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Having issues with being a "babyfaced" nurse.

Hi there,

Im having professional issues with looking young, i have the big eyes, high eyebrows, chubby cheeks, and weak chin. Ive been a nurse for only a yr working at a family doctor/walk in clinic environment, Im in densely populated area in a big city. I cant take it anymore. Im not being treated well, I know some of you will point the finger at me as if its something im doing but i promise i work hard and meticiously and i put patients first. Im not getting any respect as time goes on and patients are constantly testing me and making comments about my age and appearance, i have learned to brush it off and carry myself with confidence (even subconsiously speak with a deeper voice). I thought i would get a better and it is in some ways, theres always been patients ive connected with instantly and even the ones just looking to get in and out its a pleasent enough experience however the bad apples are ruining my personality and there are more bad apples than people think, i dont know if i can do this anymore, today i had a patient sit down on the chair before doing blood work and start bullying me about my age before i even had a chance to interact with her or say much to her, i got mad, im human, i couldnt proceed with the blood work causes i was shaking (d/t not being able to express my anger and taking a lot of ****, i just had a strong emotional reaction finally) asked her to come back another day, she scuffed and said "and your gonna work with people?" i looked at her and she seemed to take such pleasure in what she was doing. I cried in the bathroom after, thats a first for me. A person can only take so much. I feel like society is gettin worse and worse with its rudeness. Im already fed up, i tried to express myself to a coworker but she just laughed. I think the reason i got so upset is cause a spent a yr working really hard, im stressed, we are understaffed and this woman had the audacity to try to cut me down. She was vile.

Im in my late 20s, there are a couple of girls who i think look younger than me and actually are but i never see them get this as much, i dont know what it is about me, im pretty blank and stoic, ive learned to be... So i dont know

Does anyone have advice for me? Or have been through this? Or have someone they know who have been through this and found a solution? Im considering leaving nursing, as hard as ive worked so far, my mental health and selfesteem is suffering. Where does someone with a babyface face even fit in the professional world? I know that sounds weird but im serious, i know to be tough but id rather just be my normal self and do my job without being harrassed. People f with me more than they do others, i noticed this in nursing school as well.

Sorry for the spelling mistakes, typed on my phone

You say people "bully" you and "cut you down", but I don't see any specific examples. In any case, looking young is marvelous. I'm finally starting to noticeably age now that I've reached past 40 and I miss people mistaking me for being MUCH younger.

I have a feeling you may be overreacting, but what are people actually saying?

I look way younger than my age...I'm 29 and could pass for 18. Patients often will comment on how young I look. I simply take it as a compliment and roll with it.

From what I'm reading, I don't see any specific examples of bullying. Sometimes you need to take things people say with a grain of salt. Don't take everything so personally. Act professional and mature and people will follow suit.

I say this with sincerity - you have to learn to let this roll off, because without the ability to do so you/we (everyone who has faced this) become part of the problem...a significant part. You are letting this affect your self esteem, and in reality there are very few "rude" comments that should affect a nurse's personal self esteem. People have their own problems and they will act rudely to whomever is currently in front of them. It's not as personal, nor as much about your age, as you think.

i got mad, im human, i couldnt proceed with the blood work causes i was shaking (d/t not being able to express my anger and taking a lot of ****, i just had a strong emotional reaction finally) asked her to come back another day,

This can't happen. There is nothing about this particular scenario that should induce fury such that you can't take proper care of a patient.

I suggest spending some time processing it all - specifically the fact that you can't take it personally. I hope and believe you will find it a freeing exercise. Imagine how good you will feel when you internalize the idea that rude babbling from patients has nothing to do with you.

Next, find a nice/conversational response that you can use. For awhile I would laugh along with the patient or just smile and say something like, "yes, I've heard that a lot, and I've been told I'll appreciate it more when I get older!"

You're not alone, and it's nothing to fret over. Plenty of nurses and doctors have faced the same....

Chin up -

I didnt go into detail but the gyst is she was very rude basically calling me incompetent because of my appearance and age. Ive done the brush of before saying how oh ill like when im older, but she had a very toxic and anxious energy the way she was talking to me, you would have to be there to understand my reaction. I take it personally because she was talking about my personal appearance. Im tired of people who lack boundaries. I know in my 40s wrinkles and all I would not behave this way. I work hard Ive done bloodwork hundred of times without issues.

meanmaryjean, DNP, RN

Specializes in NICU, ICU, PICU, Academia.

First: Punctuation and Paragraphs (your posts are very difficult to read)

Second: If you go into a fury about patients being rude to the point that you cannot do your job, get some help. You have a problem that has NOTHING to do with being 'baby-faced'.

Seriously- please seek some help. You sound miserable and it doesn't have to be that way.

Kitiger, RN

Specializes in Private Duty Pediatrics.

I was a "baby face", too. In my mid-twenties, I could have easily passed for a high school student ... or younger. And, yes, I did have patients question whether I was old enough to be a nurse.

Humor worked best for me. "Why, don't you realize that in just TWO MORE YEARS ... I'll be 30!" :yes:

I believe you that her comments were out of line, I really do.

she had a very toxic and anxious energy the way she was talking to me

The problem is that she successfully transferred it to you...the only way up from here is to recognize that. Recognize that some people are miserable and REFUSE to let them make you miserable. You have that power. Think of it as a challenge if you must. I'm not trying to blame you for her behavior; that's on her. But you have a choice to absorb the negativity and carry it around with you like a heavy weight...or just let it evaporate into the atmosphere.

Half of the reason these people are so toxic is because others respond negatively to them. I much prefer the "have a nice day" method: Remain kind and professional, conduct your interactions professionally and efficiently. Next thing you know they're going out the door. All done. They can "be negative" somewhere else...

It sure beats ruining my day...


You should have said, "You are just jealous because I look a decade younger than my age and you look a decade older than yours!"

I mean to clarify she was oddly confrontational about my age and appearance, her reaction to me, it caught me off guard, and made me really nervous, I started shaking so I nicely told her that her comments made me nervous (probably should have used the word uncomfortable) and to come back another day (because I was by myself), she also has the option of using a public lab, I don't work in inpatient or outpatient urgent care to clarify. she gave me an attitude saying stuff like "and you going to be working with people?" not realizing I've been doing this for a year, went through nursing school which involves working with people, and worked in customer service for 7 yrs before that.

I was literally having a physical reaction to this lady and could not proceed with blood work. It may be an accumulation of job stress.

I did not go into a "fury" until after she left and went to the bathroom to silently cry... I don't usually cry in the bathroom, It's like the second time in my life. I have difficulty expressing anger so I usually shake or cry but tbh that rarely gets to that point and only once before also at work (but different job) I don't know why I couldn't brush her off as I've done with others or how she succeeded in transferring her negative energy on to me but obviously she triggered something me. I guess other people are more sheepish or sly in their comments and it doesn't bother me as much.

Some background on my clinic, It's not a well oiled machine, patients act like they run the place, patients don't listen to me or other staff and constantly want and thrive off power struggles, it's draining. I mean I see the spectrum a lot of people or really sweet but the mean one's are driving me away, there are too many of them. Clinic staff is mostly new grads as owner can't afford experienced staff, extremely busy, and high turnover.

The Doctor saw what happened and actually sided with me after the fact, which is rare.

Many of us looked much younger than our years (some of us still do) and managed it quite well. There are a few things you can do to help by carefully managing your appearance. No cutesy scrubs and sparkly stethoscopes. Uniforms pressed and well-fitting. No dragging hems that are dirty or torn. A simple, polished hair style. No messy buns with headbands that make you look like you just got out of bed or home from playing field hockey. Professional makeup and jewelry. When you go into an exam room firmly shake the patient's hand while introducing yourself or greeting a known patient. Don't call them "honey" "sweetie" or any other nickname. Stand up straight and speak with a clear voice. Let them know you're all business, which can still be done with a warmth that does not undermine your professionalism.

Now for the tough love. I know you're not going to like hearing this and I'm not saying your treatment was acceptable but YOU personalized the situation. Grossly unprofessional and immature. The patient did not call you incompetent you interpreted it that way. You CANNOT let someone's rudeness affect your ability to do your job. You must find a way to deflect statements about your appearance in such a manner that you let the patient know that the subject is not up for discussion. Yes patients can be irritating but you must maintain your professionalism at all times. You allowed yourself to react and, I'm sorry to say, in the realm of nursing and adulthood that's on you. Your dramatic suggestion to quit nursing altogether because of your hurt feelings sounds a little adolescent. I think a therapist might be able to help you learn a better way to deal with these situations. Best of luck.

I spent a lot of time explaining my years of experience when patients commented about my supposed age. One stated, "oh, my daughter's a nurse. She's 26". He thought I was too young to be a nurse. I then stated, "does she look too young?". He stated "well, no...". "Well, I'm older than her", I told him.

Now I get questions about how long I have been a nurse. This one is kind of fun. "Almost 20 years". This is followed by "How old ARE you???". I tell them, draw drops, love it!

This will pay off in your future. Sorry for the ignorant people you have encountered. Next time you can readily offer her the newbee to find her vein for the labs if she thinks age is a factor...so not fair to the new employee but so earned by the jerk patient.


I respect your point of view and it makes a lot of sense to me actually, I've thought about things I could do appearance wise, I do not wear make up and my scrubs are baggy... I do actually have womanly curves underneath... I agree walking away from what I worked hard for is immature. I think I needed to cool down and had a hard time with my emotions. I don't know how to be firm with patients about my appearance not being up for discussion. I tried it with her and it just escalated.

I really do need therapy tbh. A month ago I emailed a bunch of low cost therapists in my area through this program and no one emailed me back. Money is an issue. I'll keep trying.

TriciaJ, RN

Specializes in Psych, Corrections, Med-Surg, Ambulatory.

Learn to say with a perfectly straight face: "Yes, I graduated from high school when I was twelve." If you don't think it will play well to say it out loud, then at least think it to yourself to remind yourself of the absurdity of the situation.

I remember working with a surgeon who looked like she was 17 years old. People commented about how young she looked, but respected her for being a competent surgeon. It doesn't matter what you look like; people will be jerks. You don't have to own their jerkness.

Maybe working in a poorly run clinic is more stressful than you think. Might not be a bad idea to keep your eyes open for other opportunities.

Ruby Vee, BSN

Specializes in CCU, SICU, CVSICU, Precepting & Teaching.

First: Punctuation and Paragraphs (your posts are very difficult to read)

Second: If you go into a fury about patients being rude to the point that you cannot do your job, get some help. You have a problem that has NOTHING to do with being 'baby-faced'.

Seriously- please seek some help. You sound miserable and it doesn't have to be that way.

I'll echo this. I didn't read any bullying in your first post; I saw someone who was overly describing her appearance as a way to blame all of her problems on being "baby faced." Truly it isn't about your looks. It's about your inability to be professional in the face of a patient being rude to you. You need some help. Please get it.

My brother had this problem when he graduated med school. When he was told that he looked too young to be a doctor, he would give them an innocent look and say "I don't think 19 is too young at all!", he was in his late 20s at the time and after he and the patient had a good laugh, things would be just fine.

CrunchRN, ADN, RN

Specializes in Clinical Research, Outpt Women's Health.

Here is the thing. There are certain patients who will try to get to you. For some reason they derive satisfaction from it. For you they pick on the young thing. For others they will figure out the way to get to them by doing the same thing for weight, skin color, looks, or any other vulnerability they can pick at.

You just have to learn to find a way to deal with it and not feed into it. You fed that patients craving and that makes it worse. You need to find a way on your own or with help to put up that wall when dealing with this type of patient because they will always be out there and even when you look older they will try to find a different vulnerability. I say just be polite and professional and do what is needed and no more. They will hate that!

It sounds like that patient would have picked on you or another nurse for any reason. I used to get this a ton and still do. It only bothered me when people would think "you are too young to be in charge." (I was a house supervisor in a LTC)

If you are confident in your abilities, no one will see your age.

Now that I'm starting to get the grays and wrinkles around the eyes.....I miss the "you are too young"

Here.I.Stand, BSN, RN

Specializes in SICU, trauma, neuro.

she was very rude basically calling me incompetent because of my appearance and age.[/Quote]

You proved her right, although not because of your appearance. You allowed your feelings to delay her medical care! That cannot happen. Jerk or not, people arrange their work schedules or even use precious PTO hours, arrange child care, deal with traffic, pay for parking, heck even simply expend energy when they don't feel well and could have been resting.

You completely disregarded your pt and your duties by telling her to come back another day. (Personally I would NOT have been willing to come back another day, and I would not hesitate to report any professional who refuses to do their job.)

What you should have done is either ask someone else to draw the blood, or if none available take 5 minutes to calm down. That should be sufficient time to stop shaking.

What if that bloodwork revealed something serious? A critical high or low, or some infectious disease requiring prompt treatment? I would be very concerned for your license if a pt was harmed due to your refusal to treat -- over hurt feelings.

People will comment on everything (remember the "I'm seeing a lot of tall nurses" thread)? If you're pregnant, they'll say "Oh you look ready to pop, you shouldn't be working" (like we have a choice)?! My husband had a family member who would criticize overweight nurses to me. It was completely thoughtless and I hoped he had the sense to never it to anyone else. You have to let it go totally in one ear, out the other. If they say, "You look too young to be a nurse," smile and say "That's so thoughtful of you" and just move on. I've been told before "Oh, you're not old enough to do this." You just ignore it. You cannot delay care over it.


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