Fill out your new career PROfile on and let employers come to you • SIGN UP

Is there something I can cite or say to my mother-in-law to get her to stop asking me for medical advice?



Dear Donna,

I am a brand new nurse about to take my boards. My mother-in-law, a psychological health care professional who helped me get through nursing school, recently became ill. While I sat with her while she was in the hospital, she continues to pressure me to give her healthcare advice.

She has many peers who are nurses from whom she can seek advice as well as her own healthcare providers and nurse hotlines. I have suggested she use all these resources and have expressed in no uncertain terms that I am not comfortable giving healthcare advice to people I know.

Is there something I can cite or something I can say that I am not already doing that will prevent this behavior? I am afraid that her behavior may at some time cause me to lose me my license or hurt my reputation as she is very well connected.

Nervous about giving advice

Dear Donna replies:

Dear Nervous about giving advice,

It is always challenging to respond to this type of question without knowing all the details and the players. But there seem to be two different issues here: Your reluctance to be the health educator and advocate that you are as an RN, even, and especially, for your own family, and your relationship with your mother-in-law.

When people get ill, no matter how capable and competent they are in their regular life, they typically want and need some ‘insider’ advice and help. Even someone who is a nurse needs the same help when they themselves are ill.

I would suggest talking to one of your former nursing instructors about this aspect of your dilemma including your fear of her being able to somehow influence your license and reputation. Also talk to experienced nurses about how they handle this type of situation.

But it seems the bigger issue is your relationship with your mother in law and that she pressures, shames and embarrasses you. Plan a strategy to talk to her about these issues and set boundaries. These things are never easy to do. Talk to a few trusted friends, colleagues or family members to gain perspective and create and carry out a plan of action.

You can’t change the behavior of someone else; you can only change your own. Here’s an article that may be helpful: “Seven strategies for managing conflict:” (

Best wishes,



About Author

Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, well-known career guru, is’s “Dear Donna” and author of “Your First Year as a Nurse: Making the Transition from Total Novice to Successful Professional” and “The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses: Practical Advice for Thriving at Every Stage of Your Career.” Information about the books is available at and, respectively. To ask Donna your question, go to Find a “Dear Donna” seminar near you: Call 800-866-0919 or visit http://www.

Leave A Reply