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'Dealing with abuse from relatives isn't easy'


From those taking a child health degree/diploma to those studying specifically with adults, dealing with abuse will be something that you are very likely to come across during your three years of training.

Dealing with concerned parents will become your forte over time, something that you find yourself an expert in - and if you could major in dealing with frantic and agitated parents at university, this is something you would find yourself being able to specialise in I suspect.

There will come a time where the frantic parents may start to use bad language or even act in an aggressive manner, and you must be prepared for this eventuality. It is also important to know the whereabouts of the line that must not be crossed.

Although you are a student and not yet a qualified nurse, it is important to remember that you deserve to be spoken to in a respectful manner too. Always be respectful and expect it in return - know your worth student nurses.

Of course, the majority of times you have to deal with parents who become frustrated and rude you will not be on your own. However, the more capable you are at dealing with these situations and the less panic stricken you outwardly appear, the more kudos you will get from your colleagues and mentor.

You must try to remember, before judging the actions of a relative, that they are usually under enormous strain and pressure, and in a position where they are giving strangers complete control of their loved-one. Although this is certainly not a wholly condonable excuse, it is a reason to show that you will not tolerate being spoken to in a rude and disrespectful way.

I have come up with a number of steps that may be useful when dealing with a relative behaving in an inappropriate manner:

  1. Try to take them to one side away from other children or families - it may be upsetting to other anxious parents.
  2. Again, unless it is respectful not to keep eye contact due to cultural beliefs, do so, as it is imperative that you take complaints and/or concerns seriously.
  3. If you feel that dealing with the situation on your own is a little out of your depth, explain to the relatives that you are a student nurse and you will go and get a more senior member of staff to deal with the problem.
  4. Demonstrate understanding of the problem. Although it is important to not blindly agree with what relatives are saying (this could undermine other members of staff), polite nodding can provide reassurance and shows you are listening to what is being said and are taking it seriously.
  5. Talk, don’t shout. If someone is shouting then ask them politely to speak rather than shout while you try to deal with the issue.

Try to remember that nursing is not like retail - you will get some small reminders form time to time - and that the patient is not always right.

It is important to maintain a professional and authoritative role in our position and part of upholding these difficult qualities is having respect shown towards us. Although we can’t choose what people say, we can always tell someone if they are being rude and ask them politely not to be.

Student nurses should not be afraid to do this. Your people skills will be tested as a student nurse, and this will be an important time to show you have what it takes to act calmly, appropriately and professionally when others around you are not.

Mikey Whitehead is the mental health branch student nurse editor for You can find him on twitter @STNNurse_Mikey


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