How to handle the tough questions from patients.

  1. This question is for an assignment but as I'm thinking about what to write, I have no idea how I would respond. What do you tell a patient when they ask the tough questions. For example, my assignment is a 42-year-old woman who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer. Upon entering her room you notice that she is crying and asks, "Why is this happening to me?" I try to put myself in that situation and I don't even know what words would make the situation better. How does a nurse handle questions like these?
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    About candacesw

    Joined: Jun '17; Posts: 2
    from CA , US


  3. by   canoehead
    "It happens to the best people"

    Really any disease is the role of the dice, worthiness, godliness, and thoughts and prayers mean not too much. It's a lottery pick. I think we all get a turn at devastation, some people get really lucky, and some really don't.
  4. by   OyWithThePoodles
    I don't think you really need to say much. It's likely a rhetorical question. Sit, listen, offer them a venting outlet. Then tell her "Fight. Fight like hell. You've got this."
  5. by   JKL33
    Best thing to learn with stuff like this (sensitive situations) is the the idea that a typical volley-back-and-forth conversation is not required, and feeling some sort of social conversational pressure will lead you to make statements you wish you could retract when they don't settle just right with your particular patient - even though they might have been perfectly lovely words you would want to hear in a similar situation.

    What have you learned about therapeutic conversation techniques* so far? Maybe you could list some here that might be appropriate for the situation and we could help you go from there. Also review stages of grief - those concepts go hand-in-hand with the idea of figuring out which responses may be appropriate for your patient.

    *Caveat: "therapeutic techniques" can also be used in a way that comes off cold and text-bookish, so it's more the concepts you want to pay attention to, rather than the exact words of the examples you're given.
  6. by   not.done.yet
    A question like that is not really a question. It is a statement of emotional response. So you handle it by giving permission to elaborate on their response. You nod. You use therapeutic touch if appropriate. You listen. You don't have answers to that kind of question and the patient knows it.
  7. by   Buckeye.nurse
    I work on a hematology-oncology floor. Sometimes patients need a safe place to vent. One of my friends recently went through her own battle with cancer, and she shared a quote that I absolutely love.


    Let your patient weep. Let your patient talk. Recognize their strength.
  8. by   Orion81RN
    As for what to say... "I don't know. I can't imagine how you must feel." Then, Listen listen listen. There isn't a cookie cutter right thing to say, but there are wrong things to say. NEVER say I know what you're feeling. Even if you had breast cancer yourself. Everyone's experience and feelings are personal and individualized. Ask about their support system. Ask others what helped them as patients. Utilize your resources of more experienced nurses. Provide listening, open ended questions, and resources to them such as support group info.