Top 10 Things Nurses Should Never Say To Their Patients


In the rapidly evolving world of healthcare, where technologies and treatments are continually advancing, one element remains at the core of effective patient care: communication. The nurse’s role is pivotal in establishing trust, ensuring comfort, and delivering optimal care. What a nurse says, or more importantly, doesn’t say, can greatly influence a patient’s experience and healing process.

Common Phrases to Avoid and Why

“It’s not that big of a deal.”

To a patient, their experience is immensely personal. Dismissing their feelings or concerns can lead to feelings of insignificance or neglect. Instead of minimizing their experience, nurses can offer phrases such as, “I understand your concerns. Let’s address them together.”

“You’re not the only patient I have.”

This statement can make the patient feel unimportant or just another number in the system. Every patient needs to feel they are receiving individualized care. If overwhelmed, a nurse might consider saying, “I apologize for the wait or any inconvenience. I’m doing my best to attend to everyone’s needs, including yours.”

“I’ve seen worse.”

While this may be said in an attempt to reassure, it often has the opposite effect. Patients need validation and comfort. A more appropriate response could be, “Every patient’s experience is unique, and I’m here to help you through yours.”

“It’s just in your head.”

Mental and emotional health are just as crucial as physical health. Using such phrases can inadvertently stigmatize or marginalize a patient’s feelings. A more compassionate approach is, “Let’s talk about what you’re feeling. I’m here to help in any way I can.”

“You should have come in sooner.”

While early intervention is often beneficial, blame doesn’t aid healing. Nurses should focus on the present and the future, guiding the patient with phrases like, “Let’s focus on the best steps forward now.”

“I don’t know.”

Transparency is crucial, but expressing uncertainty without follow-up can undermine trust. It’s okay to not have all the answers immediately, but following it with, “But I’ll find out for you,” shows commitment and care.

“It’s a busy day; I don’t have time right now.”

Patients need to know that their well-being is a priority, irrespective of how busy the day might be. Telling them you’re too busy can make them feel neglected or unimportant.

Instead, you can say, “I understand your concerns. I’ll make sure to address them as soon as I can.”

“Why didn’t you follow the doctor’s instructions?”

This statement can come off as accusatory. It’s crucial to approach the situation with understanding and empathy. Instead, try asking, “Can you help me understand any challenges you’re facing with your treatment or instructions?”

“It’s just a routine procedure; there’s nothing to worry about.”

What might be routine for medical professionals can be unfamiliar and intimidating for patients. It’s essential to acknowledge their feelings and provide reassurance. A more helpful response could be, “I understand your concerns. Many patients have undergone this procedure, and we’ll ensure you’re well-informed and comfortable every step of the way.”

“You’re just overreacting.”

Implying that a patient’s emotions or pain is exaggerated can be dismissive and invalidate their experience. It’s essential to recognize that everyone’s pain tolerance and emotional responses vary. A better approach is to ask the patient to describe their feelings or pain level in detail, providing a safe space for expression.

Effective Communication Tips for Nurses

Empathy First

Seeing through the eyes of patients allows nurses to understand their feelings and concerns genuinely. By offering a shoulder to lean on or a listening ear, nurses can create an environment where patients feel valued and understood.

Stay Informed

With medicine’s ever-changing landscape, staying informed ensures that nurses can confidently address patient queries. Knowledge doesn’t just empower nurses; it reassures patients.

Active Listening

Beyond hearing words, active listening involves understanding the underlying emotions and concerns. In a bustling clinical setting, pausing to truly listen can make all the difference in a patient’s experience.

Ask Open-Ended Questions

To encourage patients to share more, ask questions that don’t have a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. For example, “How have you been feeling lately?” rather than “Are you feeling better?”

In Conclusion

The importance of effective and compassionate communication in nursing cannot be overstated. While the world of healthcare will continue to evolve, the need for understanding, empathy, and clear communication will remain a constant.

By avoiding certain phrases and focusing on building genuine connections, nurses can ensure that their patients feel valued, understood, and cared for every step of the way.