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Patient types: Which one are you?




It’s never a dull day in the hospital, particularly in the nursing floors. The longer you work as a nurse, the more you can’t help but notice patterns in the types of patients. They make you laugh, make you cry, make you want to pull your hair out and, at times, remind you of exactly why you got into this line of work. No matter what, you can always count on them to liven up your shifts.
If you’ve worked long enough as a nurse, you’ve probably encountered these patients:

The self-diagnoser. This is the one who is convinced they’ve contracted some rare disease from some third world country after entering a few common cold symptoms into an online symptom-checker. Thankfully nurses are there to field the questions and help correct the diagnoses when they go a little overboard.

These patients are sure they have something rare, trendy and difficult to treat. They are often disappointed when they don’t have multiple specialists asking them insightful questions they’ve already prepared answers for.

The one with the overbearing family. You walk into a patient’s room, full of visiting family members. All eyes shift to you. In an instant they bombard you with a litany of questions. Or they try to speak for their fully capable family member in a misguided attempt at showing they care.

The pampered patient. Their orange juice is more important than the other patients’ chart encoding! This patient wants special treatment, grows irritated at unexpected wait times or strolls in late to their appointment. They want the five-star experience during their stay and might show their diva side when things aren’t up to their high standards.


The one you get attached to. You’ve been told not to get attached to your patients, but the head and the heart don’t always agree. You’ll likely find yourself remembering special patients long after they’re gone. Whether it was their optimistic outlook, or the way you bonded before a big surgery, some patients occupy a special place in your heart.

Nurses who sincerely care for the welfare of their patients holistically will give more focused, intentional and attentive nursing care. Emotionally healthy nurses will be able to set boundaries, while at the same time, perform competent, loving care and nurture their patients.

The skeptic. These incredulous patients are always looking for a second opinion. They may come into their appointment with medical knowledge after a little online research. However, this patient is hesitant to accept any of your explanations or advice, questioning your every move.

The one that never goes to the doctor. You know this patient — the grumbling husband, dragged into his appointment by his concerned significant other. They’re rarely happy to see you and think their time would be better spent elsewhere — running errands, finishing that project at home or a million other excuses. And they can’t remember the last time they had a checkup or visited a doctor’s clinic.

Between hospital-acquired infections, mistakes, drug allergies and side effects and treating the symptoms instead of dealing with the root cause, this patient has had enough. Actually, two other types of patients fall into this category: the patient in denial who doesn’t want to hear that he is sick, and the patient in excellent health who wants to stay that way. Either way, they’re not happy to see you.

The one who thinks they’re the nurse. These patients may have grown up with a medical professional in the home, or maybe their spouse is a nurse’s aide. No matter the case, they think they know enough to make sound medical decisions — despite how much your professional opinion differs.

They’ll say things like, “My neighbor died after taking a blood pressure medicine, so I’d better not.”

The one who thinks they’re the nurse. Ever the curiosity, the selectively natural patient seems to opt for homeopathic remedies on a whim, but what they have in selectiveness they lack in consistency.

These are the type who take Tylenol at the first glimmer of a headache but decide to try an all-natural labor.

The one who reminds you why you do what you do. Even on your toughest days when nothing seems to go right, there will always be the patients who remind you of why you responded to the call of nursing and took up the rigor and reward of the field.

Whether it’s the humbling moments of your toughest patients fighting for their lives, the patients who are truly grateful for your care or simply knowing you made someone’s time in the hospital a brighter experience, these special patients come into your life again and again to remind you of why you first became a nurse.

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