Nurses and doctors told not to call patients ‘love’ or ‘dear’

HSE’s new recommendations for hospital staff criticised as ‘political correctness gone mad’

Nurses and doctors in Irish hospitals have been urged not to call patients “love” or “dear”, the HSE has said.

Other pet names, such as “girls”, “lads”, or “boys”, should also not be used by medical staff on wards, under new recommendations from the health executive to ensure staff in hospitals speak in a way that is “person-centred”.

Healthcare workers in hospitals have been further instructed to avoid referring to patients by their bed number, diagnosis or affected body area.

“Do we talk about ‘feeding people’ instead of assisting with meals, or refer to someone coming back from theatre as ‘the hip’/‘the hernia’/‘knee’ etc?” the HSE advice states.


“This is a powerful exercise to help raise awareness of how depersonalising some commonly used language can be.”

The recommendations, issued in a report responding to a national patient experience survey, prompted some to lament the passing of “how are you feeling, love?” and other informal expressions.

Michael O’Keefe, a consultant ophthalmologist at the Mater hospital in Dublin, said the recommendations were political correctness “gone mad” at a time of an acute hospital bed shortage and soaring waiting lists for operations.

Communication skills

The report published last week said the communication skills of hospital staff can have a profound impact on healthcare outcomes and the experience of patients and their families.

Working in healthcare can lead to burnout and decreasing compassion and empathy for patients, so it was important that staff used “person-centred” language, it said.

Responding to the advice, the Irish Patients’ Association said hospitals should strike a balance and not come across as completely clinical and cold.

“Sometimes the relationship of a nurse or a doctor or other allied professions – by the way they interact with a patient in an empathetic way – can actually make their [a patient’s] journey a little bit easier.”