Tips for Dealing with Difficult Patient Family Members

Be honest and set realistic expectations

McCutcheon suggests checking in with the difficult family at the start of your shift. Let them know they’ll be seeing you throughout the day, but don’t be specific. Nurses cannot predict what will happen on the ward.

“When you leave the room, try saying something like, ‘I’m going to spend the next hour or 2 going through morning meds and doing assessments on the rest of my patients,'” she suggested. I plan to get back to you after that, if you need anything before you see me again, please hit your call button and we’ll send someone to help you.

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Communicate, then communicate again

Once in the “difficult” family room, don’t rush things. Explain what you’re doing and why, while taking the time to review test results and talk about the day’s procedures.

Write down all questions and requests – even put them on the whiteboard. This can help avoid unnecessary medical calls.

Get to know them

Sometimes a family member acts the way they do out of fear. As a nurse, you can help distract them from the situation by getting to know them and the patient. Talk to them about sports, pets or hobbies. You can even lighten the mood with little jokes.

Bundle your care

Coordinate patient care as much as possible throughout your shift, suggests McCutcheon.

Changing dressings, giving baths and changing the bed during the same room visit. As you do, continue to educate the family and give them updates.

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Involve the family

Teach the patient’s spouse or children how to change bandages, feed the patient, or simply how to make them more comfortable.

Remember, McCutcheon wrote, “the patients will go home with them, not you. For this reason, it is extremely important to begin involvement early and frequently. »

Set limits

Sometimes nothing you do can stop a family member from being rude, inappropriate, or hostile.

If you are faced with a visitor who crosses the line, it is important to set your limits. McCutcheon suggests saying something like, “I won’t treat and/or speak that way. I understand that you are upset, so I will leave the room now and return when you are ready to speak to me in a calm and respectful manner.

If that doesn’t work, call security or backup.

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