How would you handle this

Nurses General Nursing


How do you handle doing a procedure on a patient when family is there? I had this happen to me when the grandmother was in hospital. I had to change her attends and the grand daughter just sat there watching me. What do you do? Do you let them stay. Do you make them leave? what about if it is a husband/wife etc?What do you do if they refuse to leave? Thanks for your responses


835 Posts

I try to get them involved with the care. If they are going to just stand there they are going to help - no gawking.

Nurse Ratched, RN

2,149 Posts

Specializes in Geriatrics/Oncology/Psych/College Health.

I don't like an audience - either help or get out of the way lol. Nursing is not a spectator sport. ;)

Specializes in Med/Surg, ER, L&D, ICU, OR, Educator.

I say something like, "Okay! Your grandma and I are going to need a few minutes alone, so if you want to stretch your legs, I'll come find you in the lobby when we are finished!", and stand there, look them in the eye with a big smile...and they usually go. If they say they'll stay, I say "Okay, but you'll have to help then! Have you ever seen an open wound before (or suctioned someone, or placed a catheter, whatever)".

I say remind myself (on the inside) that they really mean well, that this patient is lucky to have a family that cares since many don't...but I am gritting my teeth (on the inside) because I don't have time to teach them about grandma's wound care and why I need to wear a mask or put a belt around her waist when she 'tries' to transfer onto the commode.

As long as she's not the third one (dear, loved one) to ask the same thing.....she's pretty safe.


190 Posts

I am comfortable with family observing procedure.But I check with the patient first, family second. If either is uncomfortable with the thought of watching a procedure I ask the family to wait in the waiting room. It's really up to the patient as far as I am concerned.


712 Posts

I agree if they are going to stand there they can help. Or if the family member feels comfortable with their relatives there so be it. After all it is all about the patient in the long run.


1 Post

Hi Rhona-

I have been in this situation... First I would let the family member know that I needed to provide some hygenic care to the patient. Then I would ask them to step outside while I complete my task. If they refuse, then I would ask if they would like to help me. Perhaps this would provide an opportunity to teach the family to provide more efficient care upon discharge. If they chose not to help, then I would just carry on with my task, while attempting to maintain dignity and privacy for the patient at all costs... even if it meant closing the curtain to block the view. The family should have great respect for you in considering their loved one's dignity. :nurse: :imbar


657 Posts

i explain what i am going to do. ..i let them stay if they want to and if they arent in the way.

if its something that might be embarassing to the pt i will ask the family to please step out.

so far i havent had anyone challange me.

adrienurse, LPN

1,275 Posts

Just go with the flow. I guess I'd just invite them to give me and the grandmother some privacy together, but if I'd sense that they'd rather stay I would proceed. Explain what you are doing and then involve them if possible. Sometimes there's a little bit of guilt or some other strong emotion that makes them not want to let their loved one out of their sight. That's okay, I can respect that.


2 Posts

I would simply ask them to step out side.


1,214 Posts

I tried that , she stayed and was right beside the bed. I couldn't get over to the other side of the bed with her their and she refused to leave. Oh,well it takes all kinds. I can remember the days when you listened to a nurse. they were the boss in the hospital. I guess things have really changed.

Thanks eveyone

live4today, RN

5,099 Posts

Specializes in Community Health Nurse.

If the patient doesn't mind having a spouse, sibling, parent, or adult child present for the tasks, I don't mind either.

If I am going to be doing a sterile dressing change, I ask them to step out because I do NOT want them accidentally touching my sterile field.

If a neighbor, friend, small child, or acquaintance is visiting, I ask them to step out until I am done with the patient as these are people that may NOT be that privy to the patient's private side of life...if you catch my drift.

Discretion is important. Most nurses know when to be discreet and protect the patient from unnecessary exposure and to who.

Husbands and wives KNOW each other's bodies quite well, so what is there to hide from them? :chuckle :kiss

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