Graceful way to NOT answer all the personal questions my patients ask me.

  1. Heyo!
    I would love some advice from y'all on how to dodge answering all these personal questions my patients ask me! I work in a busy ED and see multiple people a day. It seems like so many patients or visitors ask old I am? am I married? do I have kids? do I want kids? On and on. I've been asked who I VOTED for at least 10 times...(seriously with our political climate that's such a scary question to answer 😳).
    I get it, we're building a rapport and in all honesty I'm asking them some pretty dang personal questions too, but I see so many patients and sometimes just don't want to answer/ feel like it's anyones business. I also don't want to come off as nurse robot and say "I don't talk about my personal life with my patients! Bleep bloop bloop" or something because that's really not how I am, I'm just tired of the questions! Ask me questions about your meds, your diagnosis, etc. Not my 20 year life plan.
    For the record, I live in a pretty southern town and am happily living with my boyfriend (the shame!), with no kids and no ring so part of my irritation with all the questions is probably the judgement eyes/unsolicited advice I get when I give my answers.
    So, how do you guys not answer these type of questions and still make sure your patients like you?
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  2. 44 Comments

  3. by   meanmaryjean
    "Please don't ask me to shed the impenetrable cloak of mystery which shrouds me"

    How's that?
  4. by   elkpark
    Welcome to allnurses!

    I just smile and say, pleasantly, "I don't talk about my personal life at work," and keep going with whatever I was doing, or talking about, when they asked the question. If you keep repeating that, pleasantly, each time the questions are repeated, they will usually get the message and quit asking. Another option I use (if the first one doesn't work and I have to spell it out more directly for them) is, "We're both here to talk about what's going on with you, not me." Keep reminding yourself that you are under no obligation to answer such questions just because they ask. It's a professional relationship in a professional setting; the client isn't doing anything terribly wrong by asking and probably just doesn't know better, but the responsibility is on you to set and maintain the appropriate boundaries.
  5. by   Wuzzie
    You're in the South? Then you know all it takes is a " well, bless your heart" and that should take care of it!
  6. by   CoffeeYogaNurse
    Hahaha I like that!
  7. by   JKL33
    Also, to the extent possible, try to keep things "focused" properly. You do this with your demeanor, etc. When I go into a room, I'm doing so for a purpose. I don't stay planted in one place too long unless I'm engaged in "active listening"/therapeutic situation. I don't want it to sound like I'm rushing in and out and not interacting - - it's hard to describe. There are people who, when you see them doing their work, they are in social mode, not business mode. More relaxed, chit-chatty, sometimes taking an awful long time to do a simple thing...every time a patient or visitor says 'boo' they stop whatever they are doing and give them their fully-engaged attention...

    That is not my personal preference. lol. I like to keep things moving. Like myself. Hey, that's one of the perks of the ED. MMJ's and Wuzzie's suggestions above would work well for my "type." I'm here to find out what's wrong with you and how to get you feeling better, not to entertain the peanut gallery.
  8. by   CoffeeYogaNurse
    Thanks elkpark, that's good advice! I'm a fan of your suggestion of turning the focus back to the patient by saying I'm here for them. I'll use that one!
  9. by   CoffeeYogaNurse
    Yes JKL33 I see what you're saying about having a busy but not rushed appearance. I'm a floor nurse who moved to the ED (LOVE it!) and I think I may seem too willing to talk in an effort to avoid making my patients feel like I'm too busy for them. On the floor you have all day to build that relationship, but in the ED it's much faster. My hospital is all about those patient satisfaction scores so they're on us to take the time to listen to patients, but sometimes it seems like we're listening to topics unrelated to their healthcare just to make them feel good. I'm going to try to adopt a more "I'm here for you and your healthcare needs" attitude instead of a "I'm here so you can ask me my life story" one. Thanks for the tips!
  10. by   TriciaJ
    Quote from meanmaryjean
    "Please don't ask me to shed the impenetrable cloak of mystery which shrouds me"

    How's that?
    Dang! That is pure genius!
  11. by   Davey Do
    Quote from CoffeeYogaNurse
    I get it, we're building a rapport and in all honesty I'm asking them some pretty dang personal questions too, but I see so many patients and sometimes just don't want to answer/ feel like it's anyones business.
    You've got a handle on what you want to convey, I sense you're just not sure the words to use, eh CoffeeYogaNurse?

    How about something like, "You seem like a caring person who shows interest in others. That's a very good trait to possess. However, this process is all about you, so would you just tell me everything about your meds, your diagnosis, etc?"
  12. by   dianah
    At first I thought "wear a wedding band to discourage questioners," but then they would ask "how long have you been married? do you have kids? do you want kids? Why not? where did you get married? did you have a big or small wedding? do you live near your or his folks?" ARRRGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHH!!
    I think the others have given great suggestions to help turn aside peoples' interest. Some ppl are just really friendly (and nosey!!). Just keep repeating the response you are comfortable with. Hopefully they get the message.
  13. by   CoffeeYogaNurse
    Quote from Davey Do
    You've got a handle on what you want to convey, I sense you're just not sure the words to use, eh CoffeeYogaNurse?

    How about something like, "You seem like a caring person who shows interest in others. That's a very good trait to possess. However, this process is all about you, so would you just tell me everything about your meds, your diagnosis, etc?"
    You're exactly right Davey Do, I know what I want to say I just need to say it nicely! Your suggestion is great. Compliment their caring questions and turn the focus back, thank you!
  14. by   CoffeeYogaNurse
    Quote from dianah
    At first I thought "wear a wedding band to discourage questioners," but then they would ask "how long have you been married? do you have kids? do you want kids? Why not? where did you get married? did you have a big or small wedding? do you live near your or his folks?" ARRRGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHH!!
    I think the others have given great suggestions to help turn aside peoples' interest. Some ppl are just really friendly (and nosey!!). Just keep repeating the response you are comfortable with. Hopefully they get the message.
    Funny you should mention that Dianah, I actually tried that when I first started and you are on the money about what people said in response! Almost quoting your guesses of what they say exactly! I know some folks are just nice/curious and all their nervous and scared energy can come out in awkward ways.it probably wouldn't bother me a bit if it I was seeing so many people. I'm going to come up with a version based on all the awesome suggestions I've gotten here and just say that every time. Thanks!

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