What do you do when people ask you questions related to their health?

  1. If I can answer them, I will, but I work in a neuro ICU (adult), so my area of expertise is quite specific. If you think you're having a SAH, I can help you out, but I know very little about pediatrics, obstetrics, psychiatry, etc, etc. Nursing school was a long time ago and at best I got a very general education in most of areas of practice.
    I find that because I'm a nurse people expect me to know everything. Most recently, a friend suspects she has gout in her knee and has come to me for advice. It seems unlikely to me given her age, but really, I don't have a clue. Gout isn't really an issue in my area of practice...or if it is, it's the least of the patient's worries. Oh, and my mom's having this pain in her shoulder. What could that be? My sister's eyes water a lot...why is that? These are just examples. When I don't know the answers, they kind of look at me like "And YOU work in an ICU???". Does anyone else relate? How do you handle these endless questions? I don't understand why the general public expects nurses to know everything health related. They wouldn't expect a neurosurgeon to know how to deliver a baby, would they? Or, you wouldn't want a real estate lawyer to represent you in a murder trial, would you? Know what I mean?
  2. Visit Missa profile page

    About Missa

    Joined: Feb '05; Posts: 15


  3. by   Blee O'Myacin
    If it's my brother with a stomachache, I'll laugh at him for wasting a long distance phone call and tell him to take an antacid and stop driving my sister in law up the wall.

    If its a neighbor with gout, I'd say that I didn't feel comfortable giving medical advice (or "practicing medicine without a license") and offer my assistance in the form of telling them the name of a nice family practice doc in the area.

    There's a difference between being a friend and listening to someone you care about with a concern, but I don't give out advice or diagnoses that I am not qualified to give out.

    Hope this helps!

  4. by   BJLynn
    I usually say something like, "Hmmm, that sounds intresting. You seem concerned about it. I think the best thing you could do is talk with your doctor. I think that person could help you more than I could."
  5. by   santhony44
    A lot of times I find that people are asking for information more than advice. For example a friend emailed me yesterday because her father in law is being put on dialysis. I was able to talk about kidney failure and dialysis in general terms so that she and her husband would at least have some clue what to expect.

    Then sometimes people will ask advice because they aren't sure whether they need to be seen or not.

    Of course, "see your doctor/PCP" is pretty much my standard advice.

    There's nothing at all wrong with saying "I work with people who have things like strokes and head injuries so I don't know much about newborn babies- you need to talk to someone who is an expert in that area" and letting it go at that.
  6. by   sourkuss
    I tell them "Im not a doctor but I play one on TV":roll
  7. by   TazziRN
    Being in the ER, I see all. If it's something simple that can be handled at home, I'll tell them. but only if they're friends/family. If it something that needs a doc, I tell them that.
  8. by   Antikigirl
    I tell my friends/family to talk to their physicians because their MD has their medical history and other info to make a diagnosis specific to them, and that they are the folks you should be directing the questions to.

    Does that stop them from asking me...heck no! GRRRRRR! So I say the same thing over and over again like a recording. I thought after a few years they would get the hint! LOL!

    Happens with patients all the time too...I will go into a room after they have talked to the MD, and since the MD visits them for such little time, they just get their brain started working on things by the time the MD leaves and boom...I am there! I have to tell the same things to patients too, and that I am here in the hospital to assist with the care plan the MD put into place...but I am not their MD.

    Yeah, I get some stern looks when I have to remind folks that nurses and MD's are diffent, but those are also typically the same patient that thinks I am a housekeeper, pharamasist, waitress, tour guide, cook and bottle washer...you name it! LOL!!!!!!!!
  9. by   rnin02
    Its one of the most frustrating things ever. My husband's aunt was talking about another distant family member with cancer at a family dinner recently, and asked me a question. When I said I don't really have much knowledge about cancer or its treatments (I worked tele and just started working with babies) everyone just gave me this look. Sorry, nurses can't know everything. Or at least not this nurse.
  10. by   rnsrgr8t
    I work in pediatrics so whenever an adult asks me medical questions my routine answer is "I don't do grown-ups and I am off duty" (all in good humor of course). It is actually a joke among all of my friends. If there is someone who has serious illness etc, I will listen and be an advocate for them but that is all I can do.
  11. by   all4schwa
    Quote from Missa
    Or, you wouldn't want a real estate lawyer to represent you in a murder trial, would you? Know what I mean?

    :roll I'm going to have to use this one. I dont know if people realize how speacialized nursing is or what that entails. I'm a new grad, i'm thinking of getting a button to where that says that. My mom does hospice and she really gets frustrated, but at least shes got the listening skills for it.

    Like a previous poster said, alot of people just need a little info. for instance if someone calls me at home (a friend that i would do a favor for, not just any schmo), i'll tell them, 'i don't know enough about that, let me google it and i'll call you back so we can talk about it.'
  12. by   SmilingBluEyes
    I tell them that as a nurse, by LAW, I can't diagnose or treat any medical condition, including theirs. That usually does the trick.
  13. by   traumaRUs
    I just became an APN and my gosh, guys the folks wanting advice actually come to my doorstep (how do they know)???

    At any rate, I always say that I don't feel comfortable giving medical advice. And...then I leave it at that.