As a nurse, you probably get a lot of phone calls from friends and family wanting medical advice. They want to know what they should do about their health concerns and need to be assured regularly that their symptoms are not a sign that they are dying from Ebola, Swine Flu, West Nile Virus or Cholera.
What is the Responsibility of the Nurse is this Situation?
There are times when we listen well, think it through and give a carefully worded answer ending always with “and if it gets worse, call your doctor.” There are also times when we say (or want very badly to say) “Take your crazy pills. You are not dying. It’s certainly nothing worth interrupting this rerun of The Office.”
Off-duty work occurs in many professions, but it strikes a very deep chord for nurses. These after hours calls from friends and family can be burdensome at times, but it’s a chance for nurses to recognize that the careers they’ve chosen offer more than just a paycheck. The midnight calls from friends to ask if they should take their 5 month baby to the emergency room because he has a temperature of 100.9 and threw up his bananas, are where the rubber meets the road. When the shift ends, when the procedure is finished, when the patient dies, when the babies grow up, and when the wound heals, a nurse is still a nurse.
If you have been in this profession for any length of time, you are undoubtedly aware that the general public is not as educated regarding their health as they could be and as nurses, we have an opportunity to change that. It doesn’t take very long to explain what a fever means, or when to get stitches, or what symptoms to report when a head injury occurs. Nurses have a unique role in the community. We can educate, comfort and keep healthcare costs down by helping friends decide when a visit to the emergency room is unnecessary.
Wearing Out Welcome
If someone is contacting you too frequently and starting to “wear out their welcome,” its time to set some boundaries. Direct them to other sources of information. There are good websites including local hospitals, the CDC and local public health services. An email or list of pertinent symptoms and interventions is handy too, so that when someone calls over and over again with the same problem, they can refer to the information previously given.
It can be very frustrating when people ask for “free advice.” It’s helpful to take a deep breath and remember that the nature of nursing is to care for people, and that what we have to offer is worthwhile.
About the Author
Sarah Heroman is an RN, BSN who has found her niche as a school nurse in Texas. With almost 20 years of experience, Sarah is still passionate about the nursing field and enjoys mentoring and helping nurses continue to find the joy in their careers. She believes that a good nurse is able to combine the science and the art of nursing and find fulfillment in providing the best care for their patients.