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Rude Family Member - Advice?


I really need advise. I had a patients family member be just awful and rude to me. Patients BP was low, so some of the patients meds were held per team. When the family member later came, the patients HR intermittently went higher than their baseline. With the family members former medical background, they demanded the doctor be spoken to. (Which I was already planning on) When I came back, it was not sufficient and I was berated and talked down to. When she was done, she smiled and padded my shoulder, making sure to remind me constantly that she wasn't trying to insult me. In our line of work, we are used to this sort of treatment, heck, I get it all the time too, but this time it felt different and I cannot stop thinking about it. Couldn't sleep well last night. Now I'm lying in my bed, trying to take a nap and all I can picture in my head is what happened and how I was forced to smile, nod, and do whatever they demanded. I just need advise on how I can stop thinking about it and/or how to deal with situations like this.

Edited by katyperryfan

I just need advise on how I can stop thinking about it and/or how to deal with situations like this.

Davey Do

Specializes in around 25 years psych, 10 years medical. Has 42 years experience.

"We are either the bushole or we have to put up with the bushole", a wise woman once told me.

When we have done everything we can do in any situation, we can be at peace with ourselves. Happiness comes not from flitting external validation, although it's nice, happiness comes from being at peace with ourselves.

As far as attempting to sleep and ruminating over a situation which stimulates our adrenals, it's extremely difficult, so, when we lay down to sleep, sleep is the priority at that time.

My method for attempting sleep when I'm having difficulty getting my mind off of something is: Repeating a mantra in my head- the Lord's Prayer is one of my favs- deep breathing, and focusing on phosphenes. Phosphenes are those blubs of light we see when we close our eyes that are caused by random firings of the optic nerve.

I try to make pictures out of the phosphenes all the while reciting a mantra and deep breathing. If I am truly tired and follow this technique, I fall to sleep.

Good luck and the best to you, katyperryfan!

NightNerd, BSN, RN

Specializes in Med-surg/tele. Has 7 years experience.

Honestly, you can't blame yourself for being upset - that sounds wretched! Like, the nerve to act like that and then turn around and pat your shoulder and act like it's all okay? That's messed up. It also might be a sign that this family member realized too late that they were being cray but didn't know how to apologize.

It's hard to take your mind off this stuff. I agree with Davey that knowing you did all you could is certainly part of recovering from this stuff. It sounds like you were responsive to the family member's needs, so whatever their problem was really wasn't with you.

I also think part of what gets to me in situations like this is feeling powerless. You said you felt forced to nod and smile and do whatever they demanded. That doesn't feel good! I would challenge the notion that you *have* to bend over backwards for this stuff. I don't know the details of what was said, but especially if there was cursing, threats, or just going around in circles, I don't see anything wrong with excusing yourself and setting certain boundaries. "I understand you're upset, and I will do everything I can to help you. However, I can't do that if we can't communicate calmly with each other." If it's a constant continuous cycle and you realize that this one person is monopolizing your time and energy, nothing wrong with involving a charge nurse or manager too so you can get back to your patients. Part of not burning out on this stuff is knowing when you can't do anymore and finding someone who can.

Finally, enjoy the heck out of your time off! Do whatever it is that makes you forget that time is passing - something creative, exercise or time outside, a great book or show, cleaning or cooking if that's what it takes. The more distance you put between your mind and this incident, the smaller it will seem, and the sooner you'll be able to get some rest.


Has 36 years experience.

When I'm stressed and can't sleep I try to calm myself by "calmly" thinking and believing...I know I am not going to sleep... I am just going to lie here, just lying and resting can be as good as sleep. Repeating it over and over a few times...in a "calm" tone of inner voice.


Specializes in Travel, Home Health, Med-Surg. Has 20 years experience.

3 hours ago, katyperryfan said:

I just need advise on how I can stop thinking about it and/or how to deal with situations like this.

It is frustrating to be is those type of situations. I would just think (for only a few moments) about how I might handle it next time (gives me back a sense of control) and then let it go (picture the negative thoughts/feelings physically leaving your body), this might take practice.

In your particular case next time I would physically jerk back slightly when patted on the shoulder and give a halfa** smile and nod, enough that they know how you feel. This gives you some control of your situation/feelings and hopefully lets them know they are overstepping (regardless of whether they agree and/or care).


Has 3 years experience.

If you really want to make them angry, show them that treating you poorly does not phase you in the least. I know that's easier said than done but it will come with experience. Essentially, these people are bullies and should be treated as such. Remember that when you go home to leave work at work.

When someone acts snarky, I wait until they’re done talking and raise my eyebrows slightly. As in “are you done now” and then go about my work as if nothing happened.


Specializes in Surgical, quality,management. Has 12 years experience.

Some of the humour may go over your head as it is very Irish, but the last part is great.

Other advice is to learn how to leave the garbage at work. A friend has a point on her drive home that once she passes it she stops thinking about things that happened. I have a music playlist that I will crank and sing / yell along to to clear my head. Apps such as Calm are really good for mindfulness and I adore thier sleep stories.

GrumpyRN, NP

Specializes in Emergency Department. Has 39 years experience.

1 hour ago, K+MgSO4 said:

Some of the humour may go over your head as it is very Irish, but the last part is great.


You are never going to fix these people. I try not to think about work after work. It takes time. I’ve been a nurse 12 years and there are still days I don’t sleep well. Usually because of patients versus visitors, but I 100% get it!

that being said, if ANYONE, ever touches you again, the best recourse is “I’m sorry, you’re making me uncomfortable. Please don’t do that.” No one gets to touch you. This part of your post angered me so much. I’m so sorry!