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.
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?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Agatha Lellis