10 Questions all nurses have learned to answer

ANGRYPEOPLEThese are questions I’ve fielded as a nurse, and I’m sure you’ll recognize some too. If you have your own way of answering one of these, definitely let us know in the comments below!

1.     So are you going on to become a doctor? You have a few choices here. You can take the route where you explain to them that being a nurse and being a doctor are not two jobs on the same spectrum. One doesn’t lead to another, they have two different philosophies and sets of theories, and so on and so on. Or you could just say “no.”

2.     Hey, I have this rash…is this serious? This question is part of an age-old fallacy. People think because we work in healthcare, we can make assessments based on incomplete information. Nurses aren’t the only victims. Mechanics get asked all the time to diagnose car problems…based on a few whirrs and cranks. I wish we could just say “well bring it on over and I’ll take a look at it…for a fee.” But we can’t. That’s what the ER is for.

3.     My light has been on for hours! Where have you BEEN?! Honest Answer: “You were low on my prioritization list because two other patients are having urgent emergencies, but you’re needing something that unlicensed personnel can handle.” Tactful Answer: “I got here as fast as I could.”

4.     How do you deal with the smells? Well you can either do it or you can’t. And we can. Pretty simple as that.

5.     What’s with the long wait times around here? Well there’s a loaded question if there ever was one. Healthcare in a hospital is a patchwork of different departments, different units, different management systems, doctors, nurses, technicians, labs, and a pharmacy, all coming together to care for you: the patient. It’s not always the well-oiled machine it’s supposed to be, but be happy the cogs are turning!

6.     Is this going to hurt? How to answer this one? On one hand, if you tell them it will hurt, they might use that as a self-fulfilling prophecy. On the other hand, if you tell them it won’t, and it does end up hurting, you’ve just lied and been caught. Maybe the best way is to flick your syringe in a sinister way and say “we’ll see.”

7.     Have you done this before? Always say yes.

8.     Can I get my next pain medication now? It depends on one thing. The clock. Not the number of times you ask for it.

9.     Hey, could I call you after I leave here? This happens more often in places where you work with a patient for a long time, or in the psychiatric field. Legally, the answer to this should always come down to one word. “No.”

10.  What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever had happen to you here? Too many to keep track of. But if I’ve got some time, and I feel like it, I like to share a nice little nursing story now and then (withholding identifying information, of course). People love hearing them!

Kevin is the owner of Kevin’s Review, a site for students preparing for the NCLEX.


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