How much personal info do you share with pts?

  1. I am a second year RN student. I have had some really nosy, pushy patients the last couple of weeks and it has made me wonder where to draw the therapeutic communication / your asking me too many personal questions line. I know as nurses we are supposed to have a therapeutic relationship with our patients, but at the same time are not supposed to get too close, or share too much with the pt. It seems like in order to have a therapeutic relationship with your pt that you need to be somewhat open with them. Where do you draw the line?

    My instructors say that we should easily be able to sit down with the patient and interview them for our care plan. This includes their relationship status, if they are happy in the relationship, if they have kids, job status/ financial status, personal stressors and so on... These questions seem pretty personal to me, but I understand why I am supposed to ask them.

    Well, lately my patients have been starting to ask me personal questions.I am talkative and outgoing, but usually prefer to keep to stick to topics like movies, weather, pets, and just small talk. I have never been comfortable discussing things like my relationship, kids, or what neighborhood I live in with people I don't know. Am i just too sensitive? are these normal things people talk about with strangers?

    I am sort of torn because I feel like if I flat out refuse to tell them anything that they may not want to keep talking to me, and that is not fostering a good nurse patient relationship. But on the other hand I feel like the pt probably does not see anything wrong with asking me stuff since I was just interviewing them. So, how much do you share with your patients?

    On another side note, what is a nice way to tell a patient that you don't want to answer their question if giving a vague answer and changing the subject does not work. For example, a patient asked me where I live the other day. I said "oh, not too far from here. Where do you live."
    Pt- "I live on x st and w st. Where exactly do you live again?"
    Me- "sort of by the west side, can I get you anything before I go to lunch"
    pt- "no I don't need anything. Where exactly do you live, like what streets?"

    I just excused myself at that point without answering. What would have been a good way to handle this?
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    About Bouncyball

    Joined: Aug '12; Posts: 176; Likes: 107
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  3. by   *4!#6
    I share nothing. I lie and say I am married to any patient that asks, and if they ask me where my rings are, I tell them I don't wear them at work for infection risk. I also tell them I live in "the city."

    I side-track the conversation if they ask me about religion or personal beliefs. For example, gay marriage was on the news the other day and my patient was asking me what I thought about it. I just said that there was a lot on the news about it etc etc etc.

    I will converse with patients but I don't feel comfortable telling them about myself or my personal life. When I am at work, the focus is on them and well-being.

    That patient asking you where you live is kind of creepy. I would have said "I don' feel comfortable sharing that information." and left it at that.
  4. by   Altra
    Be confident that these are indeed inappropriate questions, and there is absolutely no reason to answer them if you don't want to. Change the subject, give the patient a *look* ... the same half raised-eyebrow you would give anyone else engaging in socially inappropriate/awkward behavior, and move the conversation along.
  5. by   Aurora77
    I share what I'm comfortable sharing. I don't have a problem telling people I'm married, don't have kids, etc. I don't get in depth, but do find sharing a little bit about myself helps pts feel more comfortable. The questions you got are weird, though. I would never give out my street!
  6. by   MrChicagoRN
    You deflected the question just fine, but they persisted. Final reply, "it doesn't really matter...we're not here to talk about how many children did you say you had?"
  7. by   Bouncyball
    Thanks for all of the feedback. It's interesting to hear what other nurses share and don't share with patients. I am trying to figure out what i am comfortable sharing as I go along (but the street I live on will never be something I share!). I will work on being firm and putting my foot down next time someone gets that pushy. Thankfully most patients aren't that persistent.
  8. by   DizzyLizzyNurse
    You have to decide what you are comfortable sharing. For me, it differs from patient to patient. I would never give out my address to a stranger. I just say I live in the city I live in. If they press for more, I tell them I'm not allowed to give out more information (what are they gonna do? Tell my manager that I refuse to tell them where I live?) I've had requests to friend patients on FB. I again tell them I am not allowed to.

    However if a sweet LOL asks if I am married or have kids I have no problem telling them the truth. They are just making small talk and I like to talk while I'm working with patients. I think it makes them more comfortable with me. I just use my instinct.
  9. by   Nurse ABC
    Most of my patients are elderly and are interested in what area I live in, if I'm married, and how many kids I have and their ages which leads to a discussion of my age because they are shocked because I apparently don't look old enough to have kids as old as I do! I don't mind sharing that with them. I would never share my street address, financial status, or personal identifying info about my husband or kids. I've never had anyone even ask my last name. Also, if the patients were a lot younger I might not share as much. You could always ask why they are interested in which street you live on or whatever question they ask that's too personal. Maybe they knew someone from there and wanted to know if you knew them or maybe they are having relationship problems and want to know if you can relate. If you aren't comfortable answering just say sorry-you don't have time to talk about yourself or you could always say we aren't supposed to share personal info. Most people are just trying to be friendly.
  10. by   PennyWise
    Other than CC numbers, address and birthdate.................I don't tell them a thing. It's none of their business.
  11. by   GeneralJinjur
    I care for psych patients and come from a family of cops. It pays not to be specific. I have an imaginary husband that I can refer to if I'm getting marriage proposals from pts.

    That person was pushing limits and you did a good job of refusing to play.
  12. by   tlockettrn
    I graduated from nursing school two years ago, and we never had to ask patients personal questions, especially concerning their finances, to do care plans. Most information is already available in their charts anyway. Just remember if you ask personal questions you do open the door for personal questions to be asked of you.
  13. by   RNCCMMS
    If you have the opportunity, try to take a course in motivational interviewing. It's a great help in learning how to communicate with patients. I can understand asking financial questions but in the context of, "are you able to afford your medications?, do you have difficulty paying for your utilities?"..these are quality of life issues...then there is the questions about family, as in " if you need help at home, who would you be able to call?" It might help to preface your questions with "I am not trying to pry, but we want to make sure you have the resources and support you need upon discharge home". It's very important to learn how to set limits when comunicating with patients. If the setting is set that this is in relation to their plan of care, then you can gently say, " I would like to talk about you and your health care needs."
    Good luck in school!
  14. by   Wrench Party
    In my area, our hospitals are spread between several cities, and people do not frequently know the layout
    of the ones they don't live in. Most patients are satisfied if I say "I live by university X in city Y" and leave it at that.

    If people get pushy, I just divert their attention to another question.