked I got such a bad complaint, because usually my pt's have very nice things to say about me . She did end up backing me up, and thanks to all of you for the nice words--I thought of how else I could have handled this, and I don't think I could have won either way. I realize they were really upset, and perhaps I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time

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