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Tips on getting along with hospital staff

Dr. Jason Greenspan (L) and emergency room nurse Junizar Manansala care for a patient in the ER of Mission Community Hospital in Panorama City.
Dr. Jason Greenspan (L) and emergency room nurse Junizar Manansala care for a patient in the ER of Mission Community Hospital in Panorama City.
David McNew/Getty Images

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When your loved ones end up in the hospital, it can be easy to expect the worst.

What if they get the wrong paperwork, medication, surgery -- the list goes on. And the “what ifs” can lead friends and family members to overstep their bounds with hospital staff.

Conversely, nurses may be more concerned with providing medical care than communicating with patients, a skill they may not have learned in nursing school.

But according to a Wall Street Journal article, that may be changing. Programs and workshops are cropping up to help nurses communicate with patients and their loved ones, and hospital staff have some recommendations on how to get the best care.

Guest host Patt Morrison spoke to Annette Sy about the ways you can get the best care from hospital staff without driving them (or yourself) crazy.

Interview highlights

What’s some basic advice for what people should do when dealing with nursing and hospital staff?

Annette Sy: We have many families that join patients at the Keck Medical Center, and they’re large families, all with good intentions. Many of those family members are calling and asking for updates for the patients. That could take the nurse away from focusing on other patients. So one suggestion I have, is always appoint one family member as your spokesperson. Then that family member communicates back to the rest of the family. I also see family members researching the internet a lot, then they get concerned and ask a lot of questions. Ask your questions early on in your loved one’s care. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Doctors and nurses are there to explain those answers.

What are some examples of patient or visitor behavior that’s too overbearing?

Challenging the medication or constantly asking questions about what the med is for, and then referring back to what they’ve researched on the internet [using “research”]. Patients spend five or 10 minutes Googling a certain medication and there’s a physician or pharmacist that’s spent years studying pharmacology. So just take that research in stride.

Patt also asked listeners to give tips or ask questions about their experiences staying with loved ones in the hospital.

Melinda in Brentwood had a tip about journal-keeping. She said a communal journal helped her family members keep track of questions and answers.

Melinda: With both my parents’ serious hospitalizations, we kept a notebook so that each of their children could write about what was going on, because you’re so overwhelmed and in shock, things can be said to you, but you don’t hear or remember it properly.

Linda in AirTalk's comments online asked about how to deal with rude nurses. She said her family wanted to complain about her father’s nurse when he was a patient, but they were concerned that saying something may make his father’s care worse, and wanted to know how she could have handled the situation better.

Sy: A family member should never fear retaliation for bringing up a concern. If you’re not feeling comfortable with a particular nurse, there’s always a charge nurse on duty that you can bring your concern to. Many times the charge nurse can simply change the assignment. If you feel that a charge nurse is not able to make that change on your request, a nurse manager is somebody else that’s a central party to take your concern to. Many hospitals also have a patient experience office that can also intervene.

A listener in Calabasas urged listeners to check the medical history of their loved ones as soon as they’re admitted:

The most important thing when entering the hospital, particularly if it’s through the emergency room, is to obtain medical records as quickly as possible. Either the patient, his next of kin or designated family member, should get a comprehensive medical history [and] review it right away. I was admitted to a hospital wrongly as a cardiac patient because a doctor had wrote that my nephew had died at a young age from a cardiac episode. ... I told him I have a family history of diabetes, not cardiac [problems]. $69,000 later, I can only say that patient history should be provided because your care is based upon the symptoms you present, your test results and family and personal medical history.


Annette Sy, DNP, RN, Chief Nursing Officer, Keck Medical Center of USC

This story has been updated.