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?
Well, I never iniate contact with a former patient of mine, if I happen to run into them but in your case the patient tapped you on your shoulder so that's a different situation. If a former patient wants to just say hi and express that they are happy with the care they received, of course you have to respond somehow. I think it's the polite thing to do and of course just being a decent human being. However, if it were me, after I'd expressed the opinion that I'm happy to see that they're doing well and some superficial social pleasantries, I'd try to extricate myself from the situation as soon as possible.
Personally, I wouldn't have shared one or two drinks with my patient (I assume they were alcoholic beverages?) There are several reasons for this. It probably doesn't look good if your manager or similar (who recognized the patient) saw you socializing with a recently discharged patient over drinks. Also, alcohol tends to lower inhibitions, not necessarily something I want from one of my patients in a bar setting
The third thing is that I don't really know what I'd be talking about with the patient for any prolonged period of time. I definitely have no desire
to divulge any personal details about my life and asking my patients a lot of questions regarding his or her life, might create the impression that I want to get to know them better (which I don't). Since we couldn't very well sit there and discuss the finer points of his/her surgical procedure for an entire hour, I think the entire situation would simply become awkward.
I haven't yet met a former patient of mine in a bar, but in all honesty if it was difficult to disentangle from the situation I might consider leaving and finding another watering hole
I realize that it sounds as if I can't stand my patients, but that's not the case. I just prefer to have rather strict boundaries between my work life and my personal life. Our relationship started out as a nurse-patient one, which is not an equal relationship. In my opinion that shared history makes it tricky to socialize or form friendships.
OP, I think that it's good that you've asked for advice regarding how to handle these types of situations. I'll be interested to see what other posters think, they might have a different take on this.