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10 Things Nurses Wish Their Patients Knew

Remember to be honest, to speak up, and don't forget to stop in and say hello.

Medically reviewed in January 2021

Updated on May 4, 2022

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Wherever you receive health care, you’ll find nurses. And Americans know they’re in good hands: According to a 2021 Gallup poll, 81 percent of Americans rated nurses as the most ethical and honest when compared to 21 other professions requiring public trust. This marked the 20th consecutive year that nurses ranked at the top of all professions.

We asked nurses—among them members of Sigma Theta Tau International (STTI), the Honor Society of Nursing—for the specific things they wish their patients knew. Their answers provide insight into the ways you can partner with your nurse to stay healthy or heal during a healthcare stay.

As Shelia McGainey Drummond of STTI puts it: “Nursing isn't just a profession—it is a calling!”

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Check In!

“Nurses love it when patients come back when they are well just to say a quick hello. That’s one of the greatest rewards for nurses, to see their patients doing well after caring for you.” —Brenda Staley, RN

nurse holding patient hand in bed
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An Oath of Excellence

“Some jobs are physically demanding. Some are mentally demanding. Some are emotionally demanding. Nursing is all three. Understand that nurses have taken an oath to do their very best for you, whenever possible.” —Jennifer Mills, RN

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Honesty Really Is the Best Policy

“I wish you would tell the truth when completing your health history. It’s the only way we can truly help you. When you lie about drinking, smoking, or drug use, you are hurting yourself and most likely not fooling your healthcare professional.” —Carole Schmidt, RN

person holding heart stress ball
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Always Hydrate Before a Blood Draw

“If you’re going to get your blood drawn, drink two or three glasses of water beforehand. If you’re dehydrated, it’s a lot harder for us to find a vein, which means more poking with the needle.” —Abby Huff, RN

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Speak Up

“It’s highly important to report any history of adverse reactions to medications or agents in the past. If penicillin made your face swell up and your breathing got funny six months ago, it’s likely to do the same again. Please give your nurse this information along with any food allergy.” —Susan Roland, ANP

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Supplements Count, Too

“When your provider asks for a list of the medications you’re taking, make sure you include over-the-counter drugs and herbals. People think that if an herb is 'all-natural' and 'organic,' it’s not a medication. But that’s not trueHerbals can interact with other medications and can cause serious complications.” —Kristin Baird, RN

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You’re On My Mind

“I wish my patients knew I think about them even when I’m not at work and hope they will recover. It breaks my heart to see them in pain. Also, I would like to spend more time with them, but the high nurse-to-patient ratio and tons of documenting makes it quite difficult.” —‪Ann Hsieh Foley, RN

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Attention, Please

“With health care records all electronic, a lot of nurses (and doctors) read the screen while you’re trying to talk to them. If you feel like you’re not being heard, say ‘I need your undivided attention for a moment, please.’ You deserve to have it and shouldn’t have to ask for it, but don’t hesitate to do so if necessary.” —Mary Pat Aust, RN

nurse standing next to patient's hospital bed
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You’re Not a Bother!

“I often hear patients say that they know I’m busy, so they don't want to be a bother. I wish patients knew that, no matter how many people I’m caring for, no matter what I have on the schedule for the day, they are important to me and I will do my best to provide the highest quality care for them. They are not a bother but are the reason I love my job and have gone into the nursing profession.” —Megan Pfitzinger Lippe, STTI

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Lasting Impressions

“I wish they knew how much caring for them impacts me. I am an oncology nurse, and each patient leaves a memory for me. Each death breaks my heart, but I can't imagine doing anything else.” —Angela Limburg, STTI

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