ASC Tips for Informing Family Members about Patient Operative Status 

As ASC clinicians, we get used to surgery. But for patients’ family members, sometimes this is their first time in the waiting room. Communicating with family members effectively and regularly is key to keeping high satisfaction scores and providing top-quality care. 

Overcoming uncertainty 

Sitting in the waiting room while a loved one is in surgery can be so stressful.  Studies have found that one of the biggest challenges to overcome this uncertainty is providing adequate communication. Commonly, family members don’t know what to expect. They don’t know how long surgery should take, from preoperative preparation through recovery time. 

  • Tip #1: Loop family members in before surgery 

A family member’s level of involvement can vary. However, communicating with both patients and loved ones before the operation ever begins can help to set expectations. For example, if you are using a digital communication strategy, you can ask patients if they have a family member they would like to loop into the notifications about their procedure. You may be able to send HIPAA-compliant reminders to family members as well as patients. 

  • Tip #2: Provide accurate information during the surgery 

Family members want to know where a patient is during an operation. Inform family members of the patient’s status at regular intervals during the procedure. This is easy to do when you have a streamlined, accessible OR schedule. With some digital platforms, you can even provide a HIPAA-compliant waiting room schedule, so that family members can see where their loved ones are in real-time. 

  • Tip #3: Set adequate time expectations 

Loved ones often don’t have an understanding of how many steps are involved in a surgical appointment. Preoperative preparation can take some time, plus factoring in time for postoperative recovery and allowing the anesthesia to wear off before family members can see the patient. It can help to make family members aware of all these steps on the front end so that they have a more accurate picture of how long the procedure might take. That said, it’s always important to let families know that time estimates are just that—estimates. OR volume, scheduling or staffing changes, and many other factors can affect how efficient surgery is. Let families know ahead of time that waiting a little longer is not a cause for alarm. 


  • Tip #4: Provide reassurance 

As an ASC nurse, a crucial hat you wear is helping families feel reassured. When surgery takes longer than a family member has expected, this can create a lot of feelings of anxiety. Sometimes, all a family member needs is to hear a nurse say, “It’s just taking the doctor slightly longer than expected.” Many factors can cause changes in the surgery schedule, creating slight delays. When it is time to take a family member to see the patient, an act just as simple as walking with them to the postoperative recovery room can be a compelling way to provide emotional support. 

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