Updated: Mar 5, 2021
Published Feb 22, 2014
Have you ever been recognized by a former patient outside of work? How do you feel when this happens? How did you react? I'm guessing some people are OK with it but others find it awkward and don't really know how to handle it. Do you have any tips on the best way to handle these things? Your input is greatly appreciated.
nursefrances, BSN, RN
I ran into a patient's mom at a yard sale at her house. I hadn't seen them in 10 years but she recognized me. There were other friends of hers with her that asked how we knew each other. I immediately thought, "ummmm....." Of course I can't say anything because that would violate HIPAA. The mom said it herself so it was her choice. After I thought about it a moment I figured I could have said through a "mutual friend" (the doctor). This way I'm not lying. We do both know him and we met through him.
What bothers me is when a former patient comes in to visit another patient. The former patient is now in street clothes and unrecognizable (they are not in a hospital gown). Sometimes a voice may sound familiar but if I took care of you 2 years ago for one day I may not remember you. And of course they come at you like you had dinner with each other's families the night before. I feel bad when I don't remember them but I try to play it off like I remember them if possible.
My encounters have been that the patient remembers me, but I only know that I "know" them from somewhere. I usually don't put it together until later. So far, it's just been a friend smile or wave from the patient.
jadelpn, LPN, EMT-B
If they speak first, I usually say "hello, nice to see you" and then go about my business. Or I shop for groceries in the quiet hours HAHA!
If they say "oh, thank you so much....." I say with all "seriousness"..."I know not of what you speak, wink wink nudge, nudge, but I really love what I do and I thank you".
I live in an incredibly small town, so this happens more often than not.
What is interesting is when a nurse chooses to go out at night. It always seems to be that the next time you work there's a patient that starts out with "heyyyyy, aren't you the woman I danced with the other night...." "I know not what you speak.....(with NO wink, wink, nudge, nudge) HAHAHAHA
Mandychelle79, ASN, RN
I had my daughter a cheer with the college day hosted by one of the colleges near me. I was walking down the street and had some random guy say Hello, dont I know you from... I honestly didnt remember him and he said oh I know and named the hospital I work at. Then I seen his wife, who was the patient. She gave me a hug and said have fun watching your daughter today ( she was there watching hers)
Ruby Vee, BSN
Back when we were just dating, my Dear Husband and I took a trip to southern California, about a thousand miles from where we were living. We had a lovely vacation, and as we were boarding our flight to go home, DH said "Gee that couple up ahead look kinda familiar." I didn't recognize them, so we thought nothing of it . . . until we were actually ON the plane and looking for our seats. Some woman already seated a couple of aisles in front of the seats we were headed to leapt into the air and flung herself at my boyfriend screaming something like "I knew it was you! I knew it!" Turns out she was the daughter of a former patient and wanted to get to know him better.
Another time, we were sitting in the living room, watching TV. The house was so close to the sidewalk that if someone walked by, it felt as if they were right IN the living room with us, so we usually kept the blinds closed. That day, they were open. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw someone outside on the sidewalk, but I stubbornly refused to look at them thinking they would just go away so I could get up and close the blinds. They didn't. First they waved, then they jumped up and down and waved, and when they started undressing, DH and I both had to look. Turns out the guy was a former CABG patient, and he was unbuttoning his shirt to show his sternotomy scar in hopes that we'd recognize him. We did. And were VERY careful about keeping the blinds closed from then on!
I had a couple patients a long time ago start conversations with me in the grocery store. After that, I took a cue from my LEO husband and made myself pretty unrecognizable. I don't wear makeup beyond the "natural look" at work, and I have fun with it on my off days. I always wear my hair up at work, I wear it down when I'm out and about. It's amazing what differences tiny things in your look will make. My husband doesn't really shave on his days off and wears a hat at work. It makes him pretty unrecognizable in a public place.
NurseDirtyBird said:I had a couple patients a long time ago start conversations with me in the grocery store. After that, I took a cue from my LEO husband and made myself pretty unrecognizable. I don't wear makeup beyond the "natural look" at work, and I have fun with it on my off days. I always wear my hair up at work, I wear it down when I'm out and about. It's amazing what differences tiny things in your look will make. My husband doesn't really shave on his days off and wears a hat at work. It makes him pretty unrecognizable in a public place.
Pardon my curiosity, but what is a "LEO husband"?
Law enforcement officer
meanmaryjean, DNP, RN
When I worked med-surg at the local hospital, this happened all the time (usually at WalMart). I swear I have face blindness or something, because I seldom recognize these people.
I always thing "Let's see, take off your make up, mat down your hair, pull a sheet up to your chin and puke......oh, NOW I remember you!"
The only time that happened to me I was shopping at Wal-Mart and a man says "hey you were my nurse when I was in prison!". Yeah. I couldnt wait to get out of there.
Be gracious, professional, greet them back, and say Thank You!
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