Patients or Clients?

by mosaicism105 mosaicism105, MSN Member

Has 13 years experience.

I got an interview today at a teaching hospital in a step down unit. They asked me if its better to call them clients instead of patients? Odd question. What do you guys think?

Palliative Care, DNP

Palliative Care, DNP

Specializes in Family Nurse Practitioner. 781 Posts

Personally, I despise calling them clients. However, when I am teaching clinicals I am supposed to teach students to say clients.

KelRN215, BSN, RN

Specializes in Pedi. Has 15 years experience. 1 Article; 7,349 Posts

I call all my patients "patients". Especially in the hospital.

MunoRN, RN

Specializes in Critical Care. Has 10 years experience. 8,058 Posts

They are patients. In a few settings, such as outpatient mental health, patient do prefer to be called clients, but for the most part patients find the term offensive if they have a view either way.

This came from an ANA recommendation from one of their committees, they admit it wasn't very well thought out and they reversed their position then next time this committee was convened, but by then the damage was done, every Nursing school in the country had already latched onto it as the next big thing.

There have been survey's on the topic, and not surprisingly, patients don't like the term because it implies that they are a participant in a financial or business relationship, rather than a participant in a therapeutic relationship which is what the term "patient" implies.

As it turns out, patients like to feel like they are seen as someone needing care, rather than a billable source of cash.

applewhitern, BSN, RN

Specializes in ICU. Has 30 years experience. 1,871 Posts

When I was in nursing school in the 1980's, we had to call them "clients." I thought that everybody had changed it back to "patients?" I haven't heard anyone being called clients in a long time; we refer to them as patients at my current hospital.

That Guy, BSN, RN, EMT-B

Specializes in Emergency/Cath Lab. Has 6 years experience. 3,421 Posts

Patients and victims (if trauma). Death to PC!


14,633 Posts

I've been using "client" since I started in nursing in the early '80s. I'm in psych, which, in large part, has moved on from "client" to "consumer" (I flatly refuse to use "consumer" -- sounds like we're at Wal-Mart). I work in C&L, in the general hospital setting, and most everyone else uses "patient," but I still use "client."


RNperdiem, RN

Has 14 years experience. 4,555 Posts

I was taught "client" in school, but since then, I have picked up that:

Hospitalized people=patients

elective outpatient type stuff = clients

people in long-term care = residents

Been there,done that, ASN, RN

Has 33 years experience. 6,895 Posts

You're right, strange question.

In the interview setting, the answer would be, how do refer to them here at XXX facility?

Good luck , keep us posted.

psu_213, BSN, RN

Specializes in Emergency, Telemetry, Transplant. Has 13 years experience. 3,878 Posts

That is an odd question....they may have asked it just to see your reaction to an odd ball question and to see how you handled a question you were not expecting. If that was the case, I'm pretty sure there is not a right or wrong answer, just a right or wrong rationale.

Whatever the reason for asking the question, there is little doubt in my mind that, in the hospital setting, patients should be called patients.

LadyFree28, BSN, RN

Specializes in Pediatrics, Rehab, Trauma. Has 10 years experience. 8,427 Posts

I was taught "client" in school, but since then, I have picked up that:

Hospitalized people=patients

elective outpatient type stuff = clients

people in long-term care = residents

This... :yes:

In school, we were informed of the title of WHO we care for.

When I called at one of my residents' (LTC) doctor appointment to see if they were on their way back, I said residents, the person thought I was talking about a doctor...I had to change it I patient. ;)