5 Things You Don't Want to Say to a Nurse


Published: 20 September 2015

Most nurses have heard it all, including insults, swear words and embarrassing remarks by patients. However, nursing is also a proud profession. There are so many misconceptions about what nursing is and what nurses do, that the comments from the general public can be infuriating and patronising. Here are five things not to say to a nurse.

“Nursing is easy!”

The general public doesn’t realise how difficult nursing really is. What is shown on television is not an accurate representation of the work that nurses do. Even shadowing a nurse doesn’t really get to the heart of the issue because you aren’t taking on that responsibility. Every nurse knows that it isn’t easy. Really, they don’t learn that until they take those first steps onto the floor and take responsibility for a patient. When people say it is easy, they degrade the hard work that nurses do and show their ignorance of a much-needed profession.
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“Nurses are just doctors’ secretaries…”

Maybe fifty years ago nurses were doctors’ secretaries, but they certainly aren’t now. It is an interdisciplinary care team that makes a patient well, and nurses are a vital hub of that team. Of course, doctors are, too, but the relationship is more collegial than boss to worker. It makes nurses angry when patients and the public assume they are just the go-between with doctors.

"Nurses are just doctors' secretaries..."Some doctors still maintain this point of view, and it can be very degrading to the nurse to feel as if they are only there to do what they are told. Of course, nurses follow orders, but it is far more complicated than simply doing what the doctor orders.

“Nurses don’t know medicine.”

Again, this goes back to the assumption that doctors are the boss. In fact, nurses know anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and microbiology. They are skilled in medicine. Perhaps not as skilled as doctors, but a nurse with 20 years’ experience probably knows more about medicine and patient care than an intern. Nurses know a lot of medical concepts, and they can usually talk intelligently with doctors about the pathophysiology of the patient’s complaint. It is the general public who thinks that doctors do all the work. When students become nursing students, they learn that they are the shield that ensures what the doctor has ordered is actually safe for the patient.

“Nurses get paid a lot!”

True, nurses get paid more than minimum wage and the starting salary is usually a good deal higher than the starting salaries in other professions. It isn’t nearly enough. For the responsibility, the stress, the danger to the body, and the constant need of patients, the money is really not worth it. If you are in nursing for the money, you will quickly find that there are easier ways of making cash.

Nurses get paid a lot!This is a primary reason why so many nurses quit in the first year. They are lured by the promise of money, only to find out that what they have to do for that money is far more difficult than many other professions. Telling nurses that they should be glad for their high paycheck ignores the fact that they work much harder than it seems.

“There is a nursing shortage, so getting a job must be easy!”

While it is true that nurses work shorthanded most of the time, it can be very difficult to find a job in some parts of the country. Telling a new grad looking for a job about the nursing shortage is sure to aggravate them. In addition, most nurses enter the field wanting to work at the bedside, but many decide to quit because it is just too much. This leads to further short staffing and perpetuates the myth of the nursing shortage. There are enough nurses to go around. It’s just that many decide to find other employment because the job is so difficult. Nurses are split about the shortage. While some work short staffed, some can’t find a job at all. It most certainly is not a ticket to an easy ride and guaranteed job.