1st Year Nurse Tip 4: Communicate!

One thing that drives patient’s and their family members insane, is sitting in a hospital room for hours upon hours without a clue as to why they’re waiting. They just want to go home…well… some don’t, but most do. Every one minute, feels like one hour to these patient’s.

A a nurse, I’m aware of the basic plan for all of my patient’s prior to shift change. I arrive early to investigate the charts and figure out what’s going on, for those under my care. But, that means nothing to the patient or their family members if they aren’t also privy to this info. I know this sounds basic, but many nurses forget.

As I introduce myself to my patient’s during bedside rounds with the off going nurse, I make a habit of stating, “I’ll be your nurse for the day. I’ll keep you posted of the plan for the day and what the doctor’s are saying” And, I do just that. I review the plan with my patient’s. If I see a doc go into my patient’s room, I follow behind, to get the scoop and hear the plan. I communicate. I call family members to keep them posted. Wouldn’t you be anxious and worried if your father, sister, mother or nephew was sick in a hospital bed and you hadn’t a clue what was going on? How would it make you feel to receive a call from the nurse with an update, without you having to make the call?

As my patient’s wife walked into the double room her husband occupied the other day, I watched a sour look slowly take over her face, as she passed the patient in the bed next to her husband’s. Her hubby’s roommate was loud, obnoxious and hadn’t heard of the phrase, “respect thy neighbor”. I could read her face from a mile away. She wasn’t happy. Before I could even introduce myself, she was asking me if her husband could be moved to a private room. I had no issues with that, and at once I placed myself in her shoes. If it were my husband, I’d want him in a private room too. Because there were a few empty beds on the floor, I was able to promptly move her sweetheart, and help them feel at ease. It was from that point on that my patient’s wife and I connected. She deals with anxiety over her husband’s health. She wasn’t dealing well with the reality of her husband’d serious illness, and the fact that he had reached the point of chronic renal failure, requiring dialysis. I could hear the fear in her voice. I cared for her husband the next day too. She called me at the most inopportune time during the next shift, but I promised her I’d call back. When I did call back, I spent 10/15 minutes reassuring her and giving her any updates I could give. I read her the doctor’s notes and plans. That’s all she needed. She needed to know she could reach me. Communication is all it takes to ease the nerves of the “over involved” family members.

When she came to visit her husband (my patient) later that day, she gifted me with this beautiful gem. Her tear filled eyes, huge hug and words “thank you for taking such great care of my husband” as she handed me this gift, meant more to me then the gift itself.


Patient’s and their family members just want to know they’re not forgotten in the quiet hospital room, that’s only filled with time for thinking and waiting. They don’t know you have 4 other patient’s and two of them are tanking, while another is headed to surgery and another needs a stat blood transfusion. But, a quick pop into the room, for a “I’m still here, and I haven’t forgotten about you”, can make a world of difference. Patient’s and their families want to know they haven’t been forgotten, and the want to know the plan. Five..maybe ten minutes of undivided attention can calm any uneasy and impatient soul. Make a habit of popping in on your patient’s, just to physically  say I’m still here and I haven’t forgotten about you. Keep the patient and their family members posted. Even the words, “Well, looks like you’ll have to stay another night”, is better for the patient to hear, then not hearing anything at all and sitting  in wonderment. Not knowing is worse. If a patient knows it will be another night, then at least he/she can settle in and plan. It’s all about expectation. Communication goes a long way, and the patient and their family members will think you’re the best nurse if you incorporate this into your practice.

BTW, take advantage of the doctor’s notes. You can tell the  inquiring minds exactly what the doc’s are thinking when you access these notes. You’ll sound really brilliant too!


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