10 Things Nurses Wish You Knew

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Sometimes nurses can’t say exactly what they’re thinking. But there are things they need patients to understand.

  1. Nurses don’t just take your pulse and ask you questions.

Nurses also:

  • Provide health counseling and education
  • Administer medication
  • Interpret patient needs and make critical decisions regarding care
  • Coordinate care with other health professionals
  • Conduct research to improve practice

There are over 100 specialties in nursing. Many nurses have studied specific areas of healthcare and work closely with doctors to design treatment plans for patients.

  1. You are actually in charge of your healthcare.

Nurses can tell you what’s best for you and what they recommend. But ultimately, you are the one making the decisions. Patients should always:

  • Be able to ask specific questions about their care
  • Know about their own medical history
  • Understand the complexities of their chronic illnesses, like diabetes or lupus
  • Follow up or ask for clarification on treatment plans
  • Set their own health goals, specifically when related to weight loss or cholesterol control
  1. It’s OK to ask for a second opinion.

No, it doesn’t hurt nurses’ feelings. In fact, it’s a smart idea. There is collaboration among nurses for a reason: sometimes two heads (or more) are better than one.


Percentage of patients who are misdiagnosed each year

  1. Google is not a valid substitute for a doctor.

Yes, they understand that Web MD told you that you have lymphoma. But actually, it’s just an ear infection.

1 in 3

Number of U.S. adults who have gone online to figure out medical condition

  1. Know what medications, and how much, you’re taking.

Nurses need to know exactly what medications you’re on in order to treat you properly and prevent drug interactions. Yes, even vitamins and supplements.

Nearly 50%

Percentage of older Americans who fail to tell their doctor about supplements they are taking, which can inevitably interfere with prescribed medication

  1. Nurses are constantly juggling 100 things (and tons of patients) at once.

It may seem like they are rushing in and out of your room or trying to push you out as soon as possible; but rest assured, they are just trying to keep their patient load from overflowing.


Percentage of nurses who say they do not get to spend as much time as they’d like with a patient

  1. Nurses often have to prioritize patients.

A patient who comes in with a mild sore throat might not get the immediate attention that someone who is bleeding from every orifice receives. Understaffed hospitals also add to the problem.

With high nurse-to-patient ratios and problems with understaffing, patients are often the ones who suffer. Adding just one patient to a nurse’s existing workload can increase the likelihood of a patient dying by 7%.

  1. They have not become callous to the pain and struggles of their patients.

Despite all of the pain, and even death, that nurses witness every day, they still want to listen and help you in any way they can.

Actually, compassionate care has the potential to produce better outcomes for patients.

  1. Be honest about your pain level.

Don’t lie about your pain to seem tough, or to seem worse off than you are. It wastes everyone’s time, and nurses need to make fast decisions about what to do next. The typical 1-10 scale isn’t the most accurate test of pain, so consider this guide:

  • Levels 1-2: Mild pain that is consistent, but doesn’t interfere with daily activities.
  • Level 3: Mild, persistent pain that begins to wear you down.
  • Levels 4-6: Increasingly distracting pains that keep you from being able to continue daily tasks.
  • Level 7-8: Pain interrupts your sleep and stops you mid-conversation.
  • Level 9: You’re probably moaning and groaning, clutching the part that hurts, unable to stand.
  • Level 10: You need immediate medical attention, as the unbearable pain has made you delirious.
  1. Nurses will know if you what you say doesn’t match what your body is telling them.

If you smoke, tell your nurse you smoke. If you haven’t been sticking to that diet regimen, tell your nurse. It may be embarrassing, and you may get a small lecture, but it’s best to be honest.

1 in 4

Number of patients who lie to their doctor


  1. https://health.usnews.com
  2. https://www.washingtonpost.com
  3. http://www.pewinternet.org
  4. https://www.aarp.org
  5. https://www.nursinglicensure.org
  6. https://www.scientificamerican.com
  7. https://www.webmd.com

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