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What is left and right mean????!


A patient tells me their right hand hurts. I would see their right hand as a left hand though. Do i call it the left hand or the right hand?

I'm pretty sure there's a section in the Saunders review on this, hold on, lemme check....

their other right........JKJK

no seriously, place yourself in their position- ( i dont mean literally- mentally) HTH

Been there,done that, ASN, RN

Has 33 years experience.

please refer to the anatomical position we learned in anatomy. The patient is no doubt referring to THEIR right hand, your point of reference is a moot point. I can relate tho,after 29 years, when I place ecg leads I still have to think about their right versus my right! Good Luck, remember,, everything is what the PATIENT says it is.

2ndyearstudent, CNA

Specializes in CNA.

A patient tells me their right hand hurts. I would see their right hand as a left hand though. Do i call it the left hand or the right hand?

I had a huge argument with the maintenance guy at my nursing home over this. I asked him to fix the left footrest of a wheelchair and he said, "The left footrest is fine!"

I pointed to the footrest hanging in tatters and said, "Does that look fine?" He answered, "That is the right footrest, it is on my right!"

I finally got him to understand by explaining the left front wheel of his car is always on the driver's side (in the US) and it never changes postions because someone is standing in front of the car.

Think of what you would call your own left hand or left brain, or left gonad. Does its name change when someone else looks at it? Nope.

Left and right are always from the point of view of the patient. Health care can be so confusing to people that we don't need to throw in a "your left means my right" dilemma too.

It's also a good reminder to consider things from your patients point of view and what a disease or problem means to them.


Specializes in Telemetry, Med Surg. Has 4 years experience.

Hah!!! Just came across this today in clinicals. The pt records said that he had left side hemiparesis. Yeah, it was HIS RIGHT. Apparently lots of people have a hard time with this. Always from the POV of patient. If the patient says, "My left hand hurts," would you really say, "You mean, your right hand?" NO.

The right hand is the right hand whether it is on YOUR right or left because THAT will vary based on where you are in relation to the patient.....but it will ALWAYS be his/her right.

Stand at foot of bed....is it your right or left?......now stand at head of bed...whoops, it reversed....now at side of bed.....not right OR left, its whats further and closer to you.....and then other side of bed....now THAT is switched too.

I think that visualizing comes easier for some people then others, but if you have to, turn and face the way the patient is facing for a moment.

Just like learning things such as heart anatomy. yes in most heart diagrams the right atrium and ventrical were on the left, and the left were on the right, since most are from an anterior view. Left subclavian and brachial arteries were both seen on the right, as the right subclavian and brachial both branch off of the brachiocephalic which in digrams would go to the left. Same with Lymphatic system....right lymphatic duct shown on left, left(thoracic) seen on the right.

Maybe try to concider things in terms of YOUR right and left, and TRUE right and left. True right and left will always be in terms of the subject of what is going on......which in this case is the patient.

In true right and left, the right atrium, ventrical, subclavian and brachial arteries and lymphatic duct ARE all on the right.

Just in YOUR right and left they were oppocite in the diagrams.

Just like when you give directions to someone, and you tell them to turn right at a street, that is right based on where they are facing, not where you are facing.

Edited by PghRN30