Running into former patients

  1. I have worked in a Medsurg unit for over a year in a big city (Bay Area, CA). I would never expect to run into a former patient that has been discharged recently.

    During my weekend off, I was at a bar with a few of my friends. Someone tapped on my shoulder and it was my patient! I did not know how to approach it. My patient introduced me to his friends as his nurse from a week ago. He enjoyed my care and happy with the discharge process. We shared a drink or two and parted ways after an hour.

    Was my interaction appropriate? How else should I have handled it? What should be my mannerisms for the next time I run into a former patient?
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  2. 32 Comments

  3. by   macawake
    Quote from Volley88
    I have worked in a Medsurg unit for over a year in a big city (Bay Area, CA). I would never expect to run into a former patient that has been discharged recently.

    During my weekend off, I was at a bar with a few of my friends. Someone tapped on my shoulder and it was my patient! I did not know how to approach it. My patient introduced me to his friends as his nurse from a week ago. He enjoyed my care and happy with the discharge process. We shared a drink or two and parted ways after an hour.

    Was my interaction appropriate? How else should I have handled it? What should be my mannerisms for the next time I run into a former patient?
    Well, I never iniate contact with a former patient of mine, if I happen to run into them but in your case the patient tapped you on your shoulder so that's a different situation. If a former patient wants to just say hi and express that they are happy with the care they received, of course you have to respond somehow. I think it's the polite thing to do and of course just being a decent human being. However, if it were me, after I'd expressed the opinion that I'm happy to see that they're doing well and some superficial social pleasantries, I'd try to extricate myself from the situation as soon as possible.

    Personally, I wouldn't have shared one or two drinks with my patient (I assume they were alcoholic beverages?) There are several reasons for this. It probably doesn't look good if your manager or similar (who recognized the patient) saw you socializing with a recently discharged patient over drinks. Also, alcohol tends to lower inhibitions, not necessarily something I want from one of my patients in a bar setting The third thing is that I don't really know what I'd be talking about with the patient for any prolonged period of time. I definitely have no desire to divulge any personal details about my life and asking my patients a lot of questions regarding his or her life, might create the impression that I want to get to know them better (which I don't). Since we couldn't very well sit there and discuss the finer points of his/her surgical procedure for an entire hour, I think the entire situation would simply become awkward.

    I haven't yet met a former patient of mine in a bar, but in all honesty if it was difficult to disentangle from the situation I might consider leaving and finding another watering hole I realize that it sounds as if I can't stand my patients, but that's not the case. I just prefer to have rather strict boundaries between my work life and my personal life. Our relationship started out as a nurse-patient one, which is not an equal relationship. In my opinion that shared history makes it tricky to socialize or form friendships.

    OP, I think that it's good that you've asked for advice regarding how to handle these types of situations. I'll be interested to see what other posters think, they might have a different take on this.
    Last edit by macawake on Jul 10
  4. by   JKL33
    "Oh, hi, there! Glad to see you're doing well. Enjoy your evening!"
  5. by   Pixie.RN
    I literally bumped into a frequent ED patient while leaving a bar one night. I pretended I had no idea who he was and apologized quickly for the collision, then kept going!
  6. by   JKL33
    Quote from Pixie.RN
    I literally bumped into a frequent ED patient while leaving a bar one night. I pretended I had no idea who he was and apologized quickly for the collision, then kept going!
    Awesome!

    One time I had one randomly roll up to me in a Hoveround @ a local store and I couldn't get away for like 10 minutes because I didn't want to be rude. Just listened to her talk. The hilarious thing was that she gave no indication of necessarily knowing me...so this whole time I'm wondering if she approached because I was such a familiar happy face, or if it was just a random attack.

  7. by   Volley88
    Thank you for all your comments. This patient in particular was in the hospital for a very acute diagnosis nothing related to alcohol and/or drugs. We had established a very good rapport during my patients stay at the hospital.
  8. by   saskrn
    I've run into many former patients, especially when I worked in critical access hospitals.

    I always let patients approach me first. I never make reference to their hospitalization, or any details of their hospitalization. I'm pleasant, polite and professional. And, I'm careful to maintain their confidentiality.

    I would never have drinks with a patient.
  9. by   HalfBoiled
    I don't see why not. Your patient approached you and he/she explained the relationship.
  10. by   DowntheRiver
    Just don't be like that other person on here and starting dating your former patients
  11. by   tyvin
    Oh please, since I worked in an inpatient psych ward I ran into my former and frequent patients all the time in the grocery store on the little island I lived on. They would wave wildly and I would give a little wave back and leave stat. One time this one guy actually approached me and I said since he was a prior patient I couldn't talk to him due to hospital policy but next time just wave and I can wave back...he understood.

    I know of many famous and not famous people who met while hosptialized or working together at a medical facility. How about the LPN in the psych ward I worked at marrying the psychiatrist. That's after the psychiatrist had an affair with the LPN than got a divorce from his wife of 28 years.
  12. by   LadysSolo
    Never never have a relationship with a former patient. If they initiate contact, say "Hi" and move on ASAP. I would NEVER have had drinks with a former patient, especially since they may become your patient again.
  13. by   RNNPICU
    OP it sounds like how you responded was okay. Hard call in a bar though as having a drink. Since the patient initiated contact it sounds all good.
  14. by   kkbb
    When I was a MA in Internal Medicine I would run into patients all the time at the store. I would never initiate any contact, but should they come to me I would say hello and maybe a few pleasantries and then I would leave. If I ran into someone at the bar, I would follow the same protocol and leave without having a drink with them. It can be awkward at times....especially when my kids were with me, but all the more reason to beat feet as fast as possible.

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