Patient family issues


Hello everyone,

I am going to throw this out to ALL nurses. I have alot of issues with family members - yes most of them are a god send taking care of their loved ones - cleaning them up and feeding them - those patients that have loved ones that do for them are soooo lucky. I recently got attacked because I voiced my opinion about this type of situation. Family is so important to patients - I understand this and I encourage their participation in their loved one's care - and me, as a nurse try to keep them in the loop as much as possible.

Here is my problem - which to me is a real problem - family that stand around staring at their loved one - for example - when their meal tray comes up - they call for the nurse to feed them. I would not even complain if it was a patient that had no family there - but when I tell you that I could not even walk into that particular room because there were so many family members present - I tell you no lie - it was ridiculous. Could no one help him to eat???? They all stood around staring and complaining at the nursing station - time that would have could have been well spent, in my opinion, feeding their loved one. My nurses aide was busy helping a patient that was incontinent and I was busy handing out medications (to my other six patients)- I am not trying to avoid my responsibilities, but it seems ridculous to me that if you are standing around why would you not help your mom, dad, aunt, uncle etc eat???

I have gotten attacked by so many other boards telling me telling me that if I feel this way I need to not be a nurse - that I need to give up the profession. I have been a nurse for only six months and the pressure that is put on me is ridculous. In my opinion - my presense is better spent with my patient can't breathe, and have no family members present to call me, rather than the room that is full with family members - yet they refuse to lift a finger to feed their "LOVED ONE" and want to wait for the nurse to do it. I am only one person with 6-7 patients to care for - and management breathing down my through about customer service. I will say this - if I don't get that lopressor or vasotec to someone whose pressure is through the roof - or suction someone that is aspirating (which by the way all happenened to me while taking care of this particular patient as well) that is more of a proprity to me than feeding someone who has ten or more family members in the room. Think about it it - it could be your're loved one choking or stroking out and where was your nurse?? Feeding a patient that had ten family members watching her do it.

Do not send me back negative feed back telling me I should not be a nurse - as I have heard that before and trust me - I am really reconsidering my profession. I am only one person with only two hands and can only be in one place at one time. I think my time is better spent with the patient that cannot breathe (that has no family members present)- calling a code rescue- than feeding someone or cleaning sheets of an incontient patient - that have ten or more family members present (I really, truly am not lying about this particular situation- in fact other nurses refused to care for this patient because the family complained so much). Remember what we learned in nursing school? The ABC's take priority.



19 Posts

Specializes in heme/onc (adult), NICU. Has 5 years experience.

I agree with you 2000%! I sometimes feel that families think we are waitresses or servents or something. My question to them is "who does this for the pt at home?" My job as the nurse is to take care of the patient's most pressing needs. Yes, nutrition is up there with needs, however, unless the patient has a specific issue such as aspriation precautions or something that would make it unsafe for the patient to be fed by a lay person, I feel the family can and should step in rather than sitting around staring at their loved one while the nurse is supposed to be at their beck-and-call! I have found that some families need permission to feed their loved ones...if suggested in a nice way, many times the families will gladly step in. I think it is important as well for keeping the patient headed toward discharge because we will not be going home with them! But, there are also those who stare at you like you have two heads and murmur something about "isn't that YOUR job?":angryfire Well....yes...but so is keeping my other 6-7 patients alive and breathing!

Furthermore, it saddens and angers me that other nurses feel you are in the wrong profession because you feel this way. You sound like a competent and caring nurse who keeps things in perspective with what is important...keeping our patients SAFE.


286 Posts

Completely ridiculous situation! You have every reason to be appalled, in my book. Seems as though a large chunk of the public view nurses as just handmaidens ready to answer every beck & call with a smile, and can't even begin to think that they may have other, more serious patients to tend to, and maybe even stat! I don't know whether I would have laughed or cried in your situation (maybe a combination of both!).

My answer to the "Is it just me" posting may be of help:

Altra, BSN, RN

6,255 Posts

Specializes in Emergency & Trauma/Adult ICU.


Your perceptions are, IMO, right on the money. I can't imagine why you would get flamed for them.

The reality of hospital (and other facility) nursing is that you have multiple patients and must constantly reshuffle your priorities. As a newer nurse 6 months out of school, you seem very well versed in this reality.

DO NOT allow yourself to be made a scapegoat for a family's guilt, stress, fear, or plain simple unreasonableness.

Allowing for the stress reactions of patients & families DOES NOT equate with throwing out your time management & prioritization skills just to try to please everyone.

Hang in there ... you will NEVER please everyone, but you will find your own ways of coping.

Altra, BSN, RN

6,255 Posts

Specializes in Emergency & Trauma/Adult ICU.
You sound like a competent and caring nurse who keeps things in perspective with what is important...keeping our patients SAFE.

Well said.


295 Posts

Specializes in Med-Surg.

I so agree with you and I cannot imagine why you would get flamed. I have to agree that family while very important sometimes can be, for lack of a better term, a lot of work too???

I can see family not wanting to do a bed pan or even help bathe (depending on relationship etc) but feeding?

I see this a lot too. Since we opened our new wing, it's gotten worse because now the hospital encourages family members to stay the night. So we are now catering to family members who ask for coffee, water, sheets etc (For themselves.) I never mind doing it for a patient, or even family members occasionally, but when the CEO states in public address at our ribbon cutting "We like to call ourselve the 4 Seasons" well, ahem,.....

Anyhow. I agree with you 100%

crissrn27, RN

904 Posts

Specializes in nursery, L and D. Has 8 years experience.

This is a great time to do some education with the family. Maybe they are scared their loved one will choke, etc. Showing them how to feed a few bites, then saying, "now you try", might be the best way to go. I know it is frustrating to feel like the family is not helping , but maybe this is all it would take for them to jump in and help!

Its kind of funny, the ones that DON'T need to be feeding their family member, like the s/p new CVA, will feed them, even after you tell them not to. The ones that just need a little help setting up, cutting food, etc, will stand around and call for a nurse!

Virgo_RN, BSN, RN

3,543 Posts

Specializes in Cardiac Telemetry, ED.

It seems that there is a disconnect between the public perception of nursing and the realities of the nursing profession. Patients and families often do not understand the amount of responsibility on one nurse's plate, and so resent any delays in treatment or if the nurse is unavailable to fluff pillows. I think in a situation like this, you can only state matter of factly but also respectfully that you have another patient who needs your attention right now, and that they can either assist their family member to eat, or they can wait until someone is available to help.


2,719 Posts

Some times families are really stupid. They do not know that they can feed a patient and maybe it might even be more beneficial that they do it rather than a stranger.

It takes only a few minuted to educate a family member so that you can tend to other patients. Sometimes families do not understand at all what it is we do and why.

Often they think they are not allowed to do anything.


31 Posts

Thank you all for your replies - I am all for helping my patients - for example- my 43 year old patient that had ALS and could only move 3 fingers - my nurses aid remarked to me that she was lazy!! I told her that the woman could ONLY MOVE THREE FINGERS ON HER BODY - IMAGINE HOW YOU WOULD FEEL!!

I have no problem taking care of those that can't take care of themselves, however as nurses, we need to empower our patients - those that can do for themselves - do it!! In my six short months of nursing I have come across patients that will literally bend over and ask me to wipe their behinds because they state they cannot do it.

I had a 93 year old patient the other day that was insulted when I tried to help her - she was a fiesty old broad - her words not mine - it irritates me when I have a younger patient that was self sufficient at home- no other debilitating illness and yet they bend over and ask me to wipe their behinds. Yes this has happened to me. I am all about patient care - however I sometimes feel abused as a health care provider. I am in no way comparing myselfe to a doctor, but the training that I have gone through to get here was ridiculous - would you ask your doctor to wipe your butt when you could do it???

I tell my patients that they need to do as much for themselves as possible - this is only going to help their recovery. It is not me being a lazy nurse - when family is present I suggest they do as much as possible - again it is not me being a lazy nurse - it is only to prepare them for what they are going to have to deal with when their loved one comes home. I will say this now and I will say it again and again - my own mother died of MS - I saw a beautiful young, (yes, she was young in her 40's) die of this disease - I have had family members die of lupus and other diseases - I don't know - maybe it is a latin thing - but we take care of our own. I personally care for my grandma when she is in the hospital -if she soils herself - I don't call the nurse if I am there - I take care of her. I am having difficulty understanding family that do not do this. You're loved one cannot live in the hospital forever - when they come home and they soil them selves who is going to clean them?? Are you going to bring them back to the hospital???

I have gotten attacked for bringing this up. I will say this again and again - I am not a lazy nurse - I care for those that cannot care for themselves - that is what nursing is about - however those that can care for themselves and are confused or weak it is my job to empower you and to help you to help yourself and it is also my job to be a patient advocate - to speak for those that cannot speak for themselves - to teach families how to care for their loved ones in hopes of bringing them home and getting them out of the hospital because truth be told the longer one stays in the hospital sometimes the sicker they become no matter what we do to help them.



382 Posts

Specializes in L&D, Women's Health. Has 30 years experience.
. . . Since we opened our new wing, it's gotten worse because now the hospital encourages family members to stay the night. So we are now catering to family members who ask for coffee, water, sheets etc (For themselves.) I never mind doing it for a patient, or even family members occasionally, but when the CEO states in public address at our ribbon cutting "We like to call ourselve the 4 Seasons" well, ahem,.....

Anyhow. I agree with you 100%

Where do they hire these CEOs from? Obviously not off the floor! I work L&D. It drives me nuts when 15+ visitors staying the night (when the patient is even days away from delivery) all want pillows, blankets, coffee, a couple more lounge chairs, etc. Like we can really supply them with enough blankets. They know it's cold in hospitals . . . bring a jacket! I've had visitors turn the AC almost off so they are comfortable while my laboring pt is sweating buckets! (And then they complain when I turn the AC back on!) We also have to deal with a roomful of fretful relatives who do not want to see their loved one in any pain. My patient can be doing beautiful with labor breathing and relaxation. Unfortunately, the visitors aren't doing well at all and actually interfere with the pt's focusing. I love deliveries where only the S/O and perhaps grandmas or a sister is in the room. Allie


286 Posts

The Four Seasons - what a clueless CEO!

Dee brings up a good point - why are we taught so much in nursing school, when we are then treated like servants when we get out of school?

Seems as though they want nurses to DO and be capable of pretty much everything - from bringing coffee to being attuned to every clinical nuance and lab value in each of 7 or so patients to ensuring that every aspect of care gets done precisely right to... bringing linens for family - and then get no respect for it.

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