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Patient asking for your phone number? How to say no?

I'm a new nurse on a med-surg floor. I had a lovely patient who had really been through the ringer that I cared for for 10 shifts. When I was saying my goodbye, she got teary eyed, thanking me for my care. She then said "perhaps I could call you sometime to stay in touch"... Rather than saying what I should have, I got flustered and said, "oh, just call the hospital". I didn't tell her to call the unit or anything. I just slipped and said that. Urghh. I'm afraid I'll get into trouble if she calls the unit saying I said she could call me =\ any advice? Is this something I could get into trouble for?

How do you guys politely turn down a future communication?


Nurse SMS, MSN, RN

Specializes in Critical Care; Cardiac; Professional Development.

I don't think you can get in trouble for it. I find polite and cheerful deflection to be effective. "Aren't you sweet? I am SO glad to see you feeling better! Do you have enough bags for your personal belongings or can I get you a couple more?"

TheCommuter, BSN, RN

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych.

Former patients call the nurses station regularly at my workplace to speak to some of the staff who provided care during their hospital stays. I do not believe there's a rule disallowing this practice.

On the other hand, you'd be crossing professional boundaries if you were to give out your personal home/cell phone number to patients with the intent of forming a personal relationship after they discharge from the facility.

Esme12, ASN, BSN, RN

Specializes in Critical Care, ED, Cath lab, CTPAC,Trauma.

You did fine. I would tell the patient "you know where to find me....we LOVE to hear from out patients". I they persist that they want you home phone...just tell them that is very nice of them but you cannot give out personal information.

~PedsRN~, BSN, RN

Specializes in Acute Care Pediatrics.

I think you took the best and easiest route. :)

I don't think you did anything wrong. NEVER give out your personal contact info.. It's just asking for trouble.

Once your professional and therapeutic relationship has ended (pt is DC from your unit) there is no reason you cannot establish a personal relationship with patients. I know a nurse who eventually married one of his trauma patients. I maintained a nice relationship with one of the widows whose husband I cared for, they lived near me and we shared a number of interests so...

I am generically "nice". I've had a lot of patients and family members ask for my phone number to call me post-care. I politely tell them "No" and depending on how inquisitive they are, I explain why.

I have had a few patients who wanted me to babysit for them or be their home nurse. I even had one call me at the hospital after they were discharged! I was flattered but had always been very firm that per policy we were not allowed to give out our contact info or have any kind of relationship with the patient outside the hospital. I tried to be gentle and sound regretful about it, but also be firm.


Specializes in LTC, med/surg, hospice.

Nobody ever likes me that much to ask for my # but I would have said something similar. The hospital/unit phone # isn't private. We have patients that will return to bring goodies, call to give an update and write nice cards.

la_chica_suerte85, BSN, RN

Specializes in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology.

You gave of yourself but not in an inappropriate way. That was a lot of time you spent with the pt and you can think of it like you're providing the pt with a touch base where she should feel like she should be able to get support from for whatever reason -- especially if she has a chronic condition and needs some moral support to help her manage it. Though it should only be in a professional sense, you can still talk to her and be a source of social support in a way. I know it's super awkward when people ask for your number (like one of my male preceptors did :sarcastic:) but I think you did okay. If she hadn't brought it up but called the hospital to speak with you still, would you be thinking of it this way? Probably not.

KelRN215, BSN, RN

Specializes in Pedi.

"I'm sorry but we cannot give out our phone numbers to patients." End conversation.

LadyFree28, BSN, RN

Specializes in Pediatrics, Rehab, Trauma.

You did fine OP.

Telling pts and family members to call the unit usually worked for me in the past. :yes:

"I am so sorry but I can not give out any personal information, I wish you nothing but the best". You were put on the spot, and I think you did just fine.

If she calls looking for you, you can direct the conversation to "are you having questions regarding your discharge instuctions?" If she is seeking medical advice, follow your policy on that. Always cover yourself by stating if she is "concerned" about her health that she needs to be seen and/or if it is a medical emergency that she is to call 911.

If she is looking for a friend and confidante you need to politely excuse yourself from that situation. "You are so lovely to have called to say hello. I am pleased you are doing well. Because of my job, I am unable to take personal phone calls at work. And unfortunetely for the same reason can not share my personal number. But I am so happy that you are doing ok!!"

If she calls and says she is not doing well, this could get sticky. Again, encourage her to be seen, call 911, whatever appropriate, and depending again on your policy, you could put her in touch with home health--and some home health agencies anyone can refer, so you could also do that. But be careful and seek assistance from your manager if you need it. You do NOT want to get into a situation where the patient ever says "welll, Krazziekid told me that I should......" Use your resources.

And it really is never a good idea that once the theraputic relationship ends that you can go on to be friends, have relationships with former patients....just not great practice and nurses have lost their jobs for less.

Be mindful and careful. And as a new nurse, get your own malpractice insurance. Best investment you can make.

I get this all the time! Patients also love hugging me..


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