So... how do you deflect family members when you're busy?

Nurses General Nursing


Hello all. I've been a nurse for almost 4 years now, and during that time I worked night shift... but for family reasons I had to switch to days. So now here I am, a few weeks into my new shift... of course it's an adjustment. Yes, I can deal with patients constantly going off the floor to tests, doctors coming in and writing and changing orders, patients being awake and asking tons of questions, patients who are 100% feeds, get patients OOB to chair for meals, etc.

What i can't stand are the FAMILY MEMBERS!!!! Yes, some of them understand you are busy but for the most part they walk up to you at any time and expect instant answers. Pestering me about nonurgent things delays me from patients who, I don't know, NEED MEDICATING/NEED ASSESSING/NEED TO BE TRANSFERRED TO THE ICU/etc.. I tell them that I am busy taking care of other patients but they don't care! So i just spend the whole day dealing with people who are unhappy that I didn't get grandma's diet changed in time for lunch, although I was off the floor transferring a critical patient. (This family SAW what I was doing, I TOLD them where I was going, and still I get complaints!!)

Is it okay to actually say "I need some space?" Or is that too overdramatic? Because that's how I feel!!! I am always respectful (even if they are not), I try to sympathize by saying things like "I know it's a waiting game, I'm frustrated too, but right now all we can do is wait for x to come see you." If anyone has any other lines that I can use it would be appreciated.

I should not take these things so personally.... I know all I can do is my best and if grandma has to wait 10 more minutes to be discharged because I'm dealing with a guy that needs to go to dialysis ASAP, so be it. But it's frustrating when you get no gratitude or understanding.

Mostly, deal with it first - unless someone is coding.

I just tell them straight, without being rude. I usually say "I'm just a bit caught up at the moment, but I will definately be with you as soon as I can". Or I say, some of the nurses are involved in a resus at the moment, so we're a bit short on the floor, sorry you've had to wait, but I'll be with you as soon as I can".

We also have a 2 visitor only policy, but we quite often have more at our discression. If they won't stop bugging me, I ask the excess visitors to leave.

If we have problematic family members, we usually request that they select a spokesperson for the family and then refer the remaining 1000's of relatives to that person - it doesn't happen very often though.

Specializes in Developmental Disabilites,.

Sometimes family members just suck.

Specializes in ICU & LTAC as RN. FNP.

Maybe I become somewhat blunt when I feel patients or family members are bothering me about trivial stuff. I have told them that I have had x, y and z to do (fill in with whatever took priority), and I have to do things that have priority over other things. I try to relate it in a way that they would understand, such as telling them that if their loved one needed the high priority things to be done then that would be the first things I do, but when other patients have more urgent things, then that unfortunately bumps other things to a less urgent need. Believe it or not, patients and their families almost always understand, and agree, Unless they are the most self-centered type of person. In that case, just try to find someone to assist them when you are busy. I freely apologize that they may have to wait, but that's how it is when there is only one of me trying to juggle numerous things at one time. Some people will complain for any reason too, we can't control that.

Specializes in Surgical/ Trauma critical care.

Yes, families suck big time. Even working in an ICU sucks, families come in in big crowds without calling bursting in and demanding answers, I usually ask them to step out if this happens and that I will get them as soon as I am done with my care to their love one. Once they come in I will answer their questions if thats possible if not I will do it as soon as soon as I'm done with what I'm doing. You gotta stand your ground and be frank about it.

Firstly, please understand this: They DON"T care about: How busy you are, what has to happen first, that the guy in the next bed is coding.

So don't bother trying to explain ANYTHING. It's a further waste of your time.

And DEFINETLY NEVER tell anybody that you are short-staffed. THAT can come back to bite you in ways you cannot begin to fathom.

The only response is:"Yes, I will be with you as soon as I can. No, I don't know how many minutes, but I DID hear your request and I will respond as quickly as I can".

End of story, end of engagement. LET 'em call your supervisor. You spoke the truth, if they cannot deal, sorry.

Specializes in CT stepdown, hospice, psych, ortho.

"Mr. X, another patient needs my full concentration right this moment. I understand its frustrating but I know that if your mother was in this position you would want me to be giving her my undivided attention. I will be with you as soon as possible. In the meantime, please use the call bell for any specific needs she may have until I am able to return. Thank you so much for your understanding and patience."

Specializes in ED, ICU, Education.

I had a family member walk into another patient's room WHILE WE WERE CODING HIM, to demand a glass of water for his mother in the room next door.

Families do not understand our job, nor will they try when their loved one is your patient. All that matters to them is the care that is (or isn't) being given.

I've found most people to be understanding when I explain to them that I'm busy, the department's busy or whatever. They can usually see that I am actually working. Maybe it's a cultural thing?

If people give us a hard time, we call whoever is in charge of the shift to come down and deal with them. They'll pretty much say what I've already said or they'll help out.

Whenever we get snowed under and we have people complain, 99% of the time our boss will support us.

Specializes in Home Care.
But it's frustrating when you get no gratitude or understanding.

After raising kids, being married, waiting tables working in customer service and being a nurse I learned long ago not to expect gratitude or understanding from anyone. I'm never disappointed and always pleasantly surprised when someone does appreciate the work I do.

Specializes in Medical Surgical Orthopedic.

Explaining never got me anywhere, so I started using a different approach and it's worked very well for me. When I first meet the patient/family, I let them know that they should call me for any little thing the patient or the family needs. And I'm as dramatic as I can possibly be about it. People tend to cut me all kinds of slack when I can't get to them right away, because they know how much I am longing to get them another apple juice and that it causes me emotional distress when their ice pitcher is not refilled within 5 minutes!

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