Exit Strategies For Nurses Who Deal With Overly Talkative Patients
How do busy nurses remove themselves from seemingly never-ending conversations with overly chatty patients and visitors without coming across as rude or abrupt? Keep reading for tips and strategies to smoothly extricate oneself from these sticky situations.
"I am a nurse who deals with multiple patients during the course of each shift. Sometimes I'll get a patient who simply talks too much and won't let me leave the room. Sometimes a family member will be the one who is talking too much, keeping me in the room and hogging my limited time. My question is this - how do I remove myself from overly chatty people like this without being rude? I am busy at work and have other things to do, so I can't talk to these people all day."
Many nurses seem to ask variations of the aforementioned question. We want to be polite to our patients and visitors, albeit for different reasons. Some of us believe in the "treat others as you would want to be treated" mantra, whereas other nurses are merely trying to avoid being reported to management because some excessively chatty patient or family member wanted us to sit in the room and talk to them all day. Still, other nurses have fast-paced, busy workloads and just do not have the time to hold a lengthy discussion with someone who wants to tell you his life story. Either way, nurses want courteous ploys that will get them the heck away from that talkative person, if only for a brief period of time.
The timeless exit strategy for nurses is an adaptation of "I really need to be somewhere right now, so you'll have to excuse me, but we will definitely talk later." Some variants that sound truthful and plausible in the healthcare environment have been listed below.
"I am expecting an important phone call from a doctor right about now. (S)he is going to phone the nurses station, not my personal phone, so I need to be there to take the call."
"A meeting is scheduled to start in a few minutes and I am supposed to be present."
"I need to accompany one of my other patients to another department for an appointment."
"I am beginning to feel dizzy. I need to get something to drink, but I'll be back to see you later."
"I forgot to do something very important. Please excuse me for a moment."
"My manager wants to see me right now. You will have to excuse me."
Of course, always feel free to say "I enjoyed talking to you. We can resume this discussion at some other time," if you want to maintain an impression of warmth and geniality. Smile while you are telling the patient or family member these things.
Here are a few more pointers:
Last edit by Joe V on Jan 12, '15
- Keep in mind that you are telling the patient or visitor that you're leaving the room. You are not asking them if you can leave the room, so do not ever frame your statement as a question.
- Please don't kick yourself over the fact that you are telling the patient or family a little white lie.
- If the patient or family member does not seem to understand the hints you are dropping, you will need to be more upfront: "It's been a pleasure talking with you, but I really need to see my other patients and get started on my other tasks." Although management does not want nursing staff to mention the other patients they have, sometimes this is the only way the overly babbly patient or visitor will catch a clue that you have other things to do.
About TheCommuter, BSN, RN Moderator
TheCommuter is a moderator of allnurses.com and has varied experiences upon which to draw for articles. She was an LPN/LVN for more than four years prior to becoming a registered nurse.
Joined: Feb '05; Posts: 38,035; Likes: 69,253
CRRN, now a case management RN; from US
Specialty: 11 year(s) of experience in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psychDec 21, '13
Why lie or beat about the bush? Simply say that you have to check on your other patients, and you will be back later.
"I'm getting dizzy and need to go get something to drink." LOLOL.Dec 21, '13Have your buddy "rescue page" you out of the room. Set an appointed time when you want your pager/phone to ring - or you can ask to be paged to the nurse's station over the call button speakers. Works like a charm :-)Dec 21, '13Quote from OCNRN63At my place of employment, management will scold nurses who even dare to mention their other patients or tasks to the lone patient who wants to monopolize their time, especially in this era where patient satisfaction scores matter.Why lie or beat about the bush? Simply say that you have to check on your other patients, and you will be back later.
I once received a phone call from my manager. She said, "You told Mrs. Smith's daughter that you had other patients to check? Please don't mention your other patients to visitors and patients, please."Dec 21, '13Quote from AJPVThis only works if you're forewarned. One time I had an admission that kept talking for 20 minutes, tears rolling down their eyes as they told me their life story. I felt horrible but was trapped, trying to look for away out without seeming heartless.Have your buddy "rescue page" you out of the room. Set an appointed time when you want your pager/phone to ring - or you can ask to be paged to the nurse's station over the call button speakers. Works like a charm :-)Dec 21, '13Quote from TheCommuterAt my place of employment, management will scold nurses who even dare to mention their other patients or tasks to the lone patient who wants to monopolize their time, especially in this era where patient satisfaction scores matter.
I once received a phone call from my manager. She said, "You told Mrs. Smith's daughter that you had other patients to check? Please don't mention your other patients to visitors and patients, please."
That's ridiculous. I still think it's crazy to say you're going to faint and need to get a drink. I'm surprised you wouldn't get in trouble for telling a patient you have physical needs.
"I need to leave now, but I'll be back to talk later." If a patient/family member can't handle that, tough rocks.Dec 21, '13If it's remotely close to med time (feels like it always is!) I like to use the classic "Oh, shoot, it's (insert time here). I've got to go check and get everyone's, including your, meds together. I'll be back in a bit, ok?"
If I feel a patient really needs to talk, I try to use that quiet bit of time (the mid afternoon on day shift) to talk to them. I can get a fair amount of charting done because we have computers at the bedside at my facility.Dec 21, '13I am currently a nursing student and work as a phlebotomist at my community hospital. I have to draw a handful of draws within 3 minutes each to stay on top of my game. I alos come across patients that seem as if they don't breath while they ramble. I feel so horrible when cutting them off so I wont get behind! This post is really helpful! Definitely going to to use some of these phrases during work and clinical rounds.Dec 22, '13Since I choose not to lie to my patients, I usually say something along the lines of " I have to leave now, I'll be back soon to check on you. " Usually, that is my exit strategy.Dec 22, '13Quote from prnqdayBINGO. Why is it so hard to say this? I'm with you, I won't lie to a patient. Eventually, it comes back to bite you in the butt.Since I choose not to lie to my patients, I usually say something along the lines of " I have to leave now, I'll be back soon to check on you. " Usually, that is my exit strategy.Dec 22, '13I won't lie to a patient either. However, lol, as another poster mentioned, some people appear that they don't require breathing! I've had to insert my "I have to step out now, I'll be back to check on you," mid-word sometimes. I try not to do this but sometimes it's unavoidable. I usually accompany this with a light touch on the arm if appropriate.
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