How to Know If You Are Nurseplaining or Not

Key facts about nurseplaining

In the healthcare profession, effective communication is crucial for patient care and teamwork. However, there is a thin line between sharing valuable information and unintentionally coming off as condescending or dismissive. Enter “nurseplaining,” a term used to describe a situation where a nurse, with the best intentions, may unknowingly over-explain or patronize others.

In this blog post, we will explore what nurseplaining is, why it matters, and how to ensure that your communication is constructive rather than condescending.

What is Nurseplaining

Nurseplaining is a portmanteau of “nurse” and “explaining,” and it typically refers to situations where healthcare professionals, especially nurses, might unintentionally talk down to others by providing excessive or unnecessary explanations. While nurses are often highly knowledgeable and skilled individuals, the delivery of information can sometimes be perceived as patronizing, undermining effective communication and collaboration.

Why Nurseplaining Matters

Recognizing nurseplaining is crucial because it can negatively impact teamwork, hinder effective communication, and potentially harm patient outcomes. When team members feel patronized or dismissed, it erodes trust and collaboration. Patients, too, may feel disempowered or hesitant to ask questions about their own care if they sense condescension. Therefore, being aware of nurseplaining and preventing it is essential for fostering a positive and collaborative healthcare environment.

Signs of Nurseplaining

Assuming Ignorance: One of the key signs of nurseplaining is assuming that others, whether they are colleagues or patients, lack basic knowledge. This assumption can lead to providing information in a way that seems overly simplistic or condescending.

Overuse of Medical Jargon: While medical jargon is a vital part of healthcare communication, its excessive use without adequate explanation can be a form of nurseplaining. Communicating in plain language ensures that everyone involved, regardless of their medical background, can understand and participate in the conversation.

Interrupting or Dismissing Questions: A tendency to interrupt or dismiss questions, assuming they are too basic, is another red flag. Everyone has different levels of understanding and learning styles, and a willingness to answer questions with patience and respect is crucial.

Body Language and Tone: Non-verbal cues are just as important as words. A condescending tone, eye-rolling, or dismissive body language can all contribute to nurseplaining. Pay attention to how your words might be perceived and adjust your tone and body language accordingly.

How to Avoid Nurseplaining

Practice Active Listening: Actively listen to your colleagues and patients. Understand their concerns and perspectives before providing information. This not only demonstrates respect but also ensures that your responses are tailored to their specific needs.

Use Inclusive Language: Instead of making assumptions about someone’s knowledge level, use inclusive language that invites collaboration. Phrases like “Let me know if you have any questions” or “Feel free to ask for clarification” create an open and non-judgmental space for communication.

Adapt Your Communication Style: Recognize that people have different learning styles and levels of expertise. Tailor your communication to the individual, adjusting your approach based on their background and familiarity with medical concepts.

Encourage Questions: Create an environment where questions are welcomed and valued. By encouraging others to ask questions, you not only promote a culture of learning but also ensure that your communication is clear and understandable.


Effective communication is the backbone of successful healthcare delivery. Avoiding nurseplaining requires self-awareness, active listening, and a commitment to adapting your communication style to meet the needs of others. By fostering a collaborative and inclusive environment, healthcare professionals can work together seamlessly. Thereby, ultimately improving patient outcomes and creating a more positive workplace culture. So, the next time you find yourself explaining something, take a moment to reflect on how your words might be received and strive for communication that uplifts rather than alienates.

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