Is this acceptable behavior from a nurse?


Hi everyone, I hope you had a good week. Me... not so much. Last Friday night I started having horrible abdominal pains as well as back aches like you wouldn't believe. I figured I was "constipated" as they have said in the past, and just tried to drink my Metamucil and massage my tummy, take some pain meds and hope to get through it.

Well, by Sunday morning, I couldn't take it anymore. I went to urgent care, just hoping for something stronger to relieve the pain. I got checked in and everyone was extremely nice and helpful, totally understanding and compassionate. They said I was dehydrated so they gave me some IV fluids, morphine for the pain, and ran blood work and did an X-ray. My white count was elevated (slightly) and I had a mild temp, like 99.9. The X-ray didn't show much, other than, yes, I was a bit constipated. The Dr. insisted that I go to the hospital for a CT as she was perplexed and didn't want me to go home without it. I had my children's Christmas program at church at 4pm and it was now 1pm.

I agreed to go to the ER next door which was not affiliated with the urgent care I was at. They sent my lab work and X-rays with me though so that sped things up.

Fast forward to the ER. I checked in and sat down, well, laid down. My back was facing the desk (my mom was with me too). When they called my name, we got up and walked over to the desk where I checked in. No one was looking at us or even facing us. We just stood there for a minute or two before the nurse yelled, "COME SIT OVER HERE". Like I was suppose to know it was her that called me as she never even looked my way.

So, I'm sitting in the chair, doubled over in pain by now. I was very sad because I knew I wasn't going to make my children's program. The triage nurse is facing away from me, about 5 feet away, hunched over writing on a counter. She asks me all the general questions. ((BTW, I am NOT in a private room. I am in an OPEN area where EVERYONE in the waiting room can see and hear me perfectly clear.)) She asks, "WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU HAD A BM??" Rather embarrassed, I reply, last Wed. or Thurs. Then she asked me something else, I can't remember what it was... I shook my head no. She asks me again, I shook my head no. I was in so much pain it hurt to talk. She proceeds to tell me, "I can't hear you when you shake your head like that." So I answered her. Then she said it will be a few minutes and told us to go sit down. I couldn't get up. My mom offered to help me up but I couldn't get up. The nurse said, "You can go get a wheel chair if you'd like." I was like, if I could walk the 25 yards over to get a wheel chair myself, do you honestly think I would really need one? I just said I'll walk by myself.

Now, I understand that the ER is a difficult place to work. And I'm sure she thought I was wasting her time. It turned out I had a infected gall bladder with gall stones that had to be removed Monday night. The ER doc that did the ultrasounds comment on my gall stones was "HOLY COW" and the tech that did the ultrasound for measurements said it was the worst infected gb she'd ever seen.

So I wasn't in there trying to take up anyones time. I was in serious pain and this nurse didn't give me one ounce of compassion. I'm not asking for much, just a little privacy and maybe a little understanding.

I guess this is more a vent. I was just curious if this is what I'm going to turn into one day??? : (


6,011 Posts

Specializes in ORTHOPAEDICS-CERTIFIED SINCE 89. Has 30 years experience.

Quick answer NO, NO, NO. Extended answer NO!

To put it in perspective when you become the Nurse -wherever, you are to pay it forward. AKA be nice and the next guy will be nice to the next lady and so on and so forth.

I don't believe I have EVER had more pain than with my Gall Bladder.

There are many reasons to be terse with some one else. If you just had a car wreck, then you are allowed to be a little terse with the person who caused it.

Working at the desk in the triage area of the ER-no you aren't to be mean to people who are asking for compassionate assistance. These people did not rear end your car, throw a rock at you or break into your house.

You are the Nurse, they are the patient. Pay it forward. OK?

Tweety, BSN, RN

32,944 Posts

Specializes in Med-Surg, Trauma, Ortho, Neuro, Cardiac. Has 31 years experience.

Of course it's not acceptable (although it important to get veral answers when possible).

It's over and done. Instead of concentrating your mental energy on this person, why not instead concentrate on the statement you made here: "I got checked in and everyone was extremely nice and helpful, totally understanding and compassionate. " Perhaps this is this the type of nurse you are destined to become.

Best wishes for a speedy recovery.


293 Posts

Specializes in NICU.

Oh my goodnes, I'm so sorry you had to go through that. That is definitely unacceptable. I hope you are now feeling better. My mom went through that so I saw how much pain she was in. Best wishes!

Specializes in ITU/Emergency. Has 10 years experience.

I assume this a rhetorical question as we all know that is definitely not acceptable behaviour for a nurse or any health professional. But, there are bad apples in every cart and the important thing is just to put it in perspective: everyone else was great and thats what you should focus on. That, and vowing never to be 'that' nurse!


154 Posts

I feel your pain. (literally!) I was in the week of my new job GN orientation when I was having one of my "spells" (here I was thinking it was "just" reflux) but the pain got so continuous and so awful I had to walk out and go see the employee health nurse who sent me home. 2 hours later I'm in my own hospital (where my doctors go, not the one I work at) ED, my husband had to drive me, I was never in so much pain, it was awful. Much worse than labor pains (I've had 3 children, so I know). My gallbladder also turned out to be really infected and chock fuull of stones as well and it came out the next day. Luckily my experience sounded better than yours, sorry the triage nurse was such a witch. I think being on the other side of the health profession helps give you perspective, kwim?

Hope your recovery goes well. I felt remarkably better at exactly the 1 week mark post-surgery (I had a lap chole).

Specializes in Home Health, PDN, LTC, subacute. Has 18 years experience.

Yikes! I KNOW from experience the pain you were in! I passed out on the floor. And to be treated so rudely! I had a horrible traditional operation, but lucky for me I was in a PEDS ward at the time (15 yrs old) and you know how great peds nurses are!

Best of luck in your recovery!


8 Posts

I've witnessed this treatment of people in an emergency room and it sickens me to think that some people fail to treat others the way they would expect to be treated. Some doctors, nurses, and techs use the chaotic nature of the emergency room to excuse this poor style of behavior since everyone is running around as if their hair were on fire. The ER is a very busy place, but unless there was someone coding or a level 1 trauma was underway, there's no reason to treat a patient poorly.


129 Posts

I am so sorry you had to go through that.

One of the happiest days of my life was when my gallbladder was ripped out of me. That damn thing caused me so much pain I can't even express it in words.

Take care of yourself.


1,051 Posts

I am so sorry for her ignorance but there is no way in the world that she would have talked to me that way. I would have quickly told her in a rather nasty but polite way to straighten her business up because whatever she is going through, she is no going to keep taking it out on me. Especially broadcasting your business like that...NO, NO AND AGAIN NOOOOOOO!!! I had an infected ingrown and I encountered a nurse like that. I was on the verge of losing my toe and that woman was just plain nasty. I straightened her out I tell you and she apologized and we had a happy night. I am glad that you are feeling better and I am sooooo sorry that you had to miss your child's christmas program. That is enough to have made me go crazy!!

ktwlpn, LPN

3,844 Posts

Specializes in LTC,Hospice/palliative care,acute care. Has 35 years experience.

I guess this is more a vent. I was just curious if this is what I'm going to turn into one day??? : (

NO-you will NOT because you will never forget how this treatment made you feel.You should write a letter-make is a complaint in a thank you note....On the other side- they do (as we all must) deal with some unbelievable behaviors on a regular basis.It just wears some of us down-venting here really helps. ( we were in the local ED early Sunday at around 3:30 am with our son-I could hear the complaint of a patient a few bays over.Seems this fellow was having complications after some type of oral surgery.He went to the hospital where he had the procedure first but thought the wait time was too long so he drove over the state line 40 mins to another..And just did not understand why his surgeon could not make the trip too -or why the staff was a little frustrated with him.He did not reveal his history in triage-he waited until he was admitted to tell them he had had surgery.As we were leaving they were making transport arrangements with the local med-trans company...Ridiculous IMHO-I think they should have dc'd him and let his SO drive him back down the road but I heard them talking about liability so they had to make a hospital to hospital transfer.I think patients should be billed for "lack of common sense"

woody62, RN

928 Posts

Specializes in icu, er, transplant, case management, ps. Has 27 years experience.

No it is not acceptable. Nor has it ever been, not even prior to HIPPA. All the times I have paid a visit to the ER, I had one nurse do what yours did. AND I very quietly told her I would appreciate her not asking me questions so that the whole waiting area could hear her. And if she couldn't managed that, I wanted to speak to a supervisor, IMMEDIATELY. She shut up and asked her questions much more quietly. People will act in any manner that they think they can get away with, even nurses. I don't put up with nurses hurting me or sharing my medical history with every one in the waiting area. I have the right to expect to be treated courteously and to have my privacy respected. And I treated my patients in the same manner that I expect to be treated.


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