How to Deal With Difficult Parents
Nicole Lehr | Scrubs Magazine
These scenarios are such that I see on a weekly basis at work. Although it can sometimes be very difficult to remind myself that these parents are under an exorbitant amount of stress when tempers flare up, nurses must remain objective and sensitive. The burning question is, how do you deal with difficult parents when you enter a room and you can cut the tension with a knife?
1. Enter the room quietly and respectfully. Especially if encountering the parents in the early morning hours. Although you have been awake for hours now, these people may not be and unless the lights are already on, I always enter in the dark and make my introductions prior to flipping the switch. Tired parents are much more likely to be receptive if not awakened with a start. Of course, an emergency situation negates all instances of trying to be respectful of sleep – get to the patient as quickly as possible.
2. Inform the parents of the plan and goals for the day. Even if the goal is as simple as bathing the child for the first time after surgery. Allow them to have input in the plan and even write their goals down so they feel as though you are all a team. But an important part of this step is to make sure parents are aware that plans may change and goals may not be met, but then proceed to keep them informed of changes throughout the day. Having a child in the hospital has been described to me as being the most out of control experience, because there is nothing the parent can do at that very moment to make their child feel better. Giving the parent some of that control back help to develop a rapport that is vital for maintaining an effective relationship.
3. Be an active listener. You have no idea how many compliments I have received for pulling up a chair after assessing the child and asking what I can do for the parents that day or asking if they have any concerns they would like to share with me. This opens up the lines of communication immediately and puts you in the support system role, which is part of our job as nurses. However, this can get you into some trouble when you have an overly loquacious parent and a busy day ahead, but being honest with them and saying you will return after you see your other patients should make due, until you have to go back in. At that point I suggest having a coworker call you in exactly 15 minutes saying there is an emergency if you haven’t emerged from the room…
4. Treat their child as if he/she were your own. Be gentle, love on the baby, give the parents lots of compliments on how beautiful the child has gotten since the last time you saw them. When removing tape, use adhesive remover – parents and children love that stuff. When starting IVs, give the baby a sucrose pacifier and swaddle them so they aren’t left to kicking and screaming. When you are finished examining the patient, ask mom if she wants to hold the baby, and if not, wrap the baby back up tightly and only leave when they are settled. Showing the baby respect in turn makes the parents feel respected.