Patient's and Angry Families

  1. 0
    I am curious, how do staff nurses handle angry families who are angry over the care of patient by both the nursing staff and medical staff? How do we as professionals handle the mental abuse that we get when the families are yelling that we don't know what we are doing and that we don't care. Is is right that we just stand there and take it? Are we supported by our administrators?

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  2. 11 Comments...

  3. 4
    Under no circumstances do I tolerate yelling for more than a few seconds. If a patient/family member cannot/will not self-correct and *use their indoor voice* I immediately ask them to do so as they are disturbing sick patients.

    If the complaint is non-specific ("you people don't know what you're doing!") I ask the person speaking to clarify: "What aspect of care are you concerned about? What questions do you have for me?" And then I answer those questions, in detail, or offer to contact the physician. This gives patients/family members another chance to absorb information and regain their self-control.

    I do not "stand there and take it." I am not mentally abused.

    Patients/family members get upset and lose control for a thousand reasons, some of them justifiable, some not. Explanations go a long way, especially when you can pre-emptively advise them on how things are likely to go: "you'll be going for your CT scan as soon as the scanner is available. After that, you can expect it to be read by the radiologist within 90 minutes. If that scan is negative, the MD will be back in to speak with you about discharge."

    Hope this helps.
    Last edit by Altra on Jan 2, '08
    lindarn, Blee O'Myacin, jnrsmommy, and 1 other like this.
  4. 1
    I have tried explaining, apoligizing, smiling, talking...tried it all. In the end the only thing that worked can be summed up in two words
    "call administration".

    I've been fortunate in that administration has always stood behind me but from reading the boards I can tell you it's not the same everywhere.
    lindarn likes this.
  5. 0
    Quote from MLOS
    \If a patient/family member cannot/will not self-correct and *use their indoor voice* I immediately ask them to do so as they are disturbing sick patients.
    That just leaves you open to the pt asking you: "Show me a patient I'm disturbing." I know I'd ask that.

    Not that I'm that nasty in real life. :angel2:
  6. 1
    As a traveler, the hospital that I am at right now is a small rural hospital and the administration always backs up the family, no matter what. Staff is highly encouraged to do everything in their power to pacify them (ie. offer them coffee, call the house super, etc). Staff is highly DISCOURAGED from putting them in their place. I don't particularly agree with this approach, but I try to abide by it, for my job's sake. That being said, I will not put up with outright verbal abuse or threats to my physical safety. When they cross that line, security is called to deal with them.
    lindarn likes this.
  7. 3
    Twice I have had experiences as the charge nurse where families were agitated about something and as I work night shift in a small hospital I had no administrative back up and no security to speak of. Not even a house supervisor. Called supervisors at home and they gave me the old "get a telephone number and we will deal with it in the morning."
    So administration gets to go back to bed and go back to sleep and I get to go back into the lions den and get yelled at for another 30 minutes. :angryfire Can't walk away as I am the charge nurse. The one guy just followed me all over the department anyways. I made it through both incidences and after the second one I told my supervisor that I would not do it again. Next time, I call the police and have the angry offenders arrested and when that shift is over I find a lawyer to file a "hostile workplace" suit.
    And I will repeat my plan to the next administrator who refuses to get up and handle their own administrative crisis and tells me to get a phone number for them.



    :angryfire:angryfire:angryfire
    Last edit by nurturing_angel on Jan 2, '08
    kentuckychick, MzMouse, and lindarn like this.
  8. 0
    Quote from Daisy
    I am curious, how do staff nurses handle angry families who are angry over the care of patient by both the nursing staff and medical staff? How do we as professionals handle the mental abuse that we get when the families are yelling that we don't know what we are doing and that we don't care. Is is right that we just stand there and take it? Are we supported by our administrators?
    It's only mental abuse if you stand there and take it. No where in my job description does it say that I must be a doormat. I have said "Please stop shouting at me. All I hear is the shouting and not what you are trying to tell me." (This works equally well on irate doctors that call the ER, are all po'ed because the phone rang more than twice, and are hollering about "what the heck we are all doing down there if no one is answering the *&#% telephone"... um.. I dunno, taking care of the 52 patients we have down here with 10 more charts in the rack and 40 in the waiting room, and we "let" our wonderful, hardworking unit clerk leave her desk to use the ladies room every so often? - and no, I didn't get into "trouble" for saying it either...)

    So to answer your question, I don't let people holler at me. I've had to call security to escort people from the building. And I would not be intimidated into not pressing charges if things got that out of hand.

    "I understand that you are upset, but please stop shouting at me." usually does the trick.

    Blee
  9. 0
    Quote from seņorburns
    That just leaves you open to the pt asking you: "Show me a patient I'm disturbing." I know I'd ask that.

    Not that I'm that nasty in real life. :angel2:
    Senor, respectfully ... you have to be kidding me. The hospital is full of sick people. Have you ever spent time in a facility (outside of the OR & certain other specialized environments) where you were not well within hearing distance of the next patient ... and their assorted visitors?
  10. 0
    Quote from Daisy
    I am curious, how do staff nurses handle angry families who are angry over the care of patient by both the nursing staff and medical staff?
    If the family is that angry and inconsolable regarding the care being provided, gently remind them that they have other options that do not involve hollering at staff. They can choose to speak to administration about their concerns. They can even (duh!) have their loved one transferred to another hospital if they feel that the care is not up to snuff at the current facility.
  11. 0
    I look them in the eye and apologize. I don't try to make an excuse, I just apologize and then fix it. "I am really sorry that your mother did not get her scheduled pain pill. That was unacceptable, and I completely understand your frustration. My name is Jean, and I will be her nurse tonight. I will bring her pain pill right away, and I will personally make sure she gets it on time for the rest of this shift. This is my minicell number--that way you can contact me directly if you have any more questions or concerns tonight." If it isn't as simple as giving an overdue pain pill or finding some long-awaited lab results, I will accompany my apology with "What can I do for you, right now, that will help make you/your loved one more comfortable?"

    Usually when people are out of line, it is frustration and fear. An honest, simple apology does not have to admit that you are somehow responsible for things that are out of your control; it is an acknowledgement of their frustration. Offering an immediate solution or extending assistance within the best of your abilities helps alleviate fear--fear of the same thing happening again, fear of the unknown, fear of increased pain, whatever.

    I find this works best, most of the time. Sometimes you just have to grit your teeth and walk away; but I find a sincere apology and some immediate action brings most family situations back under control.


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