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10 Things Nurses Want Patients to Know

10 things nurses want patients to know

Here are 10 things nurses want patients to know while they are in the hospital. We care about you and realize that you may not have been given all the expectations. Here goes 🙂


Don’t take it literally when your doctor says you’ll go home in the morning. It could mean you may go home:

  • after your doctor rounds the next day
  • if the other consultants on the case agree 
  • provided your lab results and vital sign measurements are normal
10 things nurses want patients to know

Don’t distract nurses during medication administration

Expect to go home some time tomorrow, but not necessarily in the morning. It looks simple, but discharge is complex. They are many steps involved in the discharge process that take time.

You should expect to be informed of your discharge criteria 


You will be woken up at night for vital signs. You may fall asleep only to be woken for a lab draw an hour later. Large departments cannot always synchronize services.

You can request that your doctor write an order for you to sleep uninterrupted all night, which will be given if you your condition allows.

You should expect patient centered care that considers your rest requirements


The chef (s) do their best, but they work within so many dietary restrictions that the food is bland. It’s because you are in a hospital, not a restaurant. Butter is what makes many restaurant dishes tasty, and hospitals don’t do butter.

 Nurses are concerned about your nutrition but do not prepare food trays. Complaining to your nurse about the food is like complaining to your child’s teacher about the pot holes in the school parking lot.

You should expect that you will  be given the right food for your condition


Do not expect a traditional basin and water bath as a matter of routine. Bath wipes are better for preventing infection and wash basins are a source of infection. 

Nurses are meticulous and knowledgable about preventing infection, such as IV site infections.  Nurses and nursing assistants are dedicated to preserving patient dignity when bathing and cleaning patients. We want you to be clean and comfortable.

You should expect evidence-based best practice around bathing and infection prevention

Get Out of Bed

Staying in bed is not good for you. Expect to be mobilized. Some evidence-based guidelines call for patients to walk within four hours of certain orthopedic surgeries. Call for help for safety, but plan to walk to the bathroom instead of using a urinal or commode.

You should expect:

  • education about the benefits of early mobilization
  • clear expectations (when, how far)
  •  assistance for safety (Physical Therapy, walkers)


10 things nurses want patients to know

When you wait…and wait

Expect to wait. Scheduling can be fluid. If you are scheduled for surgery or procedure at 0700, an emergency case can interrupt the entire chain and push you back. The doctor may be delayed, a machine may need repair, staffing may need to be adjusted.

You will not be given exact times. Nurses do not know precisely when doctors will be in- doctors do not know precisely when they will be in! You may be told “that doctor usually rounds after noon” or “before breakfast time” if the doctor has rounding habits and if the nurse knows what they are.

You should expect to be informed of delays in a timely manner


Multiple people from many departments will enter your room at all times of the day. They can be from Housekeeping, Lab, Admissions, and more. If a name badge is backwards, or someone does not introduce themselves, ask who they are.

You should expect all staff to introduce themselves and to have visible identification

Behind the Nurse Mask

Nurses try to be completely mindful when they are with you, but they will not share that they are on edge because there is a patient in the next room who they are extremely worried about, or that they just left the bed side of a dying patient.

Nurses and doctors are required to enter so much data into the computer that we can have “computer face” and seem to be ignoring you for the computer. Trust me, we don’t want to enter so much data- we have to. We are listening to you, and charting what you tell us.

Another thing your nurse won’t tell you is that he/she may have an untenable workload, for example, 8 patients when safety guidelines recommend 4-5. They may be short staffed or have not enough patient care assistants. This affects their ability to be with you. Nurses are often overwhelmed and doing their best.

You should expect competent and compassionate care

Point Person

Have a family member with you. Often patients with present, engaged family members get better care. Designate one person to be the point person for receiving information.

Have that one person call in for questions. Do not call immediately after change of shift to find out how your loved is doing because the nurse just assumed care and hasn’t seen your loved one yet. You will get much better information if you wait until mid morning or late evening.

Make a personal connection with your loved one’s nurse- address them by name in person and on the phone.

You should expect to have your questions answered within HIPAA guidelines

Speak Up for Safety

If something seems amiss to you, speak up. You can help to prevent errors. “Am I supposed to take that pill?” I am a nurse, and believe myself to be a safe practitioner. I have been prevented from making a medication error by my patient asking me to double check. It did not offend me, I was grateful. You should expect nurses to inform you what medicine you are being given, and for what indication.

Don’t interrupt or distract your nurse when they are administering your medication. Your nurse needs to completely focus on the task at hand for your safety (think airline pilot).  Let them concentrate and save your small talk and questions for later.

Ask staff and providers if they washed their hands. Please wash your hands especially before eating, to reduce transmission of  bacteria, such as C diff. High touch areas are your over bed table and side rails. Ask for towelette wipes or at least a washcloth if you can’t get up to the bathroom.

You should expect a culture of safety and transparency

 Finally, have a discussion with your loved one about your about end of life care preferences so you will be prepared before the time comes. I hope this helps you and your loved ones. We nurses really care about you and want to ensure your safe passage.

Until next time friend,

Nurse Beth

Come visit me at Ask Nurse Beth career column at for all kinds of  entertaining and informative career questions and answers, and to submit your own question :) Or visit me at and StaffGarden where I also blog. Buzzzzzz…I’m a busy little bee !10 things nurses want patients to know

About Beth Hawkes (146 Articles)
Nice to meet you! I'm a Nursing Professional Development Specialist in acute care, a writer, speaker and career columnist.

5 Comments on 10 Things Nurses Want Patients to Know

  1. Discharge….when I worked in post-op the doctors would tell them discharge in the morning, sometimes they didn’t get to the patient until dinner time….The patients and their families would get so upset!

  2. Donna Carol Maheady // October 2, 2016 at 8:50 am // Reply

    All so true Beth!
    Patients need to know all of these things. The more prepared patients are the better!

  3. Beth your lists of things that nurses want patients to know are almost like warnings so patients are not blindsided by how busy they are or what they can’t do. Where is the caring? Do nursing talk to patients any more? As a patient, I experienced many of the things you listed. I felt that the nurses who cared for me were more concerned with doing tasks than taking care of patient. I got more conversation out of the housekeepers and the women who cleaned the room. Very sad.

    • It is a shame that nurse:patient ratios often do not allow nurses to do what they most want to do= spend time with their patients in an unhurried manner

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