Feeling Guilty -- Need Advice

  1. We had a patient die recently and I feel bad because I really wasn't very emotionally supportive to her husband because I didn't like him. He seemed like a bit of an ogre. (Once a nurse caught him sleeping in the patient's bed while she was in chair!) He was loud and often irrational and angry and the culture is somewhat sexist and he seemed like the stereotype.

    After she died I made the comment to another nurse that at least she wasn't married to him anymore, which I see now was very mean and inappropriate.

    I thought I was enlightened enough to accept people for who they are and to not be judgemental and to give the same care to everyone, etc. And I wasn't very empathetic or very sympathetic and I didn't do my best with this guy. I am disappointed with myself and I want to know what to do to improve.

    Let's face it, it's easy to give good care to patients and families that you like, but how do you open your hearts to the ones you don't? One of the nurses I was working with was very kind to him and understanding and had a long talk -- and she didn't like him any more than I did! She was really great.

    Afterward, I tried to imagine that this man was child and that helped me to see him with more compassion.

    Any advice?
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  2. 11 Comments

  3. by   SarasotaRN2b
    Well, you need to forgive yourself and learn from it. Next time you find yourself with a family member like this, try to remember that you are only seeing one side. While yes, he may have sounded oafish to you, that might be way different than he would be at home. Maybe he knew his wife was dying and he was angry (scared) and this was the way he showed it.

    You don't need to like everyone, but it never hurts you to be civil.

    Kris
  4. by   cmo421
    Quote from firstyearstudent
    We had a patient die recently and I feel bad because I really wasn't very emotionally supportive to her husband because I didn't like him. He seemed like a bit of an ogre. (Once a nurse caught him sleeping in the patient's bed while she was in chair!) He was loud and often irrational and angry and the culture is somewhat sexist and he seemed like the stereotype.

    After she died I made the comment to another nurse that at least she wasn't married to him anymore, which I see now was very mean and inappropriate.

    I thought I was enlightened enough to accept people for who they are and to not be judgemental and to give the same care to everyone, etc. And I wasn't very empathetic or very sympathetic and I didn't do my best with this guy. I am disappointed with myself and I want to know what to do to improve.

    Let's face it, it's easy to give good care to patients and families that you like, but how do you open your hearts to the ones you don't? One of the nurses I was working with was very kind to him and understanding and had a long talk -- and she didn't like him any more than I did! She was really great.

    Afterward, I tried to imagine that this man was child and that helped me to see him with more compassion.

    Any advice?


    We all learn from our mistakes. I try to remember that the grieving process is different for everyone. Some people can never get past the anger of loosing a loved one. They take that and throw it on everyone else. It really helps to have Social Services at the hospital intervene in these cases. Sometime these people just need to vent. Yelling at staff is one way of venting. It is real hard to get past nasty front some families put on. We are human also,so at times it will not happen. Just kept on keeping on ,as they say! You did more then most by acknowledging the problem and asking for advice.
  5. by   KatieFromPerth
    I work in Palli care all the time. Try debriefing, it helps. We all often feel guilty over somethings we have said or done. It's life. Just learn and grow.
  6. by   deeDawntee
    You can decide it is worth your effort to find compassion for the man or not. I suppose that you are having lingering feelings about him is an indication.

    I would offer a different perspective. Perhaps the reason you had difficulty dealing with him is that you haven't done much yet to acknowledge and accept and forgive yourself for your own "dark side". Jung called it the "shadow self". I would suggest that your issues are with you and not with him. The human mind is a constant judgement machine...the thoughts go on and on all by themselves judging everyone and everything. It is automatic. You have to realize that those thoughts just happen. Now where human choice and responsibility comes to play is telling that non-stop chatter to shut-up and create your own thinking. Sometimes, and often, we get caught-up in some of those thoughts and we begin feeling that they are the truth. That is human nature. We ALL do it. Forgive yourself for those times. Sometimes to get rid of that stuff, a person just has to vent.

    I mean, really, what was the big jerk doing in his wife's hospital bed?
    That would irritate me as well. It doesn't mean I don't have compassion for the fact that he lost his wife. And I would have the same thoughts, that at least she is now free from him!! That is all pretty normal, I would say.

    As a nurse, you do have to learn to deal with those thoughts about your patients, because I promise you they won't go away. But how you act on those thoughts is in your control.
  7. by   underpaidrn
    Don't be so hard on yourself. We all make mistakes. Just remember that people grieve differently and at different times. I know that you will always remember this event. Just use that to your own good and next time, be professional, calm, supportive and not take things personally. It's easy to love someone who is loveable, but not so easy when they are difficult. I always try to put myself in that person's position. How would I feel if that were my loved one dying?

    My heart goes out to you because I have been in your shoes more than once.
  8. by   cmo421
    Quote from deeDawntee

    I mean, really, what was the big jerk doing in his wife's hospital bed?
    That would irritate me as well. It doesn't mean I don't have compassion for the fact that he lost his wife. And I would have the same thoughts, that at least she is now free from him!! That is all pretty normal, I would say


    Granted, we meet many jerks in our profession, but how do we know that she hadn't fallen asleep in the chair,comfortable, and he was so exhausted from the whole thing, he could not help but to lay down. How do we know she wanted to be free of him. Some couples spat all the time and in public look like they are gonna kill each other, but privately they do fine and can not live without the other. Many men and woman have trouble expressing their feelings in public or otherwise, but their partners know. I think that we need to do what we do,keep judgements to ourselves or vent to co workers, and never "ASSUME" that you know what's going on in your pt's personnal life.
  9. by   angelwatch
    Everything we do and say is a reflection of who we are and what we have learned. Learn from this and don't complain about yourself or compare yourself to another. Unconditional love is unconditional love. Love yourself and show that to others. The actions of others will not always please us yet they are the result of who they are and what they have learned. You choose unconditional love or not. I am impressed that you have learned a lot about yourself and your patient's family. We are all forgiven if we choose to be.
  10. by   fultzymom
    It is very frustrating to try to deal with someone who seems not a very likable person. Try to remember people dealing with this kind of stress are not usually acting like themselves. They are angry, scared, hurting, and who knows what all else. Sometimes in these stressful times our behaviors are not up to par. Try to find a way to connect with them somehow, even if it is thinking, "what would I be doing if it were me there with my loved one dying?"
  11. by   maryloufu
    I too have difficulty dealing with some of the family members. Usually it is the hardest part of my job. I like what others have said here about forgiving yourself and learning from it- except the person who tried to teach us about Jung because that is too deep for me today. LOL
  12. by   elkpark
    Always keep in mind that you are never seeing anyone in the hospital at her/his best -- just by definition (themselves or a loved one hospitalized), they are seriously stressed out. Most people, most of the time, are doing the best they can with what they've got to work with. It's our responsibility as healthcare professionals to at least pretend to be therapeutic and compassionate towards our clients and their families (regardless of how we may feel on the inside), and our responsibility to ourselves to develop healthy ways of dealing with the cognitive dissonance when that is particularly challenging and difficult to do!
  13. by   KenCCRN
    Quote from firstyearstudent
    We had a patient die recently and I feel bad because I really wasn't very emotionally supportive to her husband because I didn't like him. He seemed like a bit of an ogre. (Once a nurse caught him sleeping in the patient's bed while she was in chair!) He was loud and often irrational and angry and the culture is somewhat sexist and he seemed like the stereotype.

    After she died I made the comment to another nurse that at least she wasn't married to him anymore, which I see now was very mean and inappropriate.

    I thought I was enlightened enough to accept people for who they are and to not be judgemental and to give the same care to everyone, etc. And I wasn't very empathetic or very sympathetic and I didn't do my best with this guy. I am disappointed with myself and I want to know what to do to improve.

    Let's face it, it's easy to give good care to patients and families that you like, but how do you open your hearts to the ones you don't? One of the nurses I was working with was very kind to him and understanding and had a long talk -- and she didn't like him any more than I did! She was really great.

    Afterward, I tried to imagine that this man was child and that helped me to see him with more compassion.

    Any advice?
    FirstYear:
    The reason the other nurse was able to be supportive even though she didnt like the husband....is because...she was able to remain objective and unattached to the family member. It takes time to just accept people as who they are and not be too judgemental. If I become judgemental then it stays inside my head and I deal with the patient and family as an impartial outside observer and care giver. If I were to get attached to every patient then I would be so drained everyday that I would have burnt out years ago. So basically, the idea is to be sincere and helpful, but not emotionally attached to any patient or family member.
    Ken

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