Nursing: How to Deal with Anxious Family Members


Family members can be as scared as any patient. In fact, oftentimes, it is the family of a patient who can set the tone for the care environment of a patient more than anything else.

Communication with Patients’ Families

All the kinfolk want is for their family member to be all right. More than anything else, oftentimes people get upset, angry, and frustrated because they don’t understand what is going on with their care and condition. As much as possible, take some time to actually listen to their questions and concerns; people are most often afraid of the unknown. When they don’t understand situations is when they become afraid. Since most family members usually have no medical training, they will feel that the situation is out of their control. This feeling breeds fear, and fear can breed an inordinate amount of Internet searching and half-baked medical knowledge that can create even more confusion.

Dealing with Aggressive Family Members

However, that is not to say that they aren’t also downright afraid, especially if the injuries or illness is critical. The best way to deal with a scared family member is with empathy, politeness, and respect. If you’re comfortable doing this, feel free to hug them, console them, and answer their questions if possible. You might not know the answers, but you can try and find out for them. Try to put yourself in their place, and imagine how you would feel. It’s important that you not take things personally – since the family doesn’t know you personally, they aren’t lashing out at you as a person. More often than not, they’re lashing out at a situation they have no control over. Learn how to talk to patients’ family members.

Dealing with Rude Family Members as a Nurse

Again, keep in mind that people are often rude because they are scared and uninformed about the situation. Don’t take it personally, but don’t let any family member use you as a “punching bag” for their frustration, either. If a situation with family seems to be slowly (or quickly) escalating to a point that will be out of your control, call for backup, whether it be from a co-worker, security staff, etc.

When a family member begins taking up too much of your time, be sure to tell them that – “Every minute I spend listening to your complaints when I can’t do anything about that is a minute taken away from your family member and other patients.” Stay polite and calm, no matter what. Of course, don’t let scared family members get in the way of your pressing duties. Don’t be afraid to befriend the family. It will help them through their troubled time.


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