10 best responses to annoying patients

Shutterstock | Sebastian Gauert
Shutterstock | Sebastian Gauert

Here is a fun list of my favorite nursing-related comments and the tongue-in-cheek comebacks I have managed to bite back in order to remain professional. Yes, some things are better left unsaid:

My top 10 responses to annoying patients

10. “Those scrubs make you look fat.”

Comeback: “You’re just jealous that I get to work in something akin to my pajamas!”

9. “All nurses are overpaid, fat and lazy.” (Yes, had a patient say this to me once. Then she gave me a “thank-you” gift.)

Comeback: “This fat, overpaid, lazy nurse just saved you and your baby’s life.”

8. “The floor is so quiet and peaceful!” (Especially irritating when yelled at 3AM by a newly admitted patient to a full floor.)

Comeback: “I have Micropore tape and I’m not afraid to use it!”

7. Patient states, “The nurses just hang out at the nurses station and play on their computers.”

Comeback: “If 14 hours of continuous charting, about you, on the computer amounts to play, I’d like to know what you think work is?”

6. “It must be so cool to work in an environment like  _____.” (Insert TV shows like House, ER, Scrubs, etc.)

Comeback: “No, what would be really cool is if there was a TV show that showed the reality of nursing minus the soap opera–‘cuz it ain’t sexy.”

5. “The doctors are so cute! Is it true they only date nurses?”

Comeback: “The doctors don’t look so cute at 2AM when they are disheveled, covered in blood and screaming at the nurses. Just sayin’.”

4. After getting a patient something to drink or eat; “Wow, you are just like a waitress.” Or even better, “This place is just like a hotel!”

Comeback: “A waitress in a hotel wouldn’t put up with your crap. Literally.”

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Amy Bozeman

Amy is many things: a blogger, a nurse, a wife, a mom, a childbirth educator. She started her journey towards a career in nursing when she got pregnant with her first child. After nursing school and studying "like she has never studied before" she entered the nursing profession eager to get her feet wet. The first years provided her with much exposure to sadness, joy and other complex human emotions. She feels that blogging is a wonderful outlet and a way for nurse bloggers to further build their community. Traditionally, midwives have handed down their skill set from midwife to apprentice midwife. She believes nurses have this same opportunity: to pass from nurse to new nurse the rich traditions of this profession.

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65 Responses to 10 best responses to annoying patients

  1. This is Definately a front-runner for being funny, but Oh, So True!! Makes me feel better, it’s not just me;) I’ve Definately replied to patients, more than once, the Last statement. Another good one– you have to do something that hurts a bit (like an IM- big whoop) & they say ouch, etc; I say”I’m sorry” & the reply?”yeah, you really look sorry” What? Really? Just sayin’….

  2. RunsWithScissors

    Would love to say some of these things, but in the days of sucking it up in the name of “customer service”, we just can’t. The “customer” is always right, don’t ya know?! Many of these would get one fired where I work.

  3. Kat

    Regarding #1: I have said that to a patient! LOL I mean it too! :-)

  4. Jeanne Vacca

    I had an MD snap at me when I called him about a change in his patient’s condition,necessitating a move to the ICU.He said “You’re not sorry about calling me!”And I,after 4 12 hour nights actually snapped back,”No it’s the highlight of my s#$%ty night just to wake you up to tell you about your patient who just had a near-death experience .YOU need to come in NOW!!!” He came in and apologized to me for being such an a-hole.The other nurses who worked with me couldn’t believe that this arrogant jerk apologized to me.He was much easier to work with after that.

  5. Jackie

    If the patient or family member states ” I hate hospitals” my standard comeback is ” I hate hospitals too, Im only here cause they pay me”

  6. NurseNanny

    I am a pateint and not a nurse, but I loved all of the nurses who took care of me during a recent 27 day hospitalization. Some people have no class or conscience; I can’t believe any nurse has to endure such rudeness!!!

  7. NurseNanny

    I am a patient and not a nurse, but I have a lot of respect and adoration for all of the nurses who took care of me during a recent 27 day hospitalization. Some people have no class or conscience; I can’t believe that nurses have to endure such rudeness!!! For future reference,if I hear another patient talk to a nurse like that I would say the snarky remarks you can’t as a professional. My mother’s husband is famous for being rude to the nurses and I always remind him that it’s not their fault you’re stuck in the hospital and being nice and compliant will get you further than being miserable. He doesn’t seem to understand that the nurses work hard, long hours and you should help make that a better experience for them.

  8. zornowk

    RE #9- I DID say that to my husband, after our daughter spent 28 days in the NICU, open heart surgery at 4 months, and multiple health complications. He said that all I did at work (in the NICU) was to feed babies and chart. My reply, “those same nurses who feed babies and chart saved YOUR daughter’s life on more then one occassion!”

  9. Darlene RN


    • martatvbm@hotmail.com RN

      Been there many times over. Some patients will feel uncomfortable with having me as their RN b/c I have an accent.

    • MHD76

      Wow, it must really make you feel good to put down LPNs, and I’m guessing by your comment that your elitist attitude about being an RN instead of an LPN must make you loathed by your LPN co-workers. I can run rings around many an RN, your title does not mean anything in the setting I work in. You’re making so many friends here!

  10. Darlene RN


    • august

      I face that all the time. When the LVN/LPN tell a patient that I will get the rn to check, and they see me, the patient states “I thought you were going to get the RN, why is she coming”, just because I have a different kind of name, and I have an accent! Then they get supprised by the different level of knowledge, information,teaching, and care.

    • Nurse420

      Something about you must give pt the feeling you do not hold a professional position neither RN or LPN. I’ve never been asked that question in almost 20 years I carry myself into pts rooms in a professional manner and I’m proud to be an LPN.

  11. Darlene RN


    • sidhe007

      Darlene, I don’t know what point you’re making about what an RN vs LVN looks like, but I find the statement itself nothing less than insulting.

      • katcastillo

        I’M a LPN and I finD Darlene Rn/Lvn comment
        offensive ,I work at a facility where we take people with no to little income with pysch conditions,Dementia you name it we take it . I work hard I take care of my Residents. I held the hand of some of my residents while they were dying because they didn’t have any family I stayed way past my shift to do this. I HAVE HAD TO MAKE QUICK DECISIONS TO CALL 911 to send out to the hospital I even had to start CPR . . At the end of the day Your initials don’t mean squat ,it’s the care you give.. and . I had a MSN TELL ME THIS .

        • malloryjones26

          Im a lpn and in school now upgrading. I work at a nursing home, sounds about like yours.. the lpns do all the work and rns just sit behind the desk and tell you what to do. The rns I work with probably couldn’t stick a foley in someone if their life depended on it ! The letters behind a persons name mean NOTHING to me. My residents call me dr.mallory because I always take such good care of them. And no matter how messed up my facility is I do it for them and go home at the end of the day knowing I did my best !

          • dolphinbabie

            As a LPN of 23 years my biggest pet peeve is when I tell someone I am the nurse and they say ” Oh so your a RN” When I tell them I’m a LPN the reply ” Oh I thought you said you were a nurse” makes me so mad I could spit Oh if they only knew what I had to go thru to get those initals behind my name.

        • Karyn

          I’m not only an RN but I have a Masters in nursing…. and I will tell you that some amazing LPN’s taught me how to be a nurse! I find Darlene’s remarks offensive and rude. I also teach LPN’s and when they get flack from RN’s in clinical about “only going to school to be an LPN” or why aren’t you in school to be and RN… I tell them to respond…. Why are you ONLY an RN, why aren’t you in medical school or in school to be a nurse practitioner?
          LPN’s come out of school more prepared to practice clinically than any RN program I have ever seen. They are skills based and my students start clinical within 3 weeks of starting school…. just sayin

      • Nurse420

        How is she presenting herself. We have professional standards to uphold

  12. jblank2@yahoo.com

    Everyday we struggle to see the humor in our profession. We, as Nurses have warped sense of humors that no one else can understand. We have to learn to handle all situations with grace and humility.

    We at http://www.NursEtAl.com are happy to partner with Scrubs to provide insights to all aspects of the Nursing profession. Please visit our Nursing blog at http://www.NursEtAl.com to discuss all things Nursing. Thank you Scrubs

  13. desertrn

    You can’t take it to heart when patients say offending things, or it would break us. I just laugh when asked, “can I just get my dilaudid shot now so I can go home since it is too busy here.” Then I inform them, this isn’t Burger King where u can order what you want & get it your way. It will be quite a wait as you are in no distress and we are busy saving lives, then a doctor will examine you & order only what is needed.
    And no, you cannot have a sandwich, chips & soda for you and each family member while you wait (with supposed 10/10 abdominal pain).
    Last night, the patient who had been up smoking meth for 72 hours asked, “why do I have a belly ache” and do you think “vitamin C I took will make it better.” My response, “not using meth will make it better.

  14. saturn567

    love it

  15. cpnay

    Patient in rehab/psych hospital states: “I don’t think i want to take the seroquel.” I read the side effects, and it seems like it could be dangerous.” My response “I would recommend that you take the seroquel as ordered.” “Those side efects are things that could happen, however, many patients respond well to this medication.” ” Trust me, it is much safer than crack!”. I always get them on this one,haha.

  16. breehat

    I don’t think these are good comebacks. I don’t want to be a doormat but these comebacks are not “me”—especially no. 10.

  17. RNinTN

    My favorite response to rudeness is to say, in my friendliest tone, “I’m sorry — could you repeat that?” as if I simply hadn’t heard their remark. Very often, they’ll be too embarrassed to repeat what they just said. Sometimes it’s necessary to have them repeat it more than once though. “I’m sorry; I’m just not understanding you. Would you remind repeating that?.”

  18. LoveRN

    A male patient angry about the placement of an NG tube once informed me, “I’ve never hit a nurse before.” I told him, “That’s okay, I’ve never hit a patient YET either.”

    • kneechorton

      I luv this! A few months ago during my clinical rotation on an acute floor we had an elderly patient who was very feisty, she tried bitting me but missed. She had the nerve to tell me “next time I won’t miss”I thought to myself how will I explain the both of us having bite marks

  19. traumamama

    When an ER PT curses me saying “you are my response is usually “yes and I’m the best < insert vulgarity" that has ever taken care of you before, so don't you forget it" this usually stuns them into momentary silence.

  20. Jennmike211

    I love # 7… But may I add.. “You didn’t see me 10 min ago when I was trying to help a drunk/high on crack or the delusional patient that hit/ attacked me and security and PD had to pull them off!!! Eye glasses now broken and I have 10 more hours of this!!

  21. august

    I was told, I did not look like a nurse because my scrub had design!

  22. rhondaakins

    I dont EVER apologize to a doctor for calling him/her. To me thats like apologizing for trying to do my job and maybe save a patients life. Is the wrong?

  23. darksideANP

    Patient: “Those scrubs make you look fat”
    Me: “well, guess what that rectal tube makes YOU look like?!”

  24. Granny goose

    My fav response was to a a “difficult” pt who told me. “You look tired”, though I had just started my shift. My replay, “no, this is just how I Loki, I need a facelift!”.

    • Granny goose

      Sorry! “Reply was, No, this is just how I look, I need a facelift!. Damn autuspell!

  25. RNJedi

    We had 30 something male come in to the ICU d/t DKA. At nights all the nurses worked together to get the patients admitted. The charge nurse was going to take this particular patient until this dialogue happened…Patient: “I’m the most non-compliant a**hole you’ll ever meet.” Me: “Admission is the first step to recovery.” After that the charge nurse told me I could have the patient. The patient and I got along very well.

  26. nehi maori

    This is what some people say to me alot outside of work is… I know what you nurses are like. Seen it on TV!

    My response: Yes its just like TV. We stand around gossiping all day, flirt, date and have affairs with all the doctors in the hospital, save the day from all kinds of threats like bombs, gunmen and terrorists, and at the end of the day, we like to go across the road to the local bar, and chug a few glasses of wine because we don’t have families to go home to.

    The look on their faces is payment enough lol

  27. grnprn

    I recall in nursing school, peds rotation, I was to weigh the baby and then the diaper. Well I weigh the baby, then the poppy diaper and put it back on the baby. The instructor watching me screamed at me what are you doing? I told her that the diaper package said good up to 5 Kg and it only weighed 1.3 Kg. She did not think that to funny.

  28. MHD76


  29. NurseyBis23

    My patient spilled a small amount of her drink on her meal tray, none of the food were damaged so I said I would clean it up with a paper towel. She said ‘no that isn’t good enough I want you to take it away to be washed and I want you to bring me a new one’. As you all know meal times are very busy in hospital and there are a lot of patients to get around so I said ‘Ok I shall clean it with a paper towel and an alcohol wipe which is more than sufficient. I need to give out the other patients meals now’

  30. AcuteLife

    The COPD smoker pt asked if the hospital would give her some nicotine patches to take home. My response? “No, if you stop buying cigaretts you will be able to afford the patches.” My Charge RN’ s mouth dropped open at that one.

  31. MrsShippy

    When are we going to quit this endless one_upmanship between RNs and LPN/LVNs? How can we expect respect from the public when we don’t respect each other? There is plenty of room in nursing for all levels of education! This endless loop of anger and criticism breaks my heart. There is strength in solidarity. I hope one day we cn attain that goal.

    • Nurse420

      I’m an LPN and feel no differences. We help each other. Sure there’s a person so proud of what they’ve done they want to outdo everyone. Bumpy road ahead. I help new RNs at the facility understand the difference between state guidelines and Jacho. But I need them to help me too. It’s called team work. LPNs have to stop basically feeling inferior and not care what someone else thinks if they even do think that way. I’m confident in my abilities and am always willing to learn something new or a better way

  32. Cindy Peterson

    On more than one occasion, in my field of choice, I’ve had a patient tell me to “Go to Hell!” My standard response is: “Nope, can’t do it. Satan still has a restraining order against me.” Now tell me what brought you to the hospital tonight?

    The patient is usually stunned into silence for a second, chuckles and then answers my questions.

    • DebHS

      This is an EXCELLENT response in any situation. Even outside of the hospital. Thanks Cindy!!!

  33. Loopylou

    So happy to have found this site. Sure could have used it years ago. Now I’m retired but can appreciate what younger nurses are dealing with. Having a format to express ones self in a safe place is invaluable.

  34. RatchetRN

    We had a annoying Dad who thought he was cute when the OB doc was repairing the laceration after a vaginal delivery. He asked him to put an extra stitch in for him. The doctor’s response was, “Just how small are you?” Everyone was nearly crying with laughter, even the mom.

  35. Kim Lane

    During my final placement as a student, a patient who had had gastric surgery, but was fully ambulatory kept ringing the bell for the tiniest things. Move my blanket, the buzzer is too far away (after he’d already rung it), this pillow needs fluffing etc etc.
    Then one nurse went in with his notes and said “Hmmmm, surgery XY and Z, therapy for ABC, but nothing in here about your arms or legs being useless.”

    • Nurse420

      A perfectly albeit lazy pt called me into his room to raise his electronic bed.

  36. DebHS

    Amy…this was fun and full of TRUE-ISMS!!! Thanks!!!

  37. Cynthia Rogers

    Can you get me and my 14 family members coffee. And don’t forget the creamer. I say there is a cafeteria down stairs with all the fixings. And no you know your on a clear liquid diet. Once I see my other 2 patients if someone would like to help me with this request I would appresiate this other wise.cafeteria is faster.

  38. threelittlebirds

    I had a dementia pt. tell me to go to hell. I told her I’d see her there! 😉

  39. traumaqueen

    I work in a Trauma ICU and we work 7on/7off (best scheduled ever). I had a 17 year old MVC patient and his father came to me upset because his son was getting a new nurese every night or every other night. He said “I know your schedule and I think it would be better if he had the same nurse for more than one or two days so he would be getting better nursing care!!!!” I replied “I agree. If I took care of him for several days I would be able to see the small changes in him that would be treated earlier”. He said “What do I have to do to make that happen?” I told him “You only need to do one simple thing.” He said “What? Tell me and I will make it happen!!” I replied “Don’t piss me off!” His wife was standing next to him smiled and walked off. I explained to him he walked into my Unit he is in my house. I do not go into his office and tell him how to do his job, do not come into here and tell me how do to mine. I took care of his son for the rest of his stay in our ICU and every night he would call and ask if he could bring me coffee or dinner.

  40. Worst patient ever

    I am sorry the comebacks are lame… You need to inject some sarcasm – works a treat!
    10. I do look fat in these scrubs – what excuse do you have?
    9. Its not ALL of us. We work the new recruits pretty hard – lol.
    8. Would be much quieter if more of you would die.
    7. We have some of the highest rankings in ‘Call of Duty’ on Xbox
    6. Oh yes – it is so glamorous I find it hard to keep up.
    5. They only date the ones who give head.
    4. Thanks – it is our pleasure to serve you.
    3. Yes, I play golf the rest of the week – I love my job.
    2. Sorry, didn’t catch that?
    1. Thanks – but I wouldn’t give up this gravy train for anything.

  41. onlyme

    “To say anything would be above my pay grade..” :)

  42. Nurse420

    7 on 7 off is like a vacation every other week. Do you spend the first four days of your vacation asleep recovering from 7 12 hr shifts. Why don’t you date a dr- the smiling friendly Dr you see is not the same person that visits us nurses.

  43. Suezee2

    In this climate, We are written up based on if the patient/family subjectively think we are “rude and arrogant.” It eiukf be the termination of my job if I said what I was really thinking. The hospital is a hotel- we are or are going to be reimbursed by 30% of their reacriin to the hospitalization. Totally ludicrous. It is all subjective, they do not know what you are doing for them behind the scenes and can misinterpret something you’ve said. When a negative patient response gets in the hands of your supervisor- it is taken seriously and you basically have no defense. Whoever came up with this 30% reimbursement idea is definitely a business person and has no nursing experience. It’s ludicrous.

  44. boothbay313

    Let’s just agree to call me an “experienced nurse”; though not even close to as “experienced” as my patient. Assessing my fresh post-op 86 year old gentleman, he awakes and says: “ Don’t you have any young nurses who work here?” Laughing I said “ nope, just us old crusty ones. A colleague though came up up with a much better response: Oh sir they are all in another part of the pacu taking care of the young hot guys”