what do you do when a patient cries

Nurses General Nursing

Published

I am pretty new to nursing and just started working on a post surgical floor. On our floor we get a lot of post-mastectomy patients and last night one of my patients had just come back from having a double mastectomy. She seemed very matter-of-fact about everything and seemed to be dealing with it just fine. I went into her room to assess her drains and she started crying. Her husband was there and came right over to comfort her but I felt awkward. I didn't know what to say or do, or if she even would appreciate me saying or doing anything. I made sure to get her some tissues, but other than that I didn't know what to do. I asked others on my floor how they deal with upset, crying patients and they told me "you just get used to it" and said that mastectomy patients are generally very emotional (for obvious reasons). I am just wondering how others deal with patients who are sad and crying. I am a very caring and sensitive person and I want to be able to convey that to my patients without seeming too emotional or weird or too cold and standoffish.

ONCRN84

251 Posts

Sit down, put an arm around them, and just be quiet (or ask if there's anything you can do). Sometimes, they don't need words, they just need to know someone is there. I've had more than one patient (or family member) just crumble into my arms. All you can do is hug and be there.

Whispera, MSN, RN

3,458 Posts

Specializes in psych, addictions, hospice, education.

Since her husband was there and supportive, and you gave tissues, I think you were very appropriate. Slipping out quietly when loving family or friends are there is good. If he wasn't there, I'd sit near her, maybe rest my hand on her arm, and just be with her for a bit. Then I might ask her if there's anything I can do to help (and do all I could to honor her request), and ask if she would like to talk about it a bit. Then later, on peeking in and assessing, smile and ask "doing ok?" and go from there. Let the patient lead you to what you should do, and follow your heart about what's right.

Yes, you MIGHT get used to it, but if you are a caring person, it's likely to always tug at your heartstrings when your patients cry. You might even cry a bit. It's ok as long as you keep things about the patient and family and not about you.

Thank you for being so caring as to ask about this! It matters!!

loriangel14, RN

6,931 Posts

Specializes in Acute Care, Rehab, Palliative.

I've been there mant times in the 2 years I have been a nurse.I usually put my arm around them and just sit with them for a while.Some times you can't change a crummy situation but you can be there physically for your pt. Our charting includes this as part of our workload recording.

systoly

1,756 Posts

Specializes in LTC, Memory loss, PDN.

I like all of the above. I think the worst anyone can do is to be too cheerful or try to cheer up the patient who just had a life changing event. I do like to pay special attention not only to the patient, but also to the family. And one thing you can always do is pray for the patient and theirs and pray for knowledge to do and say the right things.

I RN A

169 Posts

I'm a new nurse too, Couple of days ago one of my patients cried because the MD told her she had to have a surgery. I came into her room just to give her meds and she was upset. She said her husband died a few months ago and she didn't want her children to go through it again. She had many surgeries before and she is 87. I didn't know what to say, but I did what my heart was telling me to do: I held her hand and listened. Then I tried to reason with her and all of these worked. Next day she got better and if she improves even more she wouldn't need a surgery. I want to give my heart to my patients and comfort them as much as I can.

leslie :-D

11,191 Posts

we all grieve differently.

as a result, not everyone will be receptive to a nurse's physical presence or any type of physical contact.

a genuine "i'm so sorry" is really all that needs to be done.

for those pts who i sense would appreciate a hug/squeeze/touch, or, a few minutes of my time, i am more than willing.

yet i have also found out the hard way, that not all welcome it.

it's important to try and distinguish who needs what.

the bottom line is a pt will always appreciate sensitivity to their grief, and when you know your pt well enough, it is the nurse who will be able to assess what it is they need.

leslie

Specializes in ICU.

Don't forget to ask the husband how he's doing, or if there's anything you can do to help him (snacks, drinks, blanket/pillow,...). I feel about as sorry for my patients' suffering spouses/children as I do for the patients themselves. It's one thing if the patient is recovering from surgery, and is expected to recover in the near future. It's more difficult for me to deal with a patient who's suffering & not making much progress after a week in the hospital.

As others have said, just our caring presence may be all that we can offer.

celclt

274 Posts

great question-you have a kind heart. I would also suggest you talk to your nursing mgr about adding the emotional dimensions of masectomy,ect to orientation for RNs that come behind you, maybe some of the other RNs could do an inservice? Just seems sad and unnecessary to think you'll just get used to it. :(

ONCRN84

251 Posts

It really all depends on the patient and the situation. I worked inpatient oncology and usually by the time they get crappy news, we know them pretty well. Tune into a patient's physical cues and let your intuition guide you. Don't be caught up in what to say or possibly saying the "wrong" thing.

rngolfer53

681 Posts

I am pretty new to nursing and just started working on a post surgical floor. On our floor we get a lot of post-mastectomy patients and last night one of my patients had just come back from having a double mastectomy. She seemed very matter-of-fact about everything and seemed to be dealing with it just fine. I went into her room to assess her drains and she started crying. Her husband was there and came right over to comfort her but I felt awkward. I didn't know what to say or do, or if she even would appreciate me saying or doing anything. I made sure to get her some tissues, but other than that I didn't know what to do. I asked others on my floor how they deal with upset, crying patients and they told me "you just get used to it" and said that mastectomy patients are generally very emotional (for obvious reasons). I am just wondering how others deal with patients who are sad and crying. I am a very caring and sensitive person and I want to be able to convey that to my patients without seeming too emotional or weird or too cold and standoffish.

I'm a hospice nurse who does after hours calls. I see more family members in tears than patients, but I think the response is similar.

Yes, I sometimes, make that often, feel awkward. Being male probably has something to do with that. (Nothing like a little stereotyping, eh?:chuckle)

What I've found is first, as you do, get them a box of tissues, or whatever physical need they have--perhaps a chair, a closed door, etc. By seeing and reacting to their physical needs, you do convey the message that you're caring for them. Then, just be quietly there until they're ready to engage you, although they may prefer to be alone, so take your cues from their body language, etc. Often after a few minutes, they're ready to talk, and being there to listen is a very big help to them. Acknowledge their fears and losses, don't offer platitudes, and you'll likely gain their trust and gratitude.

lalalalexi

79 Posts

Everyone has given such great responses! And it's nice knowing how many of you are so caring out there. I think, in a way, I am also afraid to show that I care because I know that sometimes if I stay and listen and hold their hand while they cry etc, I'm going to start crying too. I know some people say that it's ok to show some emotion, but I'm afraid it looks unprofessional to cry with a patient, especially when you've just met them.

+ Add a Comment

By using the site, you agree with our Policies. X