Nurses told us the 7 things you should never say to them during a hospital visit

  • Nurses told Business Insider the seven things you should never say to them during a hospital or clinic visit.
  • Yelling out “nurse” won’t get you treatment faster.
  • Nurses dislike when others make judgmental or demeaning comments about their profession.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Believe it or not, registered nurses don’t like when you call them over by yelling out “nurse.”

Business Insider spoke with nurses across the country to find out what you should never say to them during a hospital or clinic visit.

Many nurses said they have busy shifts and would appreciate it if a patient could cut to the chase when reciting medical history. Other nurses warned that patients should never to lie to them, since that could put their own health at risk.

Nurses spoke under the condition of anonymity to ensure they don’t face any career repercussions. Business Insider confirmed their identities before publishing.

Here are seven things you should never say to your nurse.

If you’re a nurse with a story to share, email [email protected]

“So why are you just a nurse?”


Nursing is one of the fastest-growing professions across the US. Many nurses receive bachelor’s degrees, and nurse practitioners generally need a post-graduate education as well.

But many nurses feel that the public dismisses their profession.

“It is often hard to explain to people what we do,” a nurse from Pennsylvania who wished to remain anonymous told Business Insider. “There is a notion that I’m ‘just a nurse,’ and I struggle to explain to people that this is what I want. No, this is not a step to medical school. No, I never thought about being a [physician assistant]. I am a nurse, and I am proud of that.”

Leslie, a licensed practical nurse from Florida, told Business Insider that the hardest part of her job was the “lack of respect and verbal/physical abuse from families, management, fellow healthcare workers.”


A patient stuck in bed may shout out ‘nurse’ to get medical attention. David Goldman/AP

Yelling “nurse” across the halls won’t help you get care quicker, the nurses said.

Nurses work long shifts, and many say they get assigned too many patients because of inadequate staffing policies. Therefore, nurses have only so much time to respond to every patient.

Amy, a nurse in Texas, and Betsy, a nurse from Florida, said they could better respond to a patient’s needs when they use the call light.

But patients who “ring the call light 100 times to ask what time it is” aren’t much better, Susan, a nurse in Ohio, said.

Don’t go off on tangents when discussing your medical history, and don’t get too chatty if the clinician has work to do.


Because nurses are so busy, they need to get medical information as quickly as possible from patients. Taking too long describing your history, or not having your medications on hand when a nurse comes in, can delay the healthcare professional from seeing other patients.

“We need that info concisely and quickly so we can get it all in the electronic medical record for the rest of the medical team,” Ann, a nurse from North Carolina, told Business Insider. “Patients have a difficult time reporting concisely and accurately their history and medications.”

Similarly, nurses told Business Insider they love their patients for the most part but sometimes don’t have time to chat with them.

“When you show up an hour late, it affects the whole staff,” Melissa, a nurse for a hospital in Oklahoma, said.

“What do you mean you don’t know?”


Matt, a nurse from New York, said patients sometimes lose their tempers with caregivers for not giving answers that they don’t have.

An anonymous nurse from Pennsylvania explained a common frustrating scenario for nurses: A patient will “ask me a question, then when they don’t like my answer, demand to speak to the doctor … who gives them the exact same answer.”

Don’t lie.


Teresa, a nurse in Oregon, said she gets frustrated when patients hide information.

“I once had a diabetic man tell me he would and could do his own dressing change, although I suspected otherwise. He couldn’t do it, and his wound got worse,” Teresa said. “I talked to him about it, and he admitted that he had not told the truth. He didn’t want to ‘bother’ the nurse.”

Amy, a nurse in Texas, said she also doesn’t appreciate being lied to.

“Don’t tell me you don’t do drugs as I am looking at your drug screen,” Amy said. “Then they think you are dumb and tell you that they were at a party and the cocaine in their system was from secondhand smoke.”

“Can you bring me new sheets right now?”


Many nurses said that patients think hospitals are hotels and treat nurses like maids who can stop work and grab a pillow at a moment’s notice.

“Some really think the hospital is a hotel and we are just waiting to be at their service,” a nurse from Pennsylvania who wished to remain anonymous told Business Insider. “I will be walking down the hallway with blood from another patient, and people will really stop me and ask me to bring them new sheets right now.”

“Actually, I know where to put the IV from watching ‘Grey’s Anatomy.'”

An IV drip. Gerry Broome/AP Photo

Sean, a nurse from New Mexico, said it drives him nuts when patients think they know more than him because they watch medical dramas like “Grey’s Anatomy.”

Ann, a registered nurse in North Carolina, has had patients say things like, “I read on WebMD that this is what I have, and this is how you should treat me.”

Ann said this was offensive to doctors and nurses because WebMD has not seen or examined the patient, whereas medical professionals examine and listen to the patient and get a much better perspective on the whole patient picture.

“The healthcare professionals have medical training and expertise that put the whole situation in context and are more likely to pick up subtle signs and symptoms,” Ann said.