Never Say Never

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The words we say make a difference. And once they are out, we can’t get them back; like toothpaste, you can’t put it back in the tube. And who we listen to makes a difference.

Specializes in Pediatrics/Telemetry/Health and Wellness. Has 18 years experience.

Instructor Tells Me I Can't Be An Effective Nurse With My Stutter

Never Say Never

“You will never be an effective nurse if you don’t get that stutter under control!”

The words cut into me like a knife.

The next words my nursing instructor uttered were lost amid the painful pounding of my heart and the whooshing of the blood in my ears.

I was sure the other student standing beside me could feel the burn of humiliation radiating off my face.

Then the instructor was gone. 

And I was left with my pain and humiliation. I could barely breathe.

All the doubts came flying back.

Maybe she was right. Maybe I couldn’t do this. Maybe my stutter was just too big of a hurdle to becoming a nurse. Maybe I was doomed to be a shuttered-in recluse who should be cloistered away from decent society. Maybe I should just slink back home to my parents and become….a…a….a writer!

Yeah, a writer doesn’t have to talk to people. They can just sit at home all day and type on a laptop. Nobody knows what they look like or that they can’t speak like a normal person! That way nobody will have to be subjected to the pain and horror of having to listen to me stammer and stutter all over myself!

All these thoughts spun through my head the entire way back to my dorm. They continued as I made my way through the cafeteria line with my then fiancé on my heels. 

We sat down to eat and I, after much encouragement from my future husband, let the story of my ultimate humiliation spill out to him.

I was sure he would agree with the world at large. It was a stupid idea to go to nursing school! Nursing was 87.9% communication, after all! (I may or may not have made up that statistic.) No person who stutters, who was also in their right mind, would do such a thing! It was ridiculous! I should go home now with my tail between my legs!

He was LIVID!

He was so angry he could hardly get his words out!

Not at me; or my stupid, unrealistic expectations.

He was angry at my nursing instructor.

I think it was the first time I ever realized what a temper he had. I was glad it wasn’t aimed at me! It was also the first time I realized what an incredible vocabulary he had! And it was the first time I realized just how much he loved me.

I don’t remember much of what he said, but the part I do remember was something to the effect of, “She obviously doesn’t know you very well if she can say something like that about you! You will make an incredible nurse! She needs to go (I shan’t type such things in case children are reading over your shoulder)! Don’t listen to her! You go out there and PROVE HER WRONG!”

My future husband’s words won out over my nursing instructor’s words.

I did go back to class. I faced that instructor every day for the next three years. I graduated from nursing school, with a good GPA, too, I might add. And I have been a registered nurse, at the bedside, for 17 years now.

The stutter still gets in my way occasionally, especially if I am tired or if I have a migraine.

On occasion, I get the impatient, eye-rolling, pen-tapping, on-coming nurse who blows me off with an, “Oh never mind! I’ll just look it up in the chart! Go home and gets some sleep.”

Or the adorably cranky, elderly patient who comments, “You can’t even talk right! You sure you should be doing this job?”

Or a child will innocently ask, “Why do you talk like that?” That one doesn’t bother me one bit; it gives me the chance to explain it to them. Hopefully, it will help them understand a bit better when they come across another person who stutters.

But I have found that, more often than not, if people do comment on it, it’s to say, “Wow! I’m going to tell my such-and-such-relative-or-friend about you! They have such-and-such-a-problem. If you can be a nurse, they can be a whatever-they-are-dreaming-about-becoming!” Or something like that.

The words we say make a difference. And once they are out, we can’t get them back; like toothpaste, you can’t put it back in the tube.

And who we listen to makes a difference. I’m glad I listened to my supportive husband and not the nay-sayers and down-putters.  

I am an RN turned freelance medical writer and editor/proofreader. I especially enjoy and excel at writing articles that provide education for patients and their families.

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10 Comment(s)

Tweety, BSN, RN

Specializes in Med-Surg, Trauma, Ortho, Neuro, Cardiac. Has 30 years experience. 30,518 Posts

I hope your instructor didn't mean it in a vindictive way but a constructive way because communication is important.  But the wording was discouraging and not uplifting.   

I worked with a couple of nurses with stuttering issues and they were good nurses.  It's just part of who they are, like some people have blue eyes, some stutter.  Even the President has a stutter.  

Congrats for not letting it get you down and for inspiring others.  Someone reading this needs to hear this.

Edited by Tweety

ladedah1, BSN, RN

Has 7 years experience. 76 Posts

I'm glad that you didn't listen to your instructor!  Sometimes I don't think that instructors realize how much of an impact one single comment can have... nor do they realize how long those comments can stick with a person. 

By the point that students actually enter a nursing program, they have typically already invested a great deal of time and money (and self) into the plan of becoming a nurse.  Likewise, they have probably also heard of a number of people who have tried - and failed - to accomplish the very same thing.  These things - combined with the typical lack of confidence which comes with learning something new - can make the tiniest little jabs feel traumatic... especially when those jabs have nothing to do with your skill or knowledge, but an unchangeable aspect of self.  The sad thing is, they will likely never know how deeply they wounded you or that you even still remember... kind of like the negative things that people remember from childhood, but that adults will forget ever happened.

I, too, had an instructor who told me that I wouldn't make a good nurse and should start looking for a different career... that I was just too slow and cautious.  Joke's on her though... I've been a nurse for six years now and I'm pretty darn good at it too 😁

JBMmom, MSN, NP

Specializes in Long term care; med-surg; critical care. Has 10 years experience. 4 Articles; 1,923 Posts

A good reminder for people that words mean a lot, and even constructive criticism (which I would hope is what an instructor would be trying to convey) needs to be delivered in a respectful and thoughtful manner, and certainly not in front of another student. 

Measuring any person's ability based on a single attribute is a small minded approach and certainly not one that's acceptable for instructors, preceptors, bosses, etc. But, unfortunately, there are people in every walk of life that just shouldn't be doing what they're doing for any number of reasons. I'm glad that you were able to take your husband's words to heart rather than that instructor. 

HiddencatBSN, BSN

Specializes in Peds ED. Has 11 years experience. 593 Posts

Imagine being a nursing instructor and not knowing how stuttering works 😕 Or that it’s a disability covered under the ADA.

 

subee, MSN, CRNA

Specializes in CRNA, Finally retired. Has 50 years experience. 3,522 Posts

11 hours ago, HiddencatBSN said:

Imagine being a nursing instructor and not knowing how stuttering works 😕 Or that it’s a disability covered under the ADA.

 

I didn't know about the ADA regs but thought "what an idiot" when I read that instructor's comment to the OP.  I would have reported them to the dean.  The list of accomplished people who were, or are, stutterers is long.  Not only is it a moronic criticism, it's also cruel.

mal92

9 Posts

Thank you for sharing your experience. I too have had a stutter since I was little. I went into the fine arts partly because I love to paint, draw, etc but also because it felt "safe" because it appeared to be a profession in which verbal communication wasn't crucial to succeed. With the courage and perspective from growing older, I'm finally making a career change to pursue nursing.  🙂

By-a-thred, RN, ADN

Specializes in M/S, LTC, home care, corrections and psych. Has 31 years experience. 43 Posts

I had an instructor tell me that because of congenital hip dysplasia I would never make it as a nurse. That was almost 31 years (and bilateral hip repacements) ago. Nursing instructors are the worst offenders of stereotyping and judging people ever! 

Nursynursenurse, ADN, RN

Has 8 years experience. 110 Posts

That comment really upset me and made me think of the time when my nursing instructor noticed that I was quiet and not conversing with the group during clinical. She said, “If you can barely talk than how will you be able to talk to a doctor as a nurse?” I’m terrible at small talk and I’m a much better listener but it hurt because she highlighted my biggest insecurity and made me doubt myself. I’ve been a nurse for 7 years and have never hesitated to talk to a doctor even over small concerns. I am able to talk much easier 1:1 to my patients. That instructor was wrong and it’s a shame. You can’t change the fact you stutter or the fact you are quiet nor should you. 

CommunityRNBSN, BSN, RN

Specializes in Community health. Has 4 years experience. 722 Posts

I can’t believe a nurse would insult someone over a stutter. That shows how cruel, uneducated, and ignorant some people can be. And she pointed it out in front of other students?  A stutter isn’t something you can just “get under control” by putting your mind to it!  I don’t wonder why your fiancé was mad. 

On 12/25/2021 at 2:25 AM, By-a-thred, RN said:

I had an instructor tell me that because of congenital hip dysplasia I would never make it as a nurse. That was almost 31 years (and bilateral hip replacements) ago. Nursing instructors are the worst offenders of stereotyping and judging people ever! 

Now that's a generalization judgment!

On 12/21/2021 at 8:21 AM, Kristi Van Winkle said:
Never Say Never

“You will never be an effective nurse if you don’t get that stutter under control!”

The words cut into me like a knife.

The next words my nursing instructor uttered were lost amid the painful pounding of my heart and the whooshing of the blood in my ears.

I was sure the other student standing beside me could feel the burn of humiliation radiating off my face.

Then the instructor was gone. 

And I was left with my pain and humiliation. I could barely breathe.

All the doubts came flying back.

Maybe she was right. Maybe I couldn’t do this. Maybe my stutter was just too big of a hurdle to becoming a nurse. Maybe I was doomed to be a shuttered-in recluse who should be cloistered away from decent society. Maybe I should just slink back home to my parents and become….a…a….a writer!

Yeah, a writer doesn’t have to talk to people. They can just sit at home all day and type on a laptop. Nobody knows what they look like or that they can’t speak like a normal person! That way nobody will have to be subjected to the pain and horror of having to listen to me stammer and stutter all over myself!

All these thoughts spun through my head the entire way back to my dorm. They continued as I made my way through the cafeteria line with my then fiancé on my heels. 

We sat down to eat and I, after much encouragement from my future husband, let the story of my ultimate humiliation spill out to him.

I was sure he would agree with the world at large. It was a stupid idea to go to nursing school! Nursing was 87.9% communication, after all! (I may or may not have made up that statistic.) No person who stutters, who was also in their right mind, would do such a thing! It was ridiculous! I should go home now with my tail between my legs!

He was LIVID!

He was so angry he could hardly get his words out!

Not at me; or my stupid, unrealistic expectations.

He was angry at my nursing instructor.

I think it was the first time I ever realized what a temper he had. I was glad it wasn’t aimed at me! It was also the first time I realized what an incredible vocabulary he had! And it was the first time I realized just how much he loved me.

I don’t remember much of what he said, but the part I do remember was something to the effect of, “She obviously doesn’t know you very well if she can say something like that about you! You will make an incredible nurse! She needs to go (I shan’t type such things in case children are reading over your shoulder)! Don’t listen to her! You go out there and PROVE HER WRONG!”

My future husband’s words won out over my nursing instructor’s words.

I did go back to class. I faced that instructor every day for the next three years. I graduated from nursing school, with a good GPA, too, I might add. And I have been a registered nurse, at the bedside, for 17 years now.

The stutter still gets in my way occasionally, especially if I am tired or if I have a migraine.

On occasion, I get the impatient, eye-rolling, pen-tapping, on-coming nurse who blows me off with an, “Oh never mind! I’ll just look it up in the chart! Go home and gets some sleep.”

Or the adorably cranky, elderly patient who comments, “You can’t even talk right! You sure you should be doing this job?”

Or a child will innocently ask, “Why do you talk like that?” That one doesn’t bother me one bit; it gives me the chance to explain it to them. Hopefully, it will help them understand a bit better when they come across another person who stutters.

But I have found that, more often than not, if people do comment on it, it’s to say, “Wow! I’m going to tell my such-and-such-relative-or-friend about you! They have such-and-such-a-problem. If you can be a nurse, they can be a whatever-they-are-dreaming-about-becoming!” Or something like that.

The words we say make a difference. And once they are out, we can’t get them back; like toothpaste, you can’t put it back in the tube.

And who we listen to makes a difference. I’m glad I listened to my supportive husband and not the nay-sayers and down-putters.  

Did you consider ripping her throat out?

Or reporting her to her boss?