When families call or ask for information, I always tell them, "Because of a patient's right to privacy, please let me check their chart to make sure you are listed as a contact." If they are, I give them brief, basic information. If they aren't, I ask if they would like to speak to the patient directly if the patient is alert and oriented. I get annoyed when it is an adult and another adult calls and says "NO, I want to talk to YOU," as if I am going to give more information then that patient. If they insist, I will enter the patient's room and ask if it is okay to speak with So and So regarding their status.
I always explain everything thoroughly, even if the patient has heard it before. I've found that patients often forget information, even if the previous shift told them. For example, I will explain to patient's about the routine heparin shot for DVT prophylaxis and why it is important. I always allow the patient the right to refuse, as long as they are well-informed about the risks.
Delays, I apologize and explain what is happening diplomatically. I will try to advocate for my patient if possible, but if the GI lab is behind because of an emergent case, then there is little I can do.
The hardest thing is communicating test results. Patients often want to know - "what are the results of my chest x-ray?" If it is something as simple as a potassium level, I will tell the patient the value and explain the normal values. I will sometimes offer an explanation - for example, "your potassium may be low because you have been vomiting and having diarrhea, which causes you to loose electrolytes such as potassium." But even then, I feel like I may be toeing the line of my scope of practice. I often don't feel comfortable giving patients the results of MRI's, x-rays, and other scans. The reports are often long and sometimes I have difficultly interpreting them. I also don't want families and patients to panic. I will tell families and patients, "It is outside of my ability as a nurse to interpret your test results. I have called them in to the doctor. She will be able to explain them to you fully. However, there is nothing on the test result that indicates we need to take any immediate action at this moment." Does this seem appropriate to you all? How do you handle these questions? Often, patients and families want to know the results NOW, while the doctor may not be back to see the patient and give them the information until the next day if they have already rounded, and nothing emergent is found.