Calling patients by "pet" names.

  1. Does this bother anyone else? I'm a student and during clinicals I've often heard young male nurses, techs, and patient transport personnel address women who are old enough to be their mothers (or grandmothers) as "dear", "my dear", "honey."

    Coming from the securities industry, I find this unprofessional and enormously disrespectful. In fact, I believe that patients should be addressed as "Mr." or "Mrs." unless instructed by the patient or family to use a first name or nickname.

    Am I just being overly fussy? If not, how should I handle it in the future? I wouldn't say anything now, as a student, but it's so prevalent that I'm sure I'll encounter it when I'm fully employed.
    Last edit by Brian S. on Sep 25
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  2. 65 Comments

  3. by   CrunchRN
    How do the patients feel? If comforted all good.
  4. by   dbabz
    I wasn't near enough to the patients to observe reactions. It's a long-term care facility so many are trached or have other impediments to effective communication. Given this additional layer of vulnerability, I think it's that much more important to convey respect.
  5. by   MunoRN
    I think that vulnerability is the reason we sometimes use less formal terms with patients, I'm not sure "Mr." and "Mrs." always convey that we recognize they feel vulnerable as much as 'warmer' terms might.

    That being said, there are definitely those patients who you don't use these terms with, and there are regional and cultural differences about how freely these terms are thrown around. It generally comes down to reading people and trying to understand how they want you to see them.
  6. by   imhorsemackerel
    I hate being called "dear" or "honey," so I will always say "Mr." or "Mrs./Ms." unless they tell me to call them by their first name. I used to work in a group home, and my coworker would call the residents "babe." Yeah, definitely do not call your patients "babe," babe.

    As a student nurse, you're a guest where ever you do clinicals as you mentioned. But once you start working and if you witness this, you could pull them to the side and tell them it isn't professional. I wouldn't feel comfortable telling transport personnel that, but if they were a tech or nurse, then it shouldn't be a problem. It would depend on your approach.
    Last edit by imhorsemackerel on Sep 24
  7. by   dbabz
    I thought the same thing about transport personnel; although, as patient advocate, maybe it is the role of the nurse to speak for the patient if the patient cannot. As you stated, it's certainly not my place to correct any staff member on the floor, but I am thinking it's worth a mention to the course coordinator. The hospital is within our system and the floor is a DEU so it's not like it's a completely different entity from the school.
  8. by   dbabz
    MunoRN: You make a good point. Now I'm thinking of Nurse Ratched addressing "Mr. McMurphy." I'll have to reconsider Mr. and Mrs.
    Last edit by dbabz on Sep 24 : Reason: clarify recipient
  9. by   RNNPICU
    I would think it would depend on the culture of the unit. If these patients are there for long-term it is possible that there may be some long ter built up relations and communication.
    How do the other care providers respond to hearing the "pet" names?

    Start by asking the other staff before running up to the coordinator. Ask some of the nurses to see if this is the norm, and if so , why?
  10. by   Kitiger
    I use "Mr." or Mrs." or "Ms." at first. If I know they have a more formal title, like Dr., I'll use that. Then, especially in long-term care or private duty nursing, I ask the person. If the person cannot answer, I use the more formal term unless that person's spokesperson tells me otherwise.

    Some patients/residents/clients will say, "My name is Mrs. Martin." Others will say, "My name is Sylvia Martin; you may call me Sylvia."

    Most will not say, "Oh, you can just call me 'Sweetie'."
  11. by   KelRN215
    Quote from dbabz
    I wasn't near enough to the patients to observe reactions. It's a long-term care facility so many are trached or have other impediments to effective communication. Given this additional layer of vulnerability, I think it's that much more important to convey respect.
    If it's long term care, it's entirely possible that the staff have known these patients for months to years.

    I don't remember the last time I called anyone Mr or Mrs Anything. Probably not since high school and, even then, in all my life the only people I can ever recall referring to as Mr or Mrs Last Name were teachers. I was always on a first name basis with my friends' parents, basically every college professor I had wanted to be referred to by first name and, in 10 years of nursing, I've always referred to my patients and their parents/grandparents by first name. When I was a visiting nurse, if I didn't have the parent's first name when I was calling to set up an initial visit, I'd be much more likely to ask for "Michael's Mom" than I would for "Mrs. Smith." Vast majority of my patients had parents who were not married so the Mom wouldn't have been Mrs. Smith anyway, though.
  12. by   TriciaJ
    I've always been hesitant to use endearments in case they don't go over well. However, when someone is in pain or acutely suffering, I sometimes give in to the temptation, hoping the person will feel nurtured and comforted.

    I did have an experience as a nursing student where I had to escort an elderly lady to the cast room of the hospital to have a cast applied to her leg. The tech who applied the cast kept calling the lady "Gram-Maw" throughout the procedure. I found it quite jarring. I had the greatest urge to say "Mrs. Smith, you didn't tell me this was your grandson!" But because I was a student I thought it best to kept my mouth shut.
  13. by   caliotter3
    One should reserve 'pook', 'pooker', and 'pookie' for one's significant other, as residents of long term care facilities can become quite jealous if they think the staff favors some over others. (JK!)
  14. by   NurseDisneyPrincess
    I've been a known offender for years. I actually attribute it to being born and raised in the south, where referring to people with terms of endearment was pretty prevalent (at least, where I'm from anyway). I blame my mom, my aunts, and my sisters lol.

    I never refer to anyone as "honey", because for some reason coming from me it sounds incredibly condescending, even when I don't mean it that way at all. Anything else seems to be fair game. Something I've noticed is that I call everyone "baby"- to my boyfriend, to my dog, to my patients, to my friends, etc. At work as I'm being bombarded by requests and other questions it's always, "Yes, baby." "No, baby." Honestly, most of the time I don't even think about it. It's apart of my language and it's how I refer to people in my daily life. It's just habit. I live in a huge city on the east coast and no one has ever said anything to me about it or has become offended. I've never said it rudely or sarcastically to a patient; it's just how I nurture. I work in psych and many patients wish to be listened to and most have a story to tell. I try to use a certain tone of voice to comfort or to let a patient know that I understand. It's just my way.

    I agree with the stance that it depends upon you, your unit, and the patients that you are addressing.

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