Calling a Patient 'Sugar': Abuse?

Nurses Relations


You are reading page 5 of Calling a Patient 'Sugar': Abuse?


168 Posts

Bless your hearts. Y'all better never get sick up north here in Canada. Luv, dear, sweetie. All in constant use. Never had a patient complain about it either.

You sound like me! I'm an armybrat spent more than a few years in Texas, Oklahoma and Virginia. I learned to call everyone Sugar, Darlin', Honey. When I became a LPN I was taught NOT to address patients with these "pet names". I tried but habits are hard to break. Patients and families alike have doubled over laughing at me because I called someone sugar and then back peddled, stammering "I'm sorry, I mean Mrs. X".

IMHO, there are more important things to worry about as a patient.

Scarlette Wings

358 Posts

Specializes in M/S, ICU, ICP.
as one who has been called "sweetie", please don't. of course, if your client/patient insists that's fine. it is condescending, demeaning, and patronizing, or at least it sounds/feels that way. may not be meant that way. i was nice & didn't say anything, but what i wanted to say was "my name isn't sweetie. i am not old(it seems "sweetie" is reserved for the elderly for some reason). so, please call me "susie" or "mrs. smith" but not sweetie. thank you very much." ah, yes....

i think it also depends on the tone of voice. some people say sweetie like they are trying to spit in your face and turn a knife in your back. like "okay sweetie,no matter what you think you will get your pain med now while i'm doing my med pass or you won't get it at all."

the "oh sweetie i am so sorry your supper tray was left off the server. that was so wrong and i want to fix it for you. what is you want and i promise i will go get it myself."

two entirely different tones of voice and intent. i live in the deep south and call everyone either sunshine or sweatheart and in almost 30 years have only had one or two gentlemen not like it and ask me not to. if they prefer i don't i apoligize and call them by what they choose to be called.

sometimes i do it out of habit but mostly because i really am terrible at remembering names. half the time people down here think you are cold and uppity if you say mr or mrs so and so. mostly, regardless of what i think or feel, i will call them by whatever they tellme they prefer.

Meriwhen, ASN, BSN, MSN, RN

4 Articles; 7,907 Posts

Specializes in Psych ICU, addictions.
After all, if a waitress calls you honey in a restaurant, can you sue her?

Actually, you could. You can sue anyone for any reason--people have sued for less. The judge would probably be laughing their rear off as they throw your case out of court and your lawyer would be laughing all the way to the bank with the easy money they just made off of you, but sure, you could sue :)


1,459 Posts

Abuse may not be the word to use, but yes for me as a colleague, I'd be irritated. I am NOT your sweetie!


38,333 Posts

My manager called me "sweetie" one time and not only was I offended, I started to worry about him. Not very appropriate, but it would depend upon the context as to when the practice escalates to "abuse", per se.

AngelfireRN, MSN, RN, APRN

2 Articles; 1,291 Posts

Specializes in med-surg, psych, ER, school nurse-CRNP.

I call most of my patients by an endearment. In Alabama, and especially with me, it's not only considered appropriate (in my practice, anyway), it's expected. I called a patient Susie the other day, and hurt her feelings.

"You called me 'hon' last time. Are you mad at me?"

If I didn't sweet talk them, they'd think I was sick.


125 Posts

Specializes in Pulmonary, Lung Transplant, Med/Surg.

This is HARDLY abuse, it is however very disrespectful.

I have, numerous times, witnessed patients telling nurses/aides not to call them 'sweetie' - I certainly wouldn't appreciate it either. I've heard men tell nurses that only their wives are to call them that and I've heard women tell the nurse that they have a name.

Use a patient's name, its just common courtesy.


114 Posts

This is what I've always heard in orientation/training, but on the floor in LTC there are a lot of folks using Sugar, Honey, Sweetie, etc. instead of names. At my current workplace there are quite a few people being addressed as Papa Lastname and Mama Soandso, and they seem to prefer that to Mr./Mrs. or Sir/Ma'am.

The nurses and aides gran-mothered into nursing homes love love love to use those sugar, honey, sweetie words and it is so so so so annoying and disgusting. When I was a new grad and oriented into a nursing home, I felt like telling them to stop calling residents by those names and giving them pecks and kisses like they were their kids at home. Well I never did till I left the place 6 weeks later but I was happy I left.

Bortaz, MSN, RN

1 Article; 2,628 Posts

Specializes in CDI Supervisor; Formerly NICU.
"Abuse" has lost its meaning from overuse and inappropriate use.

Can't anyone just be "offended" anymore?

Can't anyone just NOT be offended by innocently being called "sweetie"?

Otessa, BSN, RN

1,601 Posts

I know that each agency is going to have its own policy, but is calling a patient 'sugar' or 'sweetie' considered abuse? Has anyone had the experience of being told not to call patients these titles when communicating with them out of fear of legal reprimand?

I know I don't like being called "hon", "sweetie", "sugar", etc. just call me by my name, please.

I take this stance with those I work with:co-workers or patients.

Horseshoe, BSN, RN

5,879 Posts

Can't anyone just NOT be offended by innocently being called "sweetie"?

I would not appreciate being called "sweetie" by anyone who is not my husband or family member, particularly by a nurse if I am sick and in the hospital. I certainly would not categorize it as abuse, but a nurse should never assume it is okay to refer to a patient with that kind of familiarity. If you have built up a rapport with a patient and have a sense that this is welcome, I guess that is a different situation. But nurses who address everyone that way are making assumptions that might well be very wrong.

And just because a patient doesn't complain doesn't mean that they appreciate being addressed that way.

Perhaps it is cultural/regional; would those of you who are amazed at the possibility that others find this to be inappropriate be okay with your banker, doctor, child's teacher, grocery clerk, boss, or other total stranger calling you sweetie or honey? Seriously? I live in Texas, and while I wouldn't consider it a capital offense, I would really not appreciate that.

In the LTC floor I'm on the residents have never taken exception to the "honey, sweetie, or sugar" name because I have a rapport with almost all my patients (I never use those names, my preceptor does). On the hospital floor, I address patients with a Mr./Mrs. since it's engrained into my head.

However on the Alzheimers unit calling some of the patients honey was the ONLY way to get their attention. These are the kind of patients that are alert & oriented times zero and their name doesn't elicit a response even with attempts of reinforcement.

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