Wondering if I have the patience my patients need


I tend to get very task oriented when I get busy. I can hold down a few things at a time, but when I get real busy, I really have to focus on the task at hand in order to think straight and I lose my patience if I get interrupted at all during these moments. So I'll be drawing blood from a central line, or putting in a detailed assessment and cannot exit the screen, with 3 other things on my immediate things to do list, and if someone asks me a question, I tend to be "short" with them.

I caught myself feeling irritated at a family member who kept asking me questions the other day, and answering with as little information as possible, like 1 word answers. And I expressed my irritation with another group of family members and the patient who I had just received as a transfer to my preceptor who were focused on weird things and calling me into the room every 30 minutes to deal with these worries while I was very busy dealing with other more serious issues. My preceptor pointed out that he was a new diagnosis and that they are probably just extra worried about things. And that's when I realized it wasn't really about what THEY (the family or patient) were doing or how they were acting, it was my own frustration about only having 2 hands and only being able to be in one place at any given time.

It's only my 4th week of orientation, and I'm doing well according to my preceptor, but I'm concerned about this tendancy of mine to lose my patience. I haven't been "rude" yet in my opinion, but I'm concerned that this may be considered rude in our increasingly customer service oriented job atmosphere. When I was a unit clerk it was brought up at one of my evaluations that some people I work with felt I was rude. I never felt like I was being rude, certainly never purposefully, but recognized that when I get interrupted when I am very busy with something that can easily wait, I would be short with people. And I know the people who would have said that, and yes they interrupted me more than was neccessary, but still it doesn't excuse the issue.

Any advice? Anyway to gently let patients and family members know that while I am there for them, they need to let me get my **** done and I'll answer inane questions when I can spare the time? Or is this a personality issue that will conflict with my ability to be a caring and compassionate nurse? I FEEL compassion for them, but I need to have time to CARE for them.

For the record, I always explain what I am in the room for and how long it will take and what the next step is, then I get hit with "I seem to be farting alot" or "So how often do you have to draw blood/take vitals?" What I want to say is "lay off the broccoli" and "As often as is neccessary to diagnose and treat" but it feels wrong, and I don't have time to get into a 5 minute conversation followed by a 20 minute research into the last few meals the patient had or what medication they might be on that could have the side effect of gas, much less the disease process that would cause more frequent gas or increased number of labs or vitals that may need to be taken. Does this make me a bad nurse?


76 Posts

I don't have any advice sorry, I'm a pre-nursing student but I do wonder if I'll have this issue too as I am similar. Task orientated and get irritated if I am interrupted.


32 Posts

Specializes in med surg/cardiac.

Although I am fairly new myself, I am grateful for my ability to multi-task. :D But I see this alot in other nurses. I try to step in and help them when I can. I think when I am having this problem sometimes you just have to say, " I can come in and talk to you about that in a few minutes."

Sometimes I have noticed doing patient teaching the whole time you are in the room, about plan of care, safety, diseases process, and meds; just basic things, stops the patient from asking those inane questions like that. Sometimes I think they want to know what is going on, and arent sure what else to ask! Again, this will require some multi tasking but it will become second nature to do that, the more you do. I had a great preceptor who was great at this. It doesnt give them a chance to think of those useless questions and helps you do your job as a patient teacher! hope that helps!

Jules A, MSN

8,863 Posts

Specializes in Family Nurse Practitioner.

Many kudos for recognizing this is something that needs to be tweaked. The bad news is that your patients and coworkers will not suddenly develop the insight to see that you are in the weeds and lay off. The good news is that it will get easier as you have more experience simply because you will be doing more tasks without having the intense focus you need now. I'm also great at multi tasking but could nearly slap someone for interrupting when I am juggling a million different things under time constraints. I have learned to take a deep breath and slow it down because the truth is that in hindsight most times you do have the extra few minutes necessary to talk with someone even though it may not seem like it in the heat of the moment. Hang in there!