What is it about nurses that makes us seem fair game for personal remarks?

The things some people say to us are just plain rude, says Jane Bates

The things some people say to us are just plain rude

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‘Which patient was that?’ my colleague asked. ‘The one with the two black eyes?’

‘Yes,’ I said. ‘And the legs in plaster. He’s now seeking asylum in a Central American embassy just in case I’m out to get him.’

I don’t know why some patients think it’s acceptable to make personal remarks to nurses. This particular patient, who I have known for many years, told me I was looking old. 

Old! What a thing to say to a woman who is, well, getting on a bit. Not the way to win friends, frankly. But it is the eye department, I thought, and the day before, another patient said I looked too young to retire. I need to compare their visual acuities before I book the Botox.

Impertinent and intrusive

And it’s not just me; I once worked with a nurse who had very large luminous eyes, and the patients on the men’s ward nicknamed her ‘goggle-face’, which upset her terribly. It was impertinent and intrusive when she was just trying to do her job.   

Could you imagine anyone making such comments to their doctor, say, or their lawyer? You wouldn’t look someone in the eye with whom you have a professional relationship and tell them they have spots on their nose, would you? Considering this actually happened to a colleague, I guess it’s fine if you are addressing a nurse. Just plain rude.

Perhaps it is to do with the easy familiarity with which we deal with our patients – we ask them quite personal questions at times, so maybe they feel it’s okay to come back with like for like.

But I’ve no time to ponder on the oddities of human nature, I have to go and drink from the fountain of youth… before I storm that embassy.

Jane Bates is an ophthalmic nurse in Hampshire



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