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Rudeness versus Caring

Nurses Can Make the Difference

Specialties Educators Article   posted

Specializes in Whole Health and Behavioral Health.

We are experiencing an epidemic of rudeness and a lack of kindness in our culture. This is also increasing in healthcare environments, as well

Rudeness versus Caring
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Alongside obesity, chronic disease, and addiction, many Americans believe we are in the midst of an equally serious epidemic of rudeness and a lack of kindness towards others. Webster's defines the adjective rude as "discourteous", and being "offensive in manner or action". According to several leading polls (1) conducted over the last decade and a half, approximately 75% of Americans believed that our country is getting progressively ruder, with many citing our high tech, high stress culture as the breeding ground for bad manners.

The same holds true in the workplace. As per the most recently published research, (2) conducted by Dr. Christine Porath of Georgetown University School of Business, thousands of workers were asked how they felt treated on the job. A startling 98% said they'd been on the receiving end of uncivil behavior, with 56% reporting it occurred at least once a week. This kind of systemic rudeness can be detrimental in many ways, causing coworkers to become disengaged from one another and their work, leading to a decline in productivity as well as physical and mental stress. "Incivility is a virus," Dr. Porath says. "You touch it and unfortunately we often don't realize we pass it on to others."

As members of the most publicly trusted career field, it is imperative that we as nurses are mindful of the negative effects that rudeness can have on our patient's health outcomes as well as our job performance and workplace relationships. Indeed, in a study (3) conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics simulating a high stakes pediatric procedure, the NICU teams which were subjected to rude comments from observers scored 52% lower in correctly diagnosing the condition and 43% lower in administering treatment than the control group.

Studies aside, our own experiences in the workplace or out in public can confirm that we as a collective culture seem far too distracted, time pressured and stressed to often realize how we are reacting and communicating with others. Our cell phone addiction, which has many of us oblivious to what is going on around us much of the time, is a huge contributor to how our current day to day communication has changed, arguably not for the better, in the span of a few decades.

Add in the anonymity of social media, with its invitation to "get away" with behaving in in a manner we would never think of doing in person, and we have a formula that easily leads to the current lack of civility and kindness in contemporary society.

There is however, at least one ray of light that shines through this growing rudeness.

In a 2019 study, highlighted below, almost 63.9% of those surveyed scored the nursing care provided during their hospitalization. The study went on to cite that the overwhelming feedback from the 635 patients surveyed was that nurses tend to be more caring, polite, considerate, compassionate and empathetic than other care providers.

Nurses have, for a long time, been looked upon as standard bearers for compassionate and comforting support and patient engagement within healthcare. When I was trained back in the 1960's the Florence Nightingale persona was the model for all of us nubile nurses to aspire to. Even today in our highly technical medical environment our nurses are who we expect to receive comfort, along with medical competency, from.

At the continuing education program I work at our saying is "nurses are the hands and hearts of health care." The one notable comment found in the above study is that nurses need to become more skilled and interested in understanding how to provide information to their patients. When a patient received information explaining the how and why of their condition their anxiety is greatly decreased. Their sense of having some control over the problem is also greatly increased.

Politeness, courtesy and respect for others is something we all appreciate. As nurses these are qualities our patients look to us for. Being mindful of how we treat and relate to our patients can go a long way in making their experience "a kinder and gentler" experience of their health care.

This survey (4) appears online at: Wiley Online Library: Patient satisfaction with the quality of nursing care


To evaluate patients' satisfaction with the quality of nursing care and examine associated factors.


A cross-sectional, descriptive survey study.


The sample was composed of 635 patients discharged from a private hospital. Data were collected using "Patient Satisfaction with Nursing Care Quality Questionnaire" with a total of 19 items, and a questionnaire designed to record socio-demographic characteristics and medical histories between January 1 and May 31, 2015.


Patients were more satisfied with the "Concern and Caring by Nurses" and less satisfied with the "Information You Were Given." Patients (63.9%) described nursing care offered during hospitalization as excellent. Patients who were 18-35 years old, married, college or university graduates, treated at the surgery and obstetrics-gynecology units, and patients who stated their health as excellent and hospitalized once or at least five times were more satisfied with the nursing care. According to this study, the nurses needed to show greater amount of interest to the information-giving process.


  1. American Academy of Pediatrics: The Impact of Rudeness on Medical Team Performance: A Randomized Trial
  2. Psychology Today: Why Are Our Workplaces Getting Ruder?
  3. NBCNews.com: Are Modern Americans a Rude, Boorish Lot?
  4. Wiley Online Library: Patient satisfaction with the quality of nursing care

Georgianna Donadio, MSc, DC, PhD, is the Director of the National Institute of Whole Health, and a health care visionary who pioneered the integration of Whole Health and Whole Person Healthcare within medical and holistic health organizations. Georgianna is one of only six Florence Nightingale Scholars in the U.S., an MNA award-winning Nurse Advocate and widely published Integrative Health expert and healthcare provider. Named “Best Integrative Healthcare Practitioner” in Boston, for 20 years she hosted the nationally syndicated, regionally Emmy nominated women’s TV programming, Woman-to-Woman®. She is currently the host of iHeart radio’s Living above the Drama which is heard globally, and an Amazon #1 Bestselling award winning author. She has been a regular contributor/writer for the Huffington Post, Dr Oz’s Share Care, Daily Strength and other national blogs.

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