10 Things I Wish Nurses Would Remember

Sometimes the tables turn and we find ourselves on the other side of the health care equation --as the patient or alongside a friend or family member that is the patient.  And sometimes those experiences give us a unique perspective and understanding that is worthy to be shared.  Check out the words of compassion and wisdom from Modern Nurse reader Lorri D., BSN, MS, RN:

I spent time on the other side this weekend in a top-notch Boston ED after my mom suffered a subdural hematoma.

Here’s my list of things I wish nurses would remember:



Your suddenly powerless patient looks to you for signs he or she is safe. Tell them they’re safe. Even if you’re busy, tell them you will keep them as well as can be expected.


Little things go a long way. Bring the ice chips. Offer a hot cloth or blanket. It takes seconds to make a patient feel human again.


Remember your patients hear everything you’re saying. Not comforting to hear you go on and on about your new sneakers with your peers, or the “turkey bone lady” on her way to the OR. Your patients are sick, not deaf (unless they are).


Say what you’re doing before you do it. Powerless=Terrified


Make eye contact. My mom offered gratitude to everyone who helped her. That was about 20 people. I think maybe 4 made eye contact with her as she spoke.


If you can’t “stop” to care, even for a split second, get the heck out of the profession. Or find a setting where you can because really, you are useless as a nurse otherwise. If we’re not about caring, what are we about?


Some patients will always be inappropriate. Some are jerks, some are scared jerks, some are senile. Your job is to set limits with your mad authoritative skills. When you get older, they’ll all stop hitting on you anyway so there’s a light at the end of that tunnel.


Remember when friends show you their rashes, or weird bumps, it’s because they trust you with their fear. It is an honor they are bestowing on you. Suck it up and offer help.


Someone needs to invent soundproof divider curtains. Then you can talk as loud as you want at 2 am because you’re wide awake on your natural cycle, unlike the exhausted families around you.


We will remember you long after you’ve forgotten us.

Thank you, Lorri! We wish your mom a speedy recovery.

What do you think?  Please share your comments in the section below.


  1. I have been a nurse for going on 25 years and I agree that the basics are the things that make the difference. I want to share an exceptional experience that I had as a patient: I was admitted to a busy ER in another hospital so the staff did not know me. Several nurses came in and out of my room, helping each other with the tasks at hand. They were all professional, friendly, and did their work well. As is the case for most of us, I knew they were busy, trying to get all the things done with little or no time to do it. One nurse however really caught my attention. As she was getting my information I told her that I was a nurse. She stopped, looked me in the eye, and said, “You are one of us and we will take good care of you!” It brought tears to my eyes! I will never forget that response! As nurses, if we can just take a moment to sincerely reassure our patients the effect is tremendous!

  2. Many serve, but few are called. It costs nothing to be nice, and it can be very costly not to be nice. Even if the patients or family members aren’t nice to you…well the Bible teaches “a soft answer turns away wrath.”

  3. You really appreciate our sisters and brothers when you are on the receiving end either as a patient or with family. Sure some staff are better than others because we all connect with each other differently, Thank God! I am now retired which even after a year seems foreign to me because what I learned and experienced was priceless.Thank you to all my former patients

  4. Thank you Lorri for your placed points to remember. I have been a nurse for 44 years, and the points you mentioned is the core of nursing! And yes, years ago, patients were in the hospital longer, nurses got to know their patients, in the entire unit staff got to know ALL of the patients! But with the new regulations, patients are admitted sicker, treated and released in 48 hours unless there are complications. Hardly time to get to know your patient, between testing, procedures, doctors visits at all hours of day or night. It is the little gestures that count, giving a reassuring response, ice chips, extra blanket, or just keeping the patient and family informed. I love being a nurse-you are a caregiver-and it is truly a calling!

  5. Nurses are great! Thank you all. I only had two rude disrespectful nurses. One was trying to impress the Doctor in charge of her floor. The other was one of my nurses. The first one I spoke of didn’t want me carrying a loved one coffee. She said she get her coffee for her herself. The other one Cathy. Was just bad. Older sadistic type nurse. I have advice for all the good nurses I’ve had in my life. Care for your selves. I see so many of you not taking care of your own need’s. Thanks for all of you.

  6. I am a retired nurse who worked 15 years in the OR of a trauma center. Many times a patient would tell
    me in the Pre-Op room that they were so ashamed to admit that they were so frightened about the upcoming
    procedure. I always told them that was a perfectly natural way to feel. If they weren’t frightened about
    losing control over their body under anesthesia or the outcome of their surgery, it wouldn’t be a normal
    reaction and I would be concerned about that. In other words, I gave them permission to be scared.

  7. Hospitals pretty well guarantee you get no rest. Pharmacy and linen folks come in at 5or 6 AM to fill the cabinets. Could that not be done later, given how important rest is!!!! Midnight shift changes also wake the patient! This is done even when the patient is stable!!!

    I taught nursing for almost 30yrs . The catheterizaions I saw in the hosp. were filled with contaminations. I corrected as much as I could but my husband still go an infection. In the urology office they do caths as a clean, not sterile, carhs. I complained but nothing changed. My husband was in the hosp. a few days later wiith a SERIOUS bladder infection! No i other urologist office in town.

  8. I have been a nurse for 47yrs & very proud of it. I recently had former patient from over 30yrs ago, approach me while in a MD office. She told me that she will never forget how I told her to squeeze my hand while she was having a spinal tap done. She said my hand was blue& my wedding ring was being pushed into my skin. She thanked me for over 5 mins & called her Mom to tell her she saw me . She said”I will Never forget you!”She even remembered my name. It’s those Little things that are always remembered. Thank you Susan Dyson!

  9. Ive been a nurse for 45 yrs. I feel nrsg 101 is treat a pt like you want to be treated. I work in OR, talking to a pre-pt i feel is critical. I take the time to look at them and answer all their questions. Even with an anesthesiologist glaring at me. I see many pts given a warm blanket on top of cold, go back to basics. I want to feel that warmth. Had a visitor ask me why did they have to bri g a walker from home? Dont we have them here. When i explained why, hes response was ” why wasnt i told that from the beginning”. I loved this article, to put it in a nutshell, be basic and treat you pt like your family. Ive been on both sides.

  10. My brother is currently recovering from a massive stroke (04/13/2018). Reports from his adult daughters-things they were told: ICU RN: ” He’s an old man. We’ll do what we can.” “This has never happened before.” “He’ll probably not do very well.”
    These are family members facing an acute tragedy-change from their tough “old man” FATHER- who currently (suddenly) can’t speak, has a feeding tube for nourishment, can’t move his right side. He is responding fairly well, but the reports I receive (a nurse for 45 years) SCARE me. I will travel when he gets out of rehab to assist with his house orientation and family training because I can. I care…and wish I didn’t have to be part of the cadre of nurses who have a JOB…not a career.

  11. One thing I wish Nursing publications and organizations would remember: Not all Nurses work directly with patients!
    Many of us work behind computer screens.

  12. #8 ever heard of practicing medicine without a license? Go.to.a.doctor! We are nurses and cannot legally tell what to do about a rash. I will not suck it up. I’ve witnessed nurses get fired because of that.

  13. As far as number sick goes, offering a smile or saying Hood morning dont take much. Regardless of patient ratio just saying

  14. I agree with all 1 thru 10. However number 6 is a bit challenging because of the work load placed on a nurse. The companies we work for “squeezes” everything out of thethe nurses time. The patient and family deserves some time from the nurses, some more than others. I try my best to be empathetic. This is a good article.

  15. Once you’ve lost the need to comfort and to make the patient feel safe it’s time to choose a new career. Patients should be treated like you want to be treated, with respect and dignity.

  16. I too am a “very old but still practicing” nurse. I too have been a patient a few times. I usually end up turning off the alarm on the IV pump; turning off the piggy back and resuming the main line after the alarm has been going off for 10 minutes or more; freshening up my own bed – one hand with an IV in place, the other in a soft cast after a surgery; no bath or assistance with sponging off for 5 days on that occasion. I have washed off bedside nightstands, bed rails that had left over D5 drips from another patient, and other such things from my husband’s area after he was already in bed with an IV in place. I had to write and report numerous breaks in aseptic technique from hand washing between patients to scrubbing the toilet from the inside out after one of his other hospitalizations. I didn’t enjoy having to report those things to the Infection Control nurse, but this happened after his fem-pop bypass in a hospital that was over-run with isolation cases during one of the swine flu breakouts. My daughters noted several of the breaks and they aren’t nurses.

  17. Lorrie:
    I am a very old (but still practicing) nurse. One of the very first things that I was told as a student was treat every patient the way you would expect to be treated or the way you would like to see your family treated. I have always remembered and practiced this. It only takes a moment to be human but it will leave a lasting memory for someone. I agree with a previous comment that if you cannot be empathetic then find a new field.

  18. I have been the family a million times but last summer I got to the be patient 4 times. I was disappointed. I tried very hard not to ask for anything I could do without, wait for, or ask my family to do…..but some things are things you have to do. I kept having nurses say to me, each time they failed to get to my need in an acceptable time frame…”you are a nurse you know how it is”…I am a nurse but how does that make my need to go to the restroom or get some prn med, that now has become not a need but an urgency, how does that make me feel any better..?? One other comment, when you know a patients diagnosis, think about what all it entails, and then use techniques that work with that diagnosis…for example, I was there for hyponatremia, I needed to sleep as my brain was fuzzy, I needed reduced stimuli, so coming to my room and talking for an hour about how you always wanted to be a nurse in my area of practice, and how you ended up where you are. Or how understaffed you are…etc. If I were well I would enjoy visiting with you, but I am not well, please get your stuff done and get out of my room, leave my door closed as I had it, turn back off my lights, and when you come back try to be a little quieter. This can apply to any patient, anyone that is in the hospital now a days is really sick, no one gets approval to be admitted until there are very very sick, so we all need the things I mentioned above.

  19. I was inspired to become a nurse by one who took care of me 25 years ago–I was a terrified 20 years old having a cervical biopsy and even though she was busy setting up for the doctor, she made eye contact, squeezed my arm and handed me a tissue. I have no idea her name but she inspired me to become a nurse–showed me the kind of difference I want to make in the world. I am grateful to her and now I have that opportunity nearly every day.

  20. Lorri you are spot on ! I found myself on “the other side” only for the second time in my life earlier this month… I was so disappointed. Treating others the way you would like to be treated really DOES go a long way!

  21. A patient’s wife sent me a thank you note that said, among other things, she was grateful that I talked to her comatose husband and explained everything I was going to do beforehand. She said I was the only nurse who treated her dying husband with respect and like a human being. I still have that letter after 20 years. Caring and kindness go a long way.


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