You look too young to be a nurse

  1. Is something I hear from my patients constantly. I'm petite with I guess a lot of people consider a "baby face". I am told a lot that I look like I'm in my teens. Thanks? It used to not bother me, but now I think it's rude even if it is meant as a compliment. Why do you think it's okay to ask me how old I am or comment on the way I look? What if you walked up to a bank teller or a mechanic and demanded to know how old they were? It also stresses me out because I feel like I have to work that much harder to earn the patient's trust once they say that.

    What I'm asking is, what would a good/appropriate response be when a patient asks my age/comments on the way I look?
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    About SwansonRN

    Joined: Jun '12; Posts: 481; Likes: 1,264
    RN; from US
    Specialty: 2 year(s) of experience


  3. by   Esme12
    I sometimes think patients ask personal question to place them on even grounds when they feel you, a stranger, has all this personal information on them and they have nothing on you.....making them feel frightened and vulnerable. They try to make the "relationship" somehow more "personal".

    I would just laugh and tell them "why thank you......I am much older than I parents gave me good genes.....and to think what some poeple would pay for this...." and smile sweetly.
  4. by   NicuGal
    When I tell many of our parents that I have worked in my unit for 27 years I still get...did you start when you were like 12? Just laugh it off and day I'll be so glad to be hearing this lol Just like the surgeon who did one of my daughter's knee surgeries....I said...jeez...I think I could be your grandmother and he laughed and said, Just call me Doogie lol

    Don't let it bother you, they could be saying or calling you worse things!
  5. by   Stephalump
    I fear this is my future. A cashier at a store refused to sell me a video game rated "M" the other day because I couldn't find my ID and she couldn't tell if I was over the age of 16. :/

    I've never minded being told I look "too young.". What I mind is now that I'm getting older, the phrase has turned into "Oh, you look so good for your age!" I'm 27. Am I supposed to be looking like hell already?
  6. by   loveu123
    i hear this question every week at work because i look young. I usually take it as a compliment and joke about how im gonna start carrying my drivers license on my id for patients to see my real age.
  7. by   RNsRWe
    "How old are you, anyway?"

    "Old enough to know I don't want to answer that question!"
  8. by   HouTx
    I believe that patient comments like this are usually masking deeper concerns - and in this case, rather than laughing it off I would try to take the opportunity to (respectfully) uncover them with a response such as "Are you concerned that I am not experienced enough to provide the care you need?" You could then provide them with information that would reassure them... " I have umpteen years of experience in MedSurg, certifications up the ying yang, .. and I am in continuous communication with your physician to address any additional problems you may have"

    Otherwise, you may get one of those nasty-grams via HCAHPS... the patient thought you were immature and flighty.
  9. by   classicdame
    they may feel vulnerable and want to be sure you are their advocate. Maybe some think of it as a compliment. Either way, smile and change the subject. I have been called worse.
  10. by   DizzyLizzyNurse
    I always hear: "How much longer do you have in school?"
  11. by   RunnerRN2015
    I get that frequently when I tell people I have an almost 21 year old and an 18 year old. I've heard "You don't look old enough to have kids that age. Did you get knocked up in high school?" A LOT. Um, no.....I was 23 and 27 and married when I had my kids! When I was pregnant with my first one, I used to get such condescending stares and to make it worse, I was edemic so I didn't wear my rings. Yep, I looked 16 and pregnant! LOL

    I always reply with, "Thanks to good genes, I'm older than you think. "
  12. by   anotherone
    I get this sometimes, rarely now that I have been on nights for a while. Now that has aged me a bit!. I get asked how old I am by patients ALLL THE TIME. i dunno how to respond. I usually say, "guess?", " how old do i look?" yes that makes them uncomfortable! hahaha or " in my 20s" it depends on who asks. I got asked how old I was in other jobs too. And to those concerned with expereince, the oldest nurse on the floor I work at has less than one year experience as a nurse period!
  13. by   plumbtrician
    Enjoy your youthful looks, they will be sure to fade. I looked 25 until I was 36, and then it all started to go ugly. Blow it off, don't worry about it. In almost every profession it is difficult to gain older peoples trust when you look like a teenager.

    I sold life insurance and mutual funds when I was 22. How easy do you think it was to get new clients to open the checkbook and write me a check for their life savings when I had acne and a bad suit?

    You are probably so awesome, let it shine!
  14. by   rnsrgr8t
    True story.... I work with anothe NP that is old enough to be my mother (her daughter and I are the same age).

    Was speaking on the phone with one of our regluar, medically complex, patient's mother. Had several phone conversations over the several months discussing and managing her care, Mom never had an issue with me.
    She came in for f/u appt.
    I walk in the room and introduce myself, "Hi I am RNsrgr8t, the NP that is working with Dr. F today. I have spoken with you a lot over the phone. Glad to finally meet you in person".
    Patient's mom (looking at me squinting), "Hi....tell me what you are again?"
    Me "I am an NP, just like S (the other NP I work with)"
    Patient's mom, "jeez, are you just out of school?"
    Me, "No Ma'am, I have been an NP for 2+ years (this was many years ago)"
    Patient's mom, "people must be going to grad school right out of nursing school these days"
    Me, "No Ma'am, I was a nurse for 5+ years before I went back to school"
    Patient's mom, " you sure do not look old enough to have done all that!".
    She was not nice about it either. At that point, I just shrugged my shoulders at her and continued on with the visit.
    What was I going to say? I was tempted to say, "You think I am lying to you???".
    She ended up being fine with me over time. I do look young for my age (it is in the family genes, my mom and grandma are the same way). I initially thought she was just teasing me but as the conversation went on I realized she was not happy with me.
    Do not worry about it.... just show them you know your stuff and move on. I think when you look young, there is the worry you do not know what you are doing.