My Estranged Mother is a Patient in my Facility?!

  1. Hi everyone, this is the first time I've ever posted on this site. I've searched everywhere for something on this topic, but I can't find anything remotely similar to my situation. Please help!

    I'm a new grad RN, beginning orientation for my first RN job on Monday (4 days from now). It is my absolute DREAM job -- I've always wanted to be a psych nurse, and I've always wanted to work at this facility. Today I was informed that my mother (with whom I have been slightly estranged -- she's bipolar and an alcoholic) is currently an inpatient at my new job!

    She is in the addictions rehab unit. I will be working in the committed psychiatric unit, which is totally different, so she will certainly not be my patient. BUT WHAT DO I DO ABOUT THIS? The facility is not very large -- I am bound to run into her at some point during the week, whether it's a brief glimpse or a period of minutes in the same room, especially since I am being oriented and will probably be touring the entire facility, etc.

    So, what is the typical policy for family members being patients? Do I need to inform my supervisor/manager/someone that my mother is a patient here? Who do I talk to? How do I appropriately and professionally handle any reaction she may have to seeing me? (It is very possible that she would cause a scene, given the circumstances and just her personality/mental health issues/typical behavior)

    I do not want to begin my VERY first day at my VERY first job on the wrong foot... I want it to be clear that I am not trying to hide anything or be dishonest in any way. I just do not know what exactly I am supposed to disclose, or with whom I should be talking about this. I have no idea if this is a "big deal" or breaking any kind of policy or procedure, or if it does not matter at all and no one will care.

    Clearly, I am in need of some guidance! Please, anyone, share your thoughts as soon as possible!

    Thank you.

    P.S. I am also worried about being branded some type of drama-related person. Obviously these circumstances are just coincidence and are out of my control, but I'm concerned that I will be viewed in a negative light to start with. Here I am, brand new and not even WORKING yet, and I've already got an issue to discuss :/ I really do not want to start this way or be seen this way!
  2. Visit radiobrain profile page

    About radiobrain

    Joined: Jul '11; Posts: 3; Likes: 2


  3. by   Davey Do
    Quote from radiobrain
    So, what is the typical policy for family members being patients? Do I need to inform my supervisor/manager/someone that my mother is a patient here? Who do I talk to? How do I appropriately and professionally handle any reaction she may have to seeing me? (It is very possible that she would cause a scene, given the circumstances and just her personality/mental health issues/typical behavior)
    In the Facilities that I've been associated with, the policy has been: No direct professional contact with a Relative. There is no problem with relatives on other units.

    It would be a prudent idea to casually inform your direct Supervisor of the situation. This sort of situation is not uncommon and Administative Staff need to be made aware in order to follow established guidelines.

    If by chance you have direct interaction with your Mother, I would suggest that you treat her like any other Patient that you''ve had previous personal contact with: Be superficially social, ask no questions outside of your Professional realm, and inform her that you are under obligation to not discuss anything about her Hospital stay or Her outside of the Facility to anyone.

    Be sure your direct Supervisor is aprised of your perception re: your Mother's behavior. Additional awareness can prevent such an occurence from taking place.

    Don't worry about being branded a "Drama Queen", unless that's what you are. To act as a Professional informing your Supervisor of a situation requiring their attention, is a logical, sytematic process. We are more likely to be treated in an appropriately professional manner if we approach others as such.

    Good luck to you in your new position, radiobrain.

    Last edit by Davey Do on Jul 8, '11
  4. by   radiobrain

    Thank you for the information and advice. Everything you said is extremely helpful! I feel much more at ease about this now.

    I begin orientation this Monday. As of now, I do not know who my supervisor is (or who anyone is, for that matter). Is it okay to wait until I meet them, or should I try to call Human Resources to figure out who to contact ahead of time to inform them about the situation?

    Thank you again for the guidance, I truly appreciate it.
  5. by   NICU<3RN

    Yes, definitely alert your supervisor of the situation. I also work in psych and we were told during orientation to let them know if a friend or relative became admitted to our unit. If so, you can work for them for the day if the patient is OK with it. If not, you would switch with someone from another psych unit (we have 4 separate units) and remain in the other unit for the duration of that person's stay.

    It is very common to run into a family member or friend on a psych unit. Just treat them as if they were another patient and of course speak with them about confidentiality that you can not and will not say anything about their stay. And do NOT ignore them.. if you are somewhere that they can see you that person has likely noticed that you are on the floor and you should not make it more awkward/uncomfortable by avoiding or ignoring them.

    Since psych admissions can change quickly due to medical or insurance issues I would wait to inform the manager until you begin on Monday before you step onto the unit your mother is on.

    Good luck. I realize that this is probably very stressful for you! Let us know how this goes..
  6. by   radiobrain
    Thank you! I'm glad to hear that this is a common situation and it should be easily handled. I think I will follow your advice and wait until Monday.

  7. by   Whispera
    When I was in nursing school in psych clinicals, my mom was a patient on one of the psych units where students were placed. My mom and I weren't estranged, so it was different that your relationship with your mom. She was, however inclined to make up bizarre stories about family members, including me, so I never knew what she might say to anyone. I didn't say anything to my instructor during clinical time because I wasn't placed where my mom could see me. I did say something during post conference, before anyone who might have been with my mom might say anything about my mom. I probably should have alerted the instructor, but am not sure what difference it would have made. I didn't say anything to the student assigned to be with my mom, during the clinical time either. I didn't want to influence her experience in any way. I did worry what my mom would say about me, since she knew I was somewhere nearby and she sure liked talking about me when she was manic (she had bipolar disorder).

    Then, when I graduated and worked psych, my mom was a patient where I worked. She was there several weeks. I told everyone, up front, that she was my mom, and what my concerns were. At the beginning I was assigned to other units, but after awhile, I started working where she was, but not as her nurse. I would be a family member to her, if time allowed, and not a professional caregiver. It would have distracted from the work I needed to do with other patients. She still told some whoppers that were very embarrassing, but people accepted her and were supportive to me about her behavior.

    I have to tell you, it wasn't a totally ok experience, but I think I did what was best for my mom. Where I worked was the treatment center I considered the best. Why have her be elsewhere? Why avoid work if things could work out ok? I learned alot about myself from it all too.

    Good luck to you. Just keep the compassion you feel for your patients in mind when the issues that have caused the estrangement come to mind, and try to separate your role as nurse from your role as daughter, as much as you can.
  8. by   Meriwhen
    In my facility, they don't want us having a dual relationship with the patient (e.g. as both family and caretaker). So if my family member were admitted to my unit, I would have to be reassigned to another unit.

    If it's not family but someone we know, there's some more leeway here, and as long as both patient and staff are OK with it they won't reassign the staff. Some staff do ask for reassignment because even if the patient is OK with it, they are not comfortable with it.

    I would let your supervisor know what's going on and see what they say.

    Personally, I'd rather not take care of either family members or friends, because it would definitely alter the dynamics of our relationship...and that may have an impact on the nursing care that I provide. I'd rather keep that relationship seperate while in the facility. Also, this doesn't mean that I won't be a support to them because I certainly will--my role will just be altered a bit, that's all