14 things I wish my patients knew

Shutterstock | Viktor Gladkov
Shutterstock | Viktor Gladkov

My job would be so much easier if my patients were aware of these 14 facts…

1. Medications come in different dosages. You might take one pill at home, but get two at the hospital. That does not necessarily mean anything’s wrong.

2. Medications also come in different colors. Your green pill might not be the same as our green pill.

3. Yes, the blood pressure cuff gets tight. That’s because it’s taking your blood pressure.

4. Nurses are not now, have never been and never will be sex workers. No matter how nicely you ask.

5. I have other patients.

6. Doctors are usually late, except when they’re very, very late.

7. Nothing in the hospital is convenient, quick or easy. That’s just how we roll.

8. I have nothing to do with the cost of your insurance or the prices you’ll be charged for things in the hospital. Neither do I care about any of that.

9. When I get really calm and cheerful, something horrible is happening or is about to happen.

10. If you pretend to have chest pain or a seizure just to get my attention, you’ll get it. But not how you want it.

11. Most, if not all, of the things we do to you are both unpleasant and necessary.

12. If you threaten to leave AMA, I will happily call both your bluff and a taxi.

13. I’ve seen whatever that is before, enough times that it’s no longer a shock.

14. This won’t hurt a bit. At least, it won’t hurt me.

What would you add to the list?


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60 Responses to 14 things I wish my patients knew

  1. bbmuzzy

    You can’t AMA an infant. Don’t threaten me. My response comes with security back up.

  2. jdp

    Re: 14 Things…

    ER Triage: YES will will ask you what medications you take. Yes will need to list them and no we do not know every name of every drug. Instead of remembering your phone charger, Cheetos, etc., please try to put a list in your bag. :-)

  3. Qwerty

    Surgery hurts. There is no such thing as “pain free”.

    • Revdog30

      I’m an ortho nurse and tell my patients that we will keep their pain as tolerable as possible but we can not keep them pain free because in nursing we call pain free “dead”!

      • j37mitch

        I also explain that if you have come to emergency with pain for days then it is unlikely that one or two doses of medication will relieve your pain. I will treat you pain but it may involve multiple doses or multiple meds.

  4. irishdance

    The “H” does not stand for “Hotel”, it stands for “Hospital”!

  5. Ep nurse

    If you tell me you are allergic to oxygen, you DON’T GET SEDATION! Yes I’ve had patients tell me this.

  6. Kwarda

    If you are being nasty and threatening to leave I will politely tell you to not let door hit ya where the good Lord split ya!

  7. msd7485

    Don’t lie about ingesting/smoking/ injecting recreational drugs, we will find out! We have your blood and your urine!!!!

  8. callibug9

    Yes, your med list matters and everything on it, yes I really want to know. Also, as a nurse, I may at times appear to be a waitress/furniture mover/hair dresser/etc. but I was not ever formally trained as such. The most important things I do should be important to you too, please do not comment on my crappy skills in other areas. Also you do NOT want to be my sickest patient needing the most attention.

  9. Reboot2015

    Yes I realize you haven’t since midnight and no, you won’t starve to death in a day.

  10. Glenna Bible Tsitseklis Mullenix

    #1-patients need to be reassured they are taking the right med, especially if it’s different than what they take at home.
    #2-same as #1-it’s your place to reassure them to gain their confidence, or deal with their fear and hostility later.
    #3-I know the blood pressure cuff is tight, it doesn’t last long. If their upper arm is too big , get a larger cuff, or take b/p on wrist.
    #4-I don’t know where the “nurses are easy” came from, but it stops here.
    #5-unfortunately I have several patients to care for, you are no more or no less important, and I will tend to you asap.
    #6-Doctors get here when they get here, they may have an emergency, surgery that lasts longer than thought, but they will be here. have your questions ready for them so they can get to their next patient as quickly as possible.
    #7-The hospital is full and we can only do so much until we can get to you, it’s one of the reasons you are in the hospital so we can tend to you when we can rather than make you come to the hospital and wait even longer. Certain tests require certain preps to insure best results.
    #8-The business office handles insurance and costs.
    #9-Is superfluous
    #10-Haven’t you tried to get my attention like this before. You should be ashamed, I may be needed where a patient is really sick. Do you want that on your conscience or a psych referral?
    #11-We do what we need to do to find what’s wrong and make you better.
    #12-If you leave AMA, your insurance won’t pay, but you will have to.
    #13-Exposing yourself is rude and sick. If you continue to have this problem I would suggest a psychiatrist, you could be arrested.
    #14-This may sting or hurt for a little while, not long.

    When have nurses become smartasses? We deal with people like ourselves, is this how we want to be treated? I don’t. I get impatient, scared, and don’t like pain, esp. when I’m a patient in the hospital. Nurses and usually doctors make the worst patients. I started nursing as an LPN for 9 years and an RN for 16. Retired in 1994 at the age of 49. I try to treat patients like I want to be treated or like I would try to treat a member of my family. Sometimes our face and our voice may be the last they see and hear. It takes more energy to be a smartass or flippant than it does to be courteous. Please tell me this is just for fun and nurses haven’t really stooped to this level.

    • nukemgrl

      I treat my patients the way I would treat my family also–only much kinder. If my family acted the way my patients did, I wouldn’t be as nice and polite. You’ve clearly not been in a healthcare setting any time recently. Nowadays they come in and have their phone charger, smart phone, bag of cheetos, 15 family members or friends and somehow believe they are at the Hilton and should be treated as such.

    • djsooshi

      I work in an inner city hospital and whether my patient is a crackhead suffering from poverty, mental illness along with their addiction or some uber rich person from the Russian Hill district or an immigrant from China who thought they would cured from a cancer that has metsed to all over – they all have huge entitlement issues in America. I’ll never forget when I do missions to Guatemala how great fun those people are for some Tylenol and a warm smile or the few immigrants I’ve put on comfort care who are so greatly to you have a warm bed to die in…. as a nurse I’m have the most infinite compassion and patience for my patients but that also requires a sick sense of humor. We on the front lines get exposed to all manor of disease, germs, vermin etc, I’m preaching to the choir here but lighten up retired nurse…but I have to say there is always some truth to the humor. 😉

    • thessaly36


    • thessaly36

      People like you confuse me. Why would you read a humorous article when you clearly have no sense of humor and know that you are only going to say negative things about it? There is no reason for nurses to have to put on a show and act as thought they are better than one another. Not having a sense of humor doesn’t make you more compassionate than anyone else obviously we all care deeply for our patients otherwise we wouldn’t have become and then stayed nurses.

    • bjp

      If you have been out of the field since 1994- you ain’t seen nothing honey! Graduated in ’78, and still at it, times have changed and so has the mentality of our patients. It takes alot more to get through a day, let alone a week or a year. Come on back and see if you change your tune!

    • ladyinblue

      We became “smartasses” because of people like you. This is just an article with a bit of truth to it. Truth stings a bit, huh? Also, “the yellow pill” means NOTHING to us. Carry a current list at all times. You are responsible for yourself. The upper arm BP cuff is more accurate than the wrist cuff, that is why it is used. Your arm hurts because of the extra fat on it, true story.
      If there was one nurse per every patient then there would be more than enough time to spoon feed you, sorry you didn’t get enough attention as a child, or common sense for that matter.
      Before you accuse me of being a horrible person/nurse, know this…I love my patients and love my work. Unfortunately there are those people who have a knack for making us regret our career choice, no matter what the job is. Some people just plain suck. My daughter works at Subway, you wouldn’t believe how awful people can be towards a 16 yr old just doing her job and following the rules.

    • purplemommy

      And since you’ve retired that AMA rule doesn’t even apply anymore. A patient will go AMA and if they even have insurance, it will still pay. AND if they don’t have insurance they still do think pay. Oh, and if they go AMA it’s the nurses fault and you have to prove you did everything including calling animal rescue to feed their pets. Also make sure they leave with all their scripts and prefer arranged follow up appointments at clinics near their home with transportation provided and…I kid you not….a goody bag with food so when they get the press ganey/chaps call they give us an 8 or above.

    • dmhskm

      To Glenna — Of course this is just for fun. Have you never engaged in black humor in your job? Have you never watched “Scrubs” on TV? This list is hilarious and stress reducing. I always look forward to these posts.

    • lallajo

      Geez, lighten up! Do you always just suck the fun out of everything in life? Healthcare isn’t like it was in 1994; things have changed, alot, and a little bit of humor between nurses is what keeps us sane. Spare us your “holier than thou” attitude.

    • kidapa

      Of course this is just for fun. You retired at 49 and perhaps didn’t have the experiences that many of us have had.. that’s why we share thes funny comments… we all have seen it.

  11. bamanurse

    Knowing when you’re having a faux seizure as opposed to having a real one is somewhat easy. Especially when you’re answering all my questions and looking me in the eyes while you’re in the mist of one

  12. Tajmya

    Re:14 things…Yes, I am likely to question your pain level of “10” and request for PRN pain meds…while you are getting dressed and hitching your IV to a portable to walk out and smoke a cigarette.

  13. brownbear1992

    I do like the article regarding 14 things i wish my patients should know….it is so sad as a nurse to read these negative, unprofessional and unkind comments. I care about my patients I do think they are an inconvenience or problem. Get out of nursing if the pressure is too much to handle. I have been in the nursing profession for almost 40 years….I still find it to be rewarding even on the bad days. There are many other professions available….remember that when you are thinking the worst of those you are caring for…it could be you or a loved one someday.

    • brownbear1992

      Sorry…the above comment should read…I do not think they are not an inconvenience or problems.

    • brownbear1992

      The above comment should read..I do not think they are an inconvenience or problem.

      • kidapa

        Lighten up… these are harmless comments on typical all to common comments that patients make. If you have worked in areas where you hear these comments everyday for 40 years, you would chuckle and understand it is a nursing release to laugh

  14. friohie

    Don’t wake your SLEEPING baby who is NPO and then get frustrated, angry, upset or whatever because now he/she won’t stop crying! But if you do, don’t leave 5 minutes later while he’s still screaming! You woke him, so YOU stay with him until he goes back to sleep! Would you wake your sleeping baby at 2 am at home “just because”? I don’t think so. So don’t do it here!

  15. Jolene Riley

    Taking your own pills will mot make your hospital bill cheaper

  16. Mary DiVincenzo

    A lot of lists from these sites are funny, and usually make me laugh, feeling like someone else gets what I go through. However, this particular list really disappoints me. As a clin2 RN on an IMC unit, as tough as it can be, I could not imagine saying, even to myself, that I “don’t care” about a patient’s concern. That’s why we’re there! To care- to care for people when they need someone to care. Even if it’s an emotional need more than a medical need- we do our best to make them healthy and comfortable, while treating each patient equally. If you genuinely don’t care- get out of nursing.

  17. j37mitch

    1. I cannot give you pain meds or a medication refill until a doctor sees you.
    2. Just because you complaint “will only take a few seconds” does not mean I will pull the doctor away from a critical patient to assess you next.
    3. You got yourself to the hospital it is not the hospital’s responsibility to get you home.
    4. I do not know you so have patience with me when I ask you questions, not all information on you is stored in our computers.
    5. You will be asked repeatedly to explain your condition, each member of a team may have a certain focus so we will ask you for information again and again.
    6. You are important to me but not necessarily a priority, I will give care to the patient that requires it with the most urgency first.
    7. I am happy to make you comfortable, it is much easier for me to help you when I am in the room rather than calling me repeatedly by the call bell.
    8. If you are a difficult IV poke or blood draw and know where other techs get your blood then give that arm to the nurse first rather than after an unsuccessful attempt.

    • j37mitch

      9. If your situation is not critical come to the hospital prepared to leave after treatment (e.g. come with weather appropriate clothes, have shoes, bring a walker if needed, have a plan for a ride home).

  18. snubby

    JUST BECAUSE I don’t do it the same as the other nurse, dosen,t mean its wrong???
    Most annoying remark.

  19. Kitty Coo

    4.need to read the history of nursing again

  20. Katherine Howard

    When I ask you what drink I can get you when you return after having outpatient surgery, please don’t request alcohol thinking that this is something I never heard before and so I will find amusing.

  21. fastnurse

    If you are placed in a curtain wall Bay Area and you happen to hear the results of another patient please DONT COMMENT

  22. babyrn85

    Unless you have had a few babies, it does not fall out! It is not like TV. (And the nurse will catch him if he does)

  23. megrn13

    I’ve been a nurse
    For 8 years. I love being a nurse but I have to agree patients can be ridiculous at times. I would never ever treat a patient badly. I do everything I can for them but when they are mean and frustrate me it is fun to joke around with other nurses about the things that drive us all nuts. I can identify with almost all of these. Lol.

  24. Danielle Hunnicutt

    The RN behind my name does not stand for “refreshments” and “narcotics”….

    Or my personal favorite
    If we are being “too slow” for your comfort, just be happy you’re not the critical patient that we are trying to save in the next room.

  25. Lee Lynnette Szczepura

    No you won’t get much rest, we are in all hours so you can be monitored. That is why you are here.

  26. mmrn

    Holding your sweet baby is my favorite task to do as a pediatric nurse. With the exception of you taking your 15th smoke break during my 12 hour shift.

    • wassamatau

      Don’t forget this tidbit: You got to Disney Land/World to have fun, ride the rides, see Mickey, etc…. Don’t come to the hospital expecting the same experience. We don’t do laughter, we don’t do rides, we don’t do adventure, we don’t do iconic cartoon characters, etc…. That is not what hospitals are about. You’re not at the spa nor a 5-star resort so don’t go looking for that saccharine sweet treatment either. You come to a hospital because you’re sick, you need that investigated, and you need to get well as fast as possible so you can get back to your normal self/life. You don’t turn to the fire or police department and expect the kid-gloves treatment, the mint-on-the-pillow experience, nor an obviously overly cheerful hyper-medicated personal interaction so don’t expect to find that at the hospital either. Why would you go to see an oncologist and expect to see balloons and cheerful group singing in the reception area? You’d probably walk right back out the door and go see someone different. If we spend our time and emotional energies portraying a facade of inappropriately cheery Disney-like experiences we’re obviously not focusing our entire efforts on getting you (or your loved one) better. If I was the patient, I would prefer my care providers be all business and serious and straight down to the task at hand rather than focusing on “trying” to waste their time/efforts on fake hollow attempts to make the patient experience a pleasant adventure.

  27. hotrod41

    Yes I know you asked for your pain medication 10 minutes ago, but 3 people ask for theirs before you.

  28. NurseMary

    What part of “I need to put in an IV did you not understand? Yes it does involve a needle and yes it will hurt.

  29. Akira Okuda

    15. when i say ill go to your room, you wait there.

    • Akira Okuda

      ill add one.. “Im your nurse, not your nanny.”

  30. Reagan Olsen

    If you refuse the majority of your treatments and continue to be noncomplient, then why are you be here?

  31. Reagan Olsen

    Taking your vital signs at 0200 is for your wellbeing. Antibiotics and other meds may also have to be given during the night. If you want uninterrupted sleep, you are in the wrong place.

  32. Joaquin49

    # 8, yes we should care about the cost because the cost is out rages, but I get your point.

  33. MissyCCRN

    “I truly do wish I could spend more time with you, but my time management schedule only allows for 2 minutes of 1:1 comfort per patient per day.”

  34. Dylan23

    People find this funny? I bet not the patients or family members of these patients you are talking about. My 59 year old father suffered every single day in that hospital before he died and was scared to
    Death. He had to be in there 7 months at a time. It was hard enough to leave him at night, at least we had those amazing nurses who we loved and trusted so much to be there while we weren’t. This won’t hurt a bit, at least not me? Maybe not now but I guess it will if you ever get sick one day and have to be that patient. You don’t care about the prices the family members are now stuck with? I guess you don’t have a heart either, why the fuck are you nurses. Whoever wrote this is disgusting and not funny. im sure some patients are down right nasty, my dad struggled to breathe, on a feeding tube with not one bite of food or drink for and entire year and he was STILL the most kind, selfless person around. These people are sick I think they have a right to have grumpy days if they’d like. Find another job, clearly in the wrong field.

  35. Murphy

    If you smoke, do not control your diabetes, abuse drugs, are obese, or generally have an unhealthy lifestyle; we cannot “fix” you. Your choices are what got you to this point. Your state of health is up to you.

  36. erocknurse

    NO, I do not always have it on file here and you should ALWAYS keep a list of your mess with you. And if you refuse to answer, I will gladly chart it. I educate my patients that this is for their safety although they think it is inconvenient. The ER is NOT your clinic. We don’t know you like your doctor does. Also, I would like for patients to know that triage isn’t McDonald’s. It isn’t first come, first serve. There really needs to be more education on this. I don’t “just take your vitals.” Triage is probably the hardest job in the ER beside charge nurse which I have done too. If I miss one thing, that could mean a bad outcome for a patient. So, to the one whining “they are going back and I was here first!” Well, be glad YOU aren’t going back first and next time, go to your doctor if you want fast food medicine.