5 Types of Lies Your Patients Might Be Telling You

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5 Types of Lies Your Patients Might Be Telling You

As a nurse, there are a lot of things you don’t get to learn in nursing school. And perhaps one of the most surprising lessons you’ll learn in the hospital is that not all patients tell the truth. Yes, patients do lie and here are five types of lies they often tell their healthcare providers.

1. “I take my medicines as you said.”

By default, most patients would never admit that they skipped a few doses or did not take their medications as prescribed. They fear that admitting to non-compliance would mean more medicines and a longer treatment period. And this is exactly where the problem arises.

If a patient reports that he’s taking his medicines in a timely fashion, it will make us think that his doctor’s prescriptions aren’t working to improve his health. As a result, his care provider may feel the need to increase the dose or even add more medications to his existing treatment plan. This can put the patient at risk of overdose, side effects and dangerous drug interactions.

Your patient’s compliance is essential for his recovery. If you’re in doubt about your patient taking his medication, you can encourage him to demonstrate how he’s taking them. This way, you’ll be able to find out if he’s having difficulty swallowing them or if he’s feeling any unpleasant side effects that would make him want to stop taking them.

2. “Ouch! I’m in so much pain!”

When it comes to pain assessment, we all have our own unique stories to tell. Patients laughing despite giving out an 8 or 9 in your pain scale assessment and patients asking for their pain medication even without any signs of discomfort  are common experiences for most of us.

Because pain is very subjective. There’s really no way for us to verify if our patients are telling the truth or not- aside from their actions and words.
Because pain is very subjective. There’s really no way for us to verify if our patients are telling the truth or not- aside from their actions and words.

“I once had this patient who came to the ER complaining of pain in several parts of his body. Because his doctor can’t determine where his pains were coming from, he decided to order a series of tests to rule out the possible cause. The patient became uneasy after learning that the tests won’t be covered by his health card. A few minutes after, the patient reported feeling better,” an ER nurse shared.

Take the time to assess both what your patient is saying and doing. If his actions don’t match his claims, reassess and reorient your patient about the importance of proper pain management. It’s also a good idea to encourage him to describe the pain he’s feeling as well as the affected areas.

3. “I don’t drink much.”

Most patients who drink alcohol aren’t likely to fully disclose how much alcohol they actually consume on a daily or weekly basis. One reason is that they are in denial. Another possible cause is that they fear what other people, particularly their doctors, will say if they knew how much bottles of beer their patient takes every day.

“I was interviewing one patient in the OPD the other day about his alcohol intake. I asked how many bottles of beer he consumes daily and he answered me with ‘one.’ I was pretty sure I was clear about my question because I asked him twice. But when the doctor asked him the same question, he nervously replied with ‘6,” a nurse said.

Avoid asking probing questions when you’re assessing your patient’s drinking behavior as it can make him more defensive. Try to elicit trust and give out nonjudgmental responses to what you patient is going to say.

4. “I did not have sex.”

This is probably one of the most common lies you’ll hear from most teens who come to the ER with abdominal pain and missed periods. Aside from denying about being sexually active, a lot of them also deny having a partner, particularly with their parents standing beside them.

Not all teens are comfortable sharing personal information. Sometimes, they feel the need to lie to avoid the consequences of their actions.
Not all teens are comfortable sharing personal information. Sometimes, they feel the need to lie to avoid the consequences of their actions.

When assessing these types of patients, it’s important to be as objective as possible and consider test results rather than the patient’s subjective report. Be careful in confronting them about their lies to elicit trust. Other than sexual activity, you also want your patient to clear out any actions she has taken to address the pregnancy, including taking certain medications to terminate it.

5. “I don’t take any other medicines.”

Most patients think that health care professionals are only interested in hearing about medications that come from other doctors. Others, meanwhile, somewhat forget about the sleeping aids and diet pills they are occasionally taking. The problem with this is that even though they are not prescribed, vitamins and herbal supplements can still cause drug-to-drug interactions.

If you happen to interview this type of patient, don’t jump to conclusions yet as some patients are just forgetful. It would be of great help if you can try to recall their daily routine to check what medicines they go through every day.

Patients lying isn’t that uncommon. It happens every day and every time. However, this doesn’t mean that patients aren’t capable of telling the truth. They still can, more so if they know the implications of not being true. As a nurse, it is our task to make them trust us enough.

What instances where a patient lying compromised their health? How do you respond to them?

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