Nurse/patient relationship and when it ends

  1. Let me start off by saying that I fully admit I did not handle this situation well and want to make it right. (true confessions always get people's attention, don't they? )

    Last Friday I handed in my 2 week notice. I'm leaving my present job on the 10th and starting my new one on the 14th. I've been telling some of my regular patients that I'm leaving and taking the opportunity to say goodbye to them as I see them. Yesterday I got a call back from one of those patients. I saw her the day before and she wasn't happy at all when I told her. She's an elderly lady who's been having a really hard time and has been given a hard time a few times by the receptionists. (one of the reasons I'm leaving that place BTW, but I digress) Because of that I treated her a little more kindly and with kid gloves. When she called me she asked me if I was wiling to meet with her for a coffee or lunch as a thank you for all I did for her and to "just talk". This is where I boo-boo'd. ..I didn't have the heart to say no. Instead I said it would have to be in a few weeks and then I tried to tell her that it wasn't at all necessary. She insisted.

    I don't think she wants anything per se...I think she's being sincere and that she's looking for a way to thank me. If I was still working there, it would cross the nurse/patient relationship. But would it still be the same if I don't work there? How on earth do I get myself out of this without hurting her? I keep wondering if it would be okay to have a quick coffee with her a few weeks AFTER I quit? If not, how should I word my change of mind?

    Most times I have no problem saying no, but this one caught me off guard.

  2. Visit laurasc profile page

    About laurasc

    Joined: Oct '00; Posts: 310; Likes: 107
    Nursing Supervisor
    Specialty: 26 year(s) of experience in Gen Surg, Peds, family med, geriatrics


  3. by   fergus51
    I don't see what the big deal is really. You're just talking about getting a coffee.
  4. by   traumaRUs
    I agree with Fergus - I think if you are comfortable with this - go for it. Good luck on the new job.
  5. by   bluesky
    Me three. If she meets you for coffee and it ends there, it's all good. Just end it there.
  6. by   llg
    A similar thing happened to me many years ago -- only it was the patient (a neonate) being discharged from the hospital and her mother wanted to buy me lunch. After talking it over with a few people, this is what I did -- which seemed to work out fine.

    I had lunch with her in the hospital cafeteria and explained to her that I had to pay for my own lunch in order to comply with professional standards. By meeting her for lunch, I was able to demonstrate my caring for her and put a good closure on our relationship that satisfied her emotional need to have a more "personal" good-bye. However, because it was in the hospital cafeteria and I paid for myself, it kept it within the professional realm and did not give the suggestion that we had a personal relationship outside the hospital.

    Is there any way you can similarly manipulate the time, place, etc. of this meeting to help keep it within the appropriate professional boundaries?

  7. by   kathy_79
    i agree with you, Ilg. find neutral place around hospital and just go for a coffee with her, but if she goes over just talk to her kindly that you are concern about her health and you hope everything will go fine with her. but do not go over the limits. it is just cup of coffee and should be done like that. you both are mature human being so you should talk it out to solve the problem. just i would never go out from safe, neutral area like Ilg says, it does not look that you have some connection and it is much easy to talk about the problem because none of you want to argue in front of others.
    normal, matutre decision need to be done.
    or if you want to have some relation with her, just wait till you are done working there and she is discharged, so nobody else will have any problems with that.
    good luck, kate
  8. by   laurasc
    Are you all saying it would be okay to meet with her? I guess it would have to be after I quit and start my new job.

    I don't work in a hospital but in a family practice clinic, so there's really no "neutral" place for us to meet. Maybe a coffee shop or something like that.

    I don't know, I'll have to think about this one a bit. She's a nice old lady and her husband is also very nice but a lot more quiet. I don't think she means anything except saying "thank you" but there's still that nagging doubt that she might want something more.

    Besides, I've always been taught that we shouldn't allow our nurse/patient relationships to get personal because as nurses we are in a position of authority and it can get sticky.

    Thanks for your advice.
  9. by   llg
    Perhaps you could take someone with you to meet with her -- a colleague prepared to support you if needed -- someone who could back you up if she were to ask you something that you wanted to say "no" to.

    If you can't think of a compromise that might work for you, then perhaps it is better to simply back out of the situation and not meet with her. If you haven't actually set up a time and place yet, I would consider writing her a nice little note saying that you will be unable to meet with her due to other committments in your personal and professional life. Wish her well, tell her you were happy to have her as a patient, etc. and put some closure on the relationship for her. If she writes back, you don't have to respond.

    Good luck,
  10. by   gypsyatheart
    Well, do you want to meet with her? Or are you totally uncomfortable with the idea and really do not want to have anything to do with her outside of work and the "nurse/patient" relationship? I think it really depends on how you feel about her. I have become friends and have been close to many patients over the years. Nothing ever "crossed the line" so to speak, but there is nothing wrong in developing a friendship with a patient. Follow your heart...and go from there.
  11. by   Agnus
    If you really are uncomfortable then bow out. Call or better yet send a brief note and express your regrets. You do not need to give an excuse but if you must simply say you are not available due to personal commitments and be firm. (that is why I suggest the note she can't boo hoo you if you write a note and do not respond to any further contact that she may make.

    You are correct it could be nothing and then it could be more.

    I had a patient (and to beat the band, her mother was a nurse and should have known better) who expected and insisted on a personal relationship after I left a job. I did not want it, did not have time for it. Yet her (nurse) mother not only wanted me to be personal friends with the patient but insisted as well, and supported the daughter in trying to get me to agree to it. She (the mom) tried to lay a guilt trip on me.

    So yes I agreed and they never saw or heard from me again. I was never a "friend' this was my job which was over.

    On the other hand there are patient familys with whom I still have social contact. However, these relationships eventually out live their usefulness and I just basically faded from the scene over time.