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How much information about yourself should you share with patients?


What do you think?

We all want to be open and honest with our patients and show them that we’re human too, but how much is it OK to share?

How do you decide what is appropriate to share and what you should keep to yourself?


Let us know what you think


Readers' comments (13)

  • Carey Johnson

    I think it is ok to tell them some information about ourselves but I dont think our patients need to know too much about nurses social lives! I tend to tell my patients if they ask eg Do you have any children? or Are you married? These kind of questions do not delve too much into our private lives but gives our patients enough information to let them know we are real people!.

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  • What time you start your shift, when you should have your break and have missed it, when you are you are lat going off duty again and when you are on a shift where there are staff shortages- that should be enough information about yourself!

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  • depends on the patient and circumstances. sometimes it is supportive to relate similar experiences but they don't want to be showered with your personal information when they are the centre focus of your attention and it is about them and not you and they wish to spend your limited time with them talking about their own concerns.

    be careful about giving any information which could then be the source of gossip which is often misinterpreted and becomes more inaccurate the more it is spread (bush telegraph) or can be used in anyway against you, and especially if they later have grounds for any complaints.

    it is mainly a matter of common sense as in any other human encounter. not giving any information at all when asked for shows a certain rigidity and coldness which can be perceive as not caring and can put up a barrier between carer and patient which can between teams and groups of patients become a 'them and us' syndrome where 'the staff don't really care about us'!

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  • Personally, I will answer questions that a patient asks about me. Always politely, concisely and with minimal detail. Mind you I find that I'm the one as a Nurse asking most of the questions.
    Just use your judgment and discretion as patients, relatives and colleagues alike could inadvertently misconstrue what you said. Too many a departmental/ward rumpus stems from things being taken out of context.

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  • I think, at least hopefully, as you age you get wiser who you can trust with information about yourself and you play it by ear. you need to maintain a balance between closeness and distance in any personal interaction and try to assess what might be done with any personal information you disclose. if you don't mind the possibility of the information being passed on then it is fine to share it if not you don't. It is the same with any encounter.

    It is up to each individual to decide what they chose to share about themselves with others and depends on the circumstances of each and every conversation and bearing the consequences if they give away what they wish they had not as it is not easily retractable afterwards.

    Just remember others don't always want to be flooded with personal information in a caring situation which may not be relevant to themselves and their care which is the central focus however a few commonalities and talk of shared experiences can be reassuring for patients who then know their nurse is also human and with the same human feelings, thoughts and frailties.

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  • Name, rank and serial number. Followed by, "I refuse to answer your questions." That'll keep the beggars guessing whilst your mates finish digging the tunnel.

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  • Depends where you work. In a hospital ward it is different from practice where patients see you regularly.

    Most of my patients in the practice no that I don't live local to them, that I am a widow, that I have grown up children and grandchildren that I am proud of.

    It certainly brings me closer to them, that I am not a remote robot, but with family and the same general issues as they have. They often ask after my grandchildren. And I can honestly empathise with them over their family problems and worries about childhood illnesses etc.

    However, whilst in ED it is not appropriate to share this. These people have something acute going. Then all skills of empathic responding come to the fore.

    Neither is it appropriate in most inpatient situations, mental health areas etc. Simply sharing links with patients, such as agreement in enjoying being with grandchildren is enough.

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  • So basically tell them nothing unless you work in a community setting, because it's simply not appropriate anywhere else? Nothing like some sweeping generalisations to start off a Monday morning.

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  • I find sharing some experiences with a patient who is anxious helps when they know you been there and how you dealt with it. But again it depends on the rapport you have with the patient.

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  • Re 4/11/13 0828am

    Your reply is churlish. Having over a quarter of a century experience in both settings, (mostly emergency care), and now being a grade 8a in urgent care, I think I can speak from experience. Of course short interludes in ED where short shared experiences can help; it is not appropriate to go into long detail, neither is it usually possible due to rigid time contraints and pressures of emergency care. Hopefully most patients will not be returning too regularly so they will eventually not know your generalised life story - as they may do in the community- where the same patients are seen day in and day out.

    And before you get too clever, 08:28, ED does have regulars. Generally not the type of patients most nurses would feel happy about sharing too much personal history with.

    Sorry I ruined your Monday morning, it is not sweeping generalisations, that is from you trying to be too clever. Maybe you should start writing something more constructive and learn to debate without being unpleasant.

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