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5 Things Nurses Must Never Say To Patients

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By Rozzette Cabrera, R.N.

Establishing rapport and therapeutic relationship with your patients are some of the primary lessons you learned in nursing school. However, as hospital exposure is a lot different from your classroom lessons, applying these concepts in real life situations can be a bit of a challenge.

While veracity is innate in nursing, there are still a number of things that you must keep to yourself, particularly while giving care. If you want to maintain trust and credibility, it’s best if you can stay away from saying these five sentences.

1. “Wait for a while. We’re still busy.”

It’s understandable why patients and their relatives can’t seem to wait while they’re inside the hospital. Their health and safety pose a sense of persistent urgency that could equate to annoyance on your side. If you’ve been an Emergency Room or a clinic nurse, you might have already experienced it a couple of times.

Instead of dismissing their inquiries or replying with these lines, it’s best if you can give your patients an estimated time on when they could be seen. Apologizing and explaining can also help ease the situation and their frustrations. By directly saying that you’re busy, you’re making patients feel unwanted and neglected.

2. “This won’t hurt at all.”

False assurances can lead to distrust, particularly in children. Injecting a medication and telling a child that there will be no pain can be interpreted as lying. The next time an injection is due, you’ll have a hard time convincing the child.

You should still exercise truthfulness while administering care.

This idea doesn’t only apply to kids. As a matter of fact, a large number of medical procedures for adults entail pain, too. During these times, it’s important to stay true as much as possible. Although easing your patient’s worries is a priority, you should still exercise truthfulness while administering care.

You can tell the child that pain is expected but it won’t be too much. You can also provide a healthy distraction and do the procedure as fast and safely as you could. As for adults, orienting them properly to the steps can help them anticipate and respond to the pain better.

3. “Oh, no.”

Mistakes can happen whether you’re in the assessment table, preparing your medications or performing a procedure. As patients are very keen and alert during these actions, any change in your behavior or out-of-the-blue reaction can make them suspicious of your credibility. They instill fear on your patients in that you might not be competent enough to take care of their health and their lives.

If an error does occur, hold off any reaction until the end of the procedure.

If an error does occur, hold off any reaction until the end of the procedure. Reach out to your patient and explain what happened, how you resolved it and what they should expect. These actions, including writing an incidence report, help address the mistake while preserving your credibility and professionalism.

4. “I completely understand, [insert the time you’ve experienced the similar situation].”

As a nurse, you know that breaking a leg is painful. You also know patients having an asthma or panic attack have difficulty breathing. However, for patients who are actually experiencing these health issues, it’s a completely different story.

Try to steer away from personally relating to your patients, particularly if it’s unwarranted. Your own stories can help ease their worries but those are not what your patients may need at the moment. They would rather want you to focus on treating them and rendering them your best care possible.

You should also be careful when personally reaching out to your patients. Most of them, particularly those whom you haven’t built a close relationship with, can interpret this action as stepping beyond your profession.

5. “I’m not sure.”

Whether it’s your first time doing a procedure or you’re simply administering a medication, always be prepared to have an answer. Patients and their relatives are highly curious when they’re in the hospital. They’ll insist on knowing why you need to do what you got to do, and that’s their right.

Explaining a procedure before actually performing it is an ingrained and recommended action among us nurses. Informing a patient about a due medication is also a must-do for us. Before you enter your patient’s room, have all the necessary information in mind. In case you are still not thoroughly oriented with the change in your patient’s plan of care, apologize and tell your patient that you’ll be back once you have the right information to discuss with them.

Responding with this line to your patient’s inquiries can signal incompetence on your end. It risks not only your professionalism but your patient’s safety, too.

Rozzette Cabrera is a registered nurse pursuing her childhood dream of becoming a professional writer. She spent a few years putting her profession into practice until she decided to take her chances with freelance writing over a year ago. Her life has never been the same since then.

1 thought on “5 Things Nurses Must Never Say To Patients”

  1. Never use the phrase: “You’re not the only pt here you know.” When asked where the rounding physicians are or whether they’d left. If you want to convey information about the current pt/provider ratios as an explanation for why the pt. has yet to be seen, try:
    “We’re having an especially large number of pts in our care today, which has slowed things down (especially with the holiday [or whatever], but I can assure you you haven’t been forgotten. If no one’s come by in [reasonable predicted time] feel free to come inquire again so we can figure out what’s going on.”

    But nah, pretty much any reasonable or urgent pt request can be easily met with the insulting dismissal of, “You’re not the only pt here! 🙄”.


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