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A few things a nurse should never (EVER!) say

This list could also be called “What Not to Say to a Patient in Times of Crisis.” Seriously, here are eight phrases that you should never speak aloud before your shift is over (don’t say I didn’t warn you)!

1. “I’m sure everything will be fine.”
Unless you have a fairly liberal definition of “fine,” this is rarely the case when somebody’s sick enough to be in the hospital.

2. “I wouldn’t let that doctor near my worst enemy.”
There are plenty of ways to put this that won’t result in panic.

3. “Oops.”
As the old joke goes, “Surgeons never say ‘Oops!’ They always say ‘There!’”

4. “I’ll be back in three minutes.”
Unless you know that whatever waits for you outside the door will truly only take three minutes, don’t ever say this. It’s like observing that the floor is “quiet” right now.

5. “Golly! I’ve never seen anything like that!”
The most composed nurse I’ve ever met saw a patient’s brain crawling out of a dehisced wound and merely remarked, “Let me put some gauze on that. I’m gonna go get the doc to take a peek at it.”

6. “This won’t hurt a bit.”
Pretty much everything we do in the hospital hurts. It’s probably best not to overplay the amount of discomfort somebody might feel, but you don’t want to flat-out lie, either.

7. “The meatloaf is pretty tasty.”
No hospital meatloaf is tasty.

8. “I’m here with you until seven this evening.”
That, right there, is a sure way to stay at least an hour overtime, charting.

What would you add to this “do not mutter” list?

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Agatha Lellis

Agatha Lellis is a nurse whose coffee is brought to her every morning by a chipmunk. Bluebirds help her to dress, and small woodland creatures sing her to sleep each night. She writes a monthly advice column, "Ask Aunt Agatha," here on Scrubs; you can send her questions to be answered at askauntieaggie@gmail.com.
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26 Responses to A few things a nurse should never (EVER!) say

  1. cassamidy

    never never never never say the ‘q’ word. I mean the one that is the opposite of loud and rhymes with riot. never. ever.

  2. njtex99

    I was giving a guy his smallpox vaccine once and said oh s**t. Instead of just scratching the surface it went through (not a big deal). It just felt freaky!

  3. NicoleA Student

    Or..”It’s a slow day.”

  4. mjohnson1883

    Working night shift in the OR at a Trauma Center…we never say the name of one particular Anesthesiologist when she’s on call bcuz inevitably we will get slammed with one emergent case after another.

  5. zsuda

    You never say in ER: “It’s a quiet day”

  6. rgn_nod

    The worst – annoying words I heard from a co-worker to the relatives of a patient/s….

    “He/ She’s dead anyway so you should be happy now!”

  7. cooter

    if you are a dr looking at a suspicious mole do not repeat four times oh no, oh no, on no.. really not a good thing!

  8. qaqueen RN

    “If you hit me, I will hit you back.” Not the best response to a combatative pt.

  9. dbirrellrn

    It never fails but any time I say “guys it’s slow, I need more patients,” we get slammed! Anyone else can say it without consequence but one of our nurses pointed our the other day, whenever I say it, all Hell breaks loose. We went from no admits for a couple weeks to approx 10 in the course of five days. That’s a lot for our little area.

  10. Queenofshop

    When i was a new nurse, I had admitted a patient with a gangrenous foot and the next day I came in for my shift, saw this person was on my assignment again. I went into the room before I got report to say hello and immediately said “where did your foot go?” They had an amputation during day shift….I was mortified!

    • spiprn1

      Hahaha now that is funny I had a patient that had a bilateral disarticulation or both legs cutt off and the exray person came in and said “now what is going on with his legs??? Of course what do I say… WHAT LEGS omg so embarrased his mother was in the room also. haha

  11. imothernurse

    11. “It sure is quiet today” shortly before a code
    Imothernurse.blogspot.com

  12. Deborah Andrews

    Never say the Q word–It’s been a “quiet” night. That is a guaranteed way to liven things up at work.

  13. Naomi Lyle

    Last year there was a programme on tv called 24 hours in A&E and they had a red phone on the wall that rang with emergencies. I had a placement last year in an a&e department and for the first two weeks had yet to see or hear the departments own ‘red’ phone, so being curious I asked where it was. It was almost as if the world stopped, all the nurses went dead silent and gave me that certain look. The emergency phone ended up ringing twice that day and every day I was on the rest of that week. Oops! I’ve learnt my lesson

  14. Carol Mcguire

    Please do no ever say, “it’s too quiet” or even tell someone “hope you have a quiet shift” that is the curse and death of any kind of peaceful shift because all hell will break loose when the “Q” word is uttered by anyone….

  15. RNny

    When the day shift tells the night charge nurse “these are good pts for you to take”. Inevitably these are the pts who have an MI, Code, sundown or other various issues!

  16. Stephanie McDaugale

    Every time my husband tells me to have a good night everything is hell!!!

  17. ilovenursing

    bend your knees and move to the stretcher. The pt. has bilateral aka

  18. psychnurse1

    The Doctor will be with you in a minute.

  19. Nour El HouDa

    You are not my only patient

  20. JerZFox RN

    It’s quiet here.

  21. susiqblue

    Never say the name of your worst pt. ever. They usually get admitted that day.

  22. Lanette Hughes

    Staff nurse to Infection Control nurse, “How long after the expiration date can we use saline?”

  23. nursesmart

    NEVER EVER say the “Q” word in a psychiatric setting. All Hell will break loose.

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