Nurses are special human beings. The nature of nursing leaves no room for selfish or lazy. In fact, nurses epitomize kindness, selflessness, and work until they can’t anymore. All this is true, but Nurses are human, and there are certain things that when said to a Nurse, will push a button and trigger a response that you might not necessarily expect. And when you hear them once too often, it can unleash the fury. Be warned!

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So, just what should you never say to a nurse?

  1. ‘So why didn’t you become a doctor?’

Never say this to us. Never. Whether you’re trying to imply that we’re smart enough to make it through medical school, or the opposite… it doesn’t matter. Nursing and medicine are two completely different jobs and trust us, we wouldn’t be nurses if we didn’t want to be. We’re definitely not in it for the money, anyway – not when the Government is giving us a 1 percent pay rise and keeping 10 times as much as that for themselves…We do it because we want to. It is in us.

  1. ‘Nurses just help the doctors out, right?’

No, not quite. Doctors make decisions based on the information we give them because we’re around our patients more than they are, monitoring them, talking to them, observing them, caring for them, whereas doctors nearly always have somewhere else to be and something else to do at any given moment. It isn’t that we help the doctors, it’s that we make it possible for the doctors to do their jobs at all. When something goes wrong… who do you think will answer your call bell?

  1. ‘What’s happening to (insert man in the bed there)?’

Think about it for a moment. Would you appreciate us telling your neighbor all about your medical issues? I doubt it. Please don’t ask us: we can’t possibly explain, and having to tell you that is slightly embarrassing… if not for you, then definitely for us.

  1. ‘Can you score me…?’

Just because you’ve seen Gregory House mainlining Vicodin like it’s water, and Nurse Jackie slipping oxycodone into her scrubs pockets… doesn’t mean that’s what healthcare professionals can actually get away with. Nurse Jackie is a fictional character and plays out stereotypes which feed your entertainment needs. Not to mention the fact that it’s more than just a little bit illegal. (Yes, we watch those shows too. Apparently, we just can’t get enough of them…)

  1. Anyone can be a nurse.’

Yes, of course! Anyone can make it through a numeracy exam and a formal interview before even being offered a place at university. And anyone can get through three years of university education, spending 50 percent of their course doing the job of a nurse, while collecting a bursary that might barely add up to a third of a qualified nurse’s salary. 16 things only student nurses will understand. And anyone can do that while also writing essays and revising for exams, before getting character references to prove they are in fact a good enough person to enter this workforce that’s being cut left, right and center despite the chronic staff shortages.

  1. ‘I mean, all you do is empty urine bags and bring dinner, right?’

Well, no – there’s also the handling of controlled drugs, measuring what your vital organs are up to, looking out for things going wrong. And if they do, knowing what to do about it if there’s no doctor around. Which there usually isn’t. Someone will be watching over you 24/7, making notes, ensuring that everything is documented so that no matter who takes over the next shift, everybody knows how well you’ve been, how well they should expect you to be, and how quickly to react if something seems to be changing. If there was one right thing said on Nurse Jackie, it was this: ‘Doctors diagnose. Nurses save lives.’ Not to downplay the work of doctors by any means. But they make their decisions based on what we tell them.

  1. ‘What’s taking you so long to bring me my…?!’

Well, any of the following actually: the other patients that you’re here on the ward with. A phone call from a concerned family member. A visitor asking if they can take their relative off the ward for some fresh air and a coffee. Making notes about your care. Concentrating on making sure I don’t give someone the wrong kind of drug or the wrong amount. Again, our job is far more complicated than it probably looks!

  1. ‘Hellooooo, nurse!’

Yes, yes, the sexy nurse stereotype. We know. But no, we don’t enjoy being the point of your jokes and leers? Our uniform looks like pajamas, and we’ve just been cleaning your urinary catheter. Even if it wasn’t gross professional misconduct to have a fling with a patient who thinks we’re hot… we probably don’t feel terribly attractive in scrubs, and it’s very unlikely we’ve got a thing for someone who we’ve seen in that situation…

  1. ‘Do you only date doctors?’

Whilst I’m sure it’s true that some nurses get into relationships with co-workers, those nurses who do feel they’ve got the time and energy for a relationship almost certainly don’t want to be going home to someone they see at work… Who wants to hear about medicine over breakfast, lunch, AND dinner?

  1. ‘Why don’t you just smile?’

We work long hours, we listen to the things on this list every day, constantly feeling like our profession isn’t respected at all, and it’s been days since we properly sat down with our families, or slept the way we wanted to.) We’re overworked, mostly short-staffed, and sometimes, we just want to sit down and cry. But we keep on keeping on…

  1. And lastly… ‘I’m just a nurse…’

Yeah, that’s right. This one goes out to all the other nurses out there. If there’s one thing I hate hearing more than anything else, it’s nurses putting themselves down. We slog all hours of the day and night, we do the seven-day-service that the government is trying to ‘introduce’, we work hard for our patients and their families and carers, and we work weird shift-patterns that interfere with our body-clocks and social lives for those who are lucky enough to have them. It’s very possible that, in order to ensure other people, have the best lives they can, we miss our own kids growing up. We are never ‘just a nurse’. We are amazing!

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