Running into former patients - page 2

I have worked in a Medsurg unit for over a year in a big city (Bay Area, CA). I would never expect to run into a former patient that has been discharged recently. During my weekend off, I was at... Read More

  1. by   HalfBoiled
    So pretty much, the patient has to initiate contact. Given your setting in a bar, having a drink is unavoidable. Personally, if the patient offers a cold one, I wouldn't mind and accept. It is your discretion since you are a in a heavily populated area. It is not like am having 3 shots of tequila and then getting a date afterwards. I can assume you two were conversing of something other than healthcare.
  2. by   hppygr8ful
    I work in a free standing psych facility in a small suburb of a major city. We get patients from all over still we nurses that live locally are pretty well known to the local psych population who happen to be homeless. I never initiate contact when I see them but don't ignore them if they say Hi. They usually will say something like they are taking their meds and we nod and smile and away we go.

  3. by   Cat365
    I wasn't there so I can't say for sure. I have had patients spot me and come up and greet me. I usually visit with them briefly and then go back to what I was previously doing. Is sharing a couple of drinks with them appropriate? That's kind of sticky. However, I wasn't there. I probably would have avoided that if I could have. I would have stated "it's great to see you. Have a great time. I need to get back to my group. I'm being rude leaving my whoever." Maybe you were not there with a group though. Maybe that wasn't an option. I don't know because I wasn't there.

    To previous posters. The OP is not a psych nurse. I would imagine that would add all sorts of complications that luckily OP doesn't have to deal with.
  4. by   DizzyJon
    The key word is "former" patient. There is an ethical issue when socializing or dating a current patient. In the outpatient setting the patient should be discharged from the practice prior to engaging in any type of physical relationship. Running into a current patient randomly is not a big deal in brief encounters or even socializing briefly. You aren't establishing a friendship or meaningful relationship in such a brief interaction. In the inpatient setting that patient is no longer your patient once they are discharged. You are no longer caring for that patient and don't anticipate to ever see them inpatient again (certainly there are exceptions based on diagnosis and you anticipate seeing some patients back often). For instance, you have a young healthy 20 something admitted for acute appendicitis and then run into them at a bar. They are no longer your patient and you will likely never see them again inpatient. So, where is the ethical violation? Ethics come into play when you are continuing to care for someone you've established a personal/intimate relationship with and then if it is an authoritative position caring for a patient (i.e. provider having intimate relationship with patient) in which s/he can no longer provide unbiased care to the patient or the patient feels s/he was powerless in the situation and had to give into a physical relationship. If you want to hang out or even date a former patient, just make sure they are a former patient and no provider-patient relationship is still established.
  5. by   3ringnursing
    Since I used to work ICU my first response was, "Oh! Sorry - I didn't recognize you with your clothes on!" (Which was the truth - people look different without all the equipment we hook them up to).

    This was often so uncomfortable that there would be nervous laughter on both sides then after a minute we'd both be on our way separately.

    Personally I would be unlikely to draw the attention of a former care giver in a public/personal setting.
  6. by   emmjayy
    I avoid patients at all costs outside of the work environment. I go so far as to make sure I look as different as possible at work than I do outside the hospital because I want to lower the chances of patients recognizing me. I always have my hair up really tight in a bun, glasses, and no make-up at the hospital, whereas normally I style myself completely differently. Like a previous poster, I prefer to have really strict boundaries between work/personal life. I don't care to share personal details of my life with patients and I am always paranoid about violating HIPPA in some way so yeah.... I would not have had drinks with this person.
  7. by   SopranoKris
    When I did my clinicals in nursing school, during my OB rotation, the patient I was assigned to for the day actually had her baby on my shift. I built a good rapport with her & her husband while she was in labor. When it came time for delivery, she specifically asked if I could stay in the room, which was nice. I ran in to them at the grocery store (with their darling little one). They asked to take a picture of me with the baby. How could I say no? I felt awkward, but they were so enthusiastic about it. They kept saying "now we have a picture of the nurse that delivered our baby". I'm like a) I was a student at the time (and told them that several times) and b) I didn't deliver their baby (the resident had me assist him). They were such a nice couple, so I didn't want to burst their bubble. I smiled, took the picture with them and went on my way.

    Since then, I've run in to them on two other occasions, it's kind of like a running joke that we seem to bump in to each other every year.

    Pts who are kind & polite, I don't mind running into. The ones who want to gripe or complain of every ailment under the sun make me want to run for cover!
  8. by   calivianya
    Quote from Volley88
    Thank you for all your comments. This patient in particular was in the hospital for a very acute diagnosis nothing related to alcohol and/or drugs. We had established a very good rapport during my patients stay at the hospital.
    Then I don't think you were inappropriate. I probably would have handled it the same way you did.

    In general, I don't drink with my patients - but I can think of one or two I would have made an exception for because we were just about friends, not just patient/caregiver, by the time the patient left. I've got one right now like that who's been with us for a month - but I'm 99% sure this person's going to die before discharge, so I'm not going to have the opportunity to anyway. I'm very sad about that.
  9. by   Alex_RN
    I never had overlap with my personal or professional lives until this month:
    - Patient described my dog. Turns out they live around the corner from me and see me all the time.
    - Walked into a room and saw a friend/neighbor visiting the patient, turns out we have a lot of friends in common.
    - Answered a call light (not my patient) and the patient was an ex from many years ago.
    - Patient's spouse is my neighborhood librarian from my local library, a few blocks from home, whom I see regularly.
    - My patient is a work pal from another department. (Not really from my personal life but definitely a different patient/nurse dynamic.)
  10. by   Ben_Dover
    "Oh hey... yah... I do remember you and I do also remember your friend. But wasn't the plan for you two is to attend ETOH Detox?"

  11. by   Ruby Vee
    Quote from Volley88
    I have worked in a Medsurg unit for over a year in a big city (Bay Area, CA). I would never expect to run into a former patient that has been discharged recently.

    During my weekend off, I was at a bar with a few of my friends. Someone tapped on my shoulder and it was my patient! I did not know how to approach it. My patient introduced me to his friends as his nurse from a week ago. He enjoyed my care and happy with the discharge process. We shared a drink or two and parted ways after an hour.

    Was my interaction appropriate? How else should I have handled it? What should be my mannerisms for the next time I run into a former patient?
    Over the years, DH and I have run into former patients and their families. There was the guy who stood on the sidewalk outside the living room window, staring in at us (it was dusk, we hadn't closed the blinds yet) lifting his T shirt and pointing at his sternotomy scar. We went outside to congratulate him on his recovery and his power walking routine, spent 1-2 minutes chatting and then excused ourselves because "dinner is in the oven." (It wasn't.) There was the former patient who flung her arms around my DH as we boarded a plane 1000 miles from where we worked screaming "Do you remember me?" I did; he didn't. Fortunately her seat was far from ours. We expressed how glad we were that she was doing so well and moved on down the aisle. There was the former family member who was bagging my groceries as she told me about her mother's death from co-morbities. I expressed my sincere sympathy to her and excused myself within minutes.

    I have never had a drink with a patient, much less two. Your interaction was inappropriate. The interaction should have lasted no more than a minute or two unless (and I know this happens in small towns frequently) the two of you had some sort of relationship BEFORE his admission to your unit. Your brother-in-law's brother, your high school best friend's husband, your mother's boss. In that case, the interaction can be as long as 3-5 minutes. In any case, not drinking together for an hour.
  12. by   Volley88
    Thank you for your input everyone! I am NOT talking about a frequent flyer, hx of homeless, or hx ETOH/drug abuse. I am talking about a patient who is awake and alert, cooperative with care, and a very acute diagnosis not relating ETOH/drug.

    I appreciate all your opinions. In nursing school and in the floor, it was never discussed how nurses should react when they see their former patients. After speaking to my peers, no one really talked about how to handle the situation of running into a patient outside the hospital. It seemed we would have to figure it out ourselves. I am not sure if I violated any hospital rules or policies. Although, I believe it falls under our own ethics.
  13. by   Alex_RN
    Thank you for your post. The different perspectives have been eye opening.