7 Ways to break away from a talkative patient

nursing-communityWe’ve all had these patients. They just don’t stop talking, and we have work to do. Lots of times you’d love to just stay and chat with these people. They’re interesting, they tell stories, and it’s fun.

Others just don’t stop. Their words come out continuously and relentlessly like a damaged fire hydrant. You just can’t get a word in.

Unfortunately, duty calls, and we can’t stay for long. Here are a bunch of ways to break away from that chatty patient.

1.     Use your COW. Your computer on wheels, if you have one, can be a lifejacket when you’re flooded with words. You can use it to get some charting done while nodding and ‘mhmm’-ing at your patient. Or, look at the screen in surprise and say “Whoa! There’s something I was supposed to do 3 minutes ago. Nice talking to you, but I gotta go!”

2.     Benefit from Call Lights. There’s always a bell or beep or alarm going off. When one goes off, it’s like a ‘get out of room free’ card. “Sorry, I have to go answer this and see what’s going on. I’ll talk to you later!”

3.     Don’t Stop Moving. When you go into their room, stay busy. Arrange things, organize, check on everything. Just don’t stop. That way, when you’re done, you can just naturally progress to waltzing out the door. You should combine this with the next one so you’re not overlooking their needs.

4.     Ask Them If They Need Anything. It’s a good thing to ask patients anyways, and a positive way to interrupt a one-sided conversation. “Is there anything else I can do for you?” If they say no, quickly follow up with “Okay, well I’ll check on you soon!” If they say yes, help them or get help, then quickly say the same thing.

5.     Preparation. If you already know about this patient’s tendency to serve everyone a smorgasbord of words, there are a few things you can do to prepare. Have a friend call your name when they pass by. Time your visit so that an unsuspecting phlebotomist, respiratory therapist, nursing assistant, or doctor is making their next round.

6.     Cluster your Care. Here’s another one that’s good practice anyways. Arrange your tasks so you can do a lot of them all at once with this patient. This is a good one to use with #3.

7.     Just be Honest. Just be honest but tactful. Tell them that you have other patients, you’d love to have the time to talk to them more, but you can’t. Notice that you aren’t lying if you say you’d love to have the time to talk to them more. Everybody wants to have more free time, right?

Kevin Pan is an RN and owns Kevin’s Review, a comparison and review site for NCLEX courses.

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