As a nurse, there will be times when you have a patient whose family member is a nurse or other medical professional. In most cases, the family member will treat you as a colleague and allow you to do your job. However, when overly concerned about the care of their loved ones, some nurses may ask questions and want to participate in discussions about how the patient is being cared for. When treating a patient, having a family member consistently second-guess your decisions can make it difficult for you to do your best.
It can be a little intimidating when the oncoming shift whispers to you that the patient’s family member is a nurse. Do you change your approach to the patient? To the family? Will they be watching your every move? Or will they be helpful, offering information and advocating for their loved one?
When a family member is being overly difficult, it’s important to deal with the situation in a professional and respectful manner. You want to make sure the patient receives the correct care they need without damaging your reputation or the reputation of your organization.
The first rule is to avoid taking the rude behavior or questions personally. In most cases, the family member is dealing with stress from worrying about their loved one and isn’t intentionally meaning to be aggressive.
Next, it’s important to understand that the family member may have been the one previously taking care of the patient and may feel that they’re the only one who knows how to take care of the patient properly. Instead of disregarding their advice, take advantage of the situation by making them feel like they’re a valuable part of the patient’s healthcare team. This will reduce their stress and help you regain control of the situation.
If that doesn’t help, pull the family member aside and invite them to tell you everything they’re worried about. Be patient and listen to everything they have to say. Even if they start attacking your knowledge and level of expertise, don’t become defensive. Let them know that their opinions are valued and will be used to provide the best care. Even if the family member’s concerns are irrational or unjust, it’s important to consider them valid and make sure they’re addressed.
If the person has any questions that you can’t answer, find a colleague who can, or address it with the doctor. If appropriate, arrange for them to meet with the healthcare provider to discuss any questions or concerns they have about the care you’re providing. Both you and the doctor know that you’re a trained healthcare professional, so if venting to the doctor makes the family member feel better, allow them to do so. The doctor will understand the situation and it won’t be a bad reflection on you as a nurse.
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