Interacting with patients and their families can be very rewarding. Most are kind, grateful for the care we provide, and responsive to our instructions. Effectively communicating with patients can sometimes be challenging, and patients may say and do things that add to these challenges.

Here are six things I’d like to say to patients, as well as some steps that may help avoid saying them.

We love a good sense of humor, and also love sharing banter with you as we prepare you for surgery.  However, please do not tease about the stuff that matters:  what we are doing for you today, when you last ate  or drank, or other critical questions that require serious answers.

Sometimes, a simple…”these next three questions I require your attention as part of our safety process” may get the message across. 

Please tell your caregiver to dress warmly and bring an activity to pass the time.   For them, much of the time in our center will be both boring and cold, and we can’t fix that.  We hate it when they look cold and miserable, and our bath blankets are in limited supply.

Include caregiver expectations as part of the pre-op teaching process.  Something like “It tends to be cold and boring for caregivers here, so instruct them to dress warmly and bring something to do” . 

I wish we were not running late.  It is something we hate, and do everything to prevent it.  Once we are behind, however, we cannot fix it.  You would not want us to rush anything for your care, and we won’t do it for others either.

On late running days, I try to keep everyone updated, both in pre-op and in the lobby.  Proactive communication prevents some of the frustration.  Sometimes, a reminder to the the patient that they wouldn’t want us to rush their care helps.

NPO means NPO.  Please follow our fasting  guidelines.  It is not just an inconvenience for you, it may impact your safety.  A little food prior to surgery is not worth a hospital transfer and pneumonia or worse.

When providing NPO instructions prior to surgery, including that the reason is for their safety, which may mprove compliance.

We don’t judge you if you smoke. However, it will slow your healing and impact your post operative course.  Also, please don’t smoke as much as possible prior to arrival, as the smell stays with you and impacts others.  Same with perfume and cologne.  Even our “nurses noses” are impacted when overdone.

Including the no smoking or fragrances as part of the pre-op teaching.

Please don’t give us your driver’s license weight.  I know mine lists my goal weight.  We won’t tell anyone, and if we were good at guessing, we’d have joined the carnival.  We use your weight to make decisions about medication dosages and equipment safety.

Include weight measurement as part of the pre-operative process prior to surgery.

Do you have honest advice you would love to share with patients?  I would love to hear them!  Please share in comments, or send me an e mail at  Thanks!




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