You Know You’re a Nurse When . . .

I originally wrote this as a Facebook note about two years ago, but I decided to revise & add to it a bit & share it on the blog today in honor of Nurse’s Week.  This is aimed at all my nursing friends, but I think just about anyone who works in the healthcare field will be able to appreciate, & probably get a good laugh from, many of these.

  • You constantly find yourself staring at people’s veins at the gym, the grocery store, the mall, basically everywhere.  Furthermore, you have to stop yourself from telling strangers “Hey, nice veins!  I’d really like to start an IV on you.”  And maybe sometimes you have actually said that . . .nurse porn veins
  • You can’t imagine ever going back to the dreaded 9-5.  Then again maybe there a few nurses who actually miss that kind of schedule . . . But I know I’m not one of them.
  • You work the majority of holidays, & the only time you’re jealous of your 9-5 friends & family is on those holidays or snow days when everyone else is relaxing & you’re working.  Then again, our 3-day work-weeks are pretty freaking amazing, & I for one wouldn’t trade them for snow day
  • Every time you see an abbreviation on a truck or advertisement that has a different medical connotation, you can’t help but laugh.  For example PSA (public service announcement) makes you think prostate specific antigen.  PTL makes you think pre-term labor & CBI makes you think continuous bladder irrigation (these are both abbreviations I’ve seen on tractor trailers or delivery trucks).
  • You feel really guilty whenever you find yourself complaining about some stupid annoyance in your life because you immediately think about the sick patients you care for whose lives are so much harder than your own.
  • As a consequence of the above observation, you constantly find yourself prioritizing your life & focusing on your friends, family, & pets & spending as much time with them as possible & generally making the most of every day of your life.  I swear we really do have the best job in the world for so many reasons!
  • You truly believe you learn more from your patients than they will ever learn from you.  To be clear, a lot of times the lessons you learn from your patients are “Here’s how NOT to live your life,” but such lessons are still important.mistake cartoon
  • You have gone running into your patient’s room because of the crazy heart rhythm on their telemetry only to discover that the patient (who may well be in his 80s or 90s) is masturbating . . . or actually having sex!  Trust me, I couldn’t make this crap up if I tried.
  • You have had patients ask you out on a date, for a massage, & for all number of completely inappropriate things.  And subsequently you’ve had to remind said patients that you are a professional nurse, not a call-girl or potential girlfriend/boyfriend.
  • You constantly have to remind yourself that taking care of yourself is absolutely vital to being able to care for others.  This can be as simple as taking a bathroom break before it becomes a real emergency.
  • You have to remind yourself that you do not need to record & measure your own I&O (intake & output, that’s what you drink & what you pee, for you non-nursing folks).I&O
  • You have seen & touched every part of the human body.  Every single part & on people of all ages.  And on way too many people to count!
  • Medical TV shows are basically unwatchable because all you do is scream at the TV every time you see an error (shocking asystole) or something that is just painfully unrealistic (like doctors giving medications or performing their own MRIs).medical tv show
  • You have come to realize that there are some things that only nurses can really understand.
  • You understand that the old adage “attitude is everything” really is true.
  • You have realized that you cannot & will not change the life of every patient you meet.  But you understand the value of trying anyway.
  • You often find yourself sharing stories from work at the dinner table only to realize half-way through that not everyone has the stomach of a nurse . . . Oops!gross story eating
  • On a related subject, you can stop half-way through eating your lunch to go collect a stool sample.  Then after washing your hands you can go right back to eating & never think twice about it.
  • You can diagnose C. Diff & GI bleeds based solely on smell.
  • You have witnessed countless times how the sweet little old lady who the day-shift nurse described as adorable can have quite a different personality at night.  Sun-downer’s is real, folks.sundowners
  • You have held the hand of the dying & watched people breathe their last breath. And you have felt incredibly blessed to be able to share in these very special moments.  You have come to realize that there are fates SO much worse than death, & you have guided families in understanding this also.
  • You have cried at the death of a patient you only knew for a few days or even a few hours.  You have hugged the families & provided comfort to them while your own heart is hurting too.
  • You have learned that what people DON’T say is just as important as what they do say.
  • You know how to set aside your emotions & get to work when a Code Blue is called.
  • You constantly find yourself assessing for “falls risks.”  This includes when you’re out in public shopping or running errands.fall risk
  • You have realized that a good nursing assistant is your best friend & can make such a vital difference for you & your patients.
  • You learn something new every time you work, & it’s awesome!
  • You have realized that you will never know it all.  And that’s ok.
  • You have also realized you will never please everyone.  And that’s ok too.
  • You have a really dark, twisted sense of humor that non-nurses often find disturbing or just can’t understand.  But you realize that this is absolutely vital to surviving the insanity of today’s healthcare field.nursing humor 1
  • Just when you think you’ve seen it all, someone goes & proves you wrong.
  • You can’t remember what you learned in nursing school & what you’ve always known.  Like doesn’t everyone know the difference in type 1 & type 2 diabetes?  Oh, maybe that isn’t common knowledge.  Did I know that before nursing school?  I honestly don’t know.
  • On the same subject, you are continually appalled at how little the average person knows about their own body.  For example, you’ve seen women insist that they have a prostate!  It’s no wonder our country is so unhealthy!
  • Every time you get sick, you think you’re dying because you’re trained to think “worst case scenario” for everything.  However, this doesn’t mean you actually go to the doctor, just that you have random thoughts of appendicitis every time your stomach hurts or meningitis/brain tumors every time you have a headache, etc.nurse mommy
  • People you rarely or never actually talk to send you Facebook messages or texts asking about random medical questions, sometimes about rather “sensitive” subjects . . .
  • You have some of the best coworkers in the world from whom you have learned so much & with whom you have shared at various times both laughter & tears.

And I could go on & on, but I’ll stop because this post is probably already long enough.  Happy Nurse’s Week to all my awesome nursing friends & coworkers!  🙂

Murphy’s Law of Nursing

This post is meant to be entirely humorous & should not be taken to mean I hate my job.  Anyone who has been a nurse for more than a few weeks or months will smile & nod because you know these are all so true.

1. If you run out of alcohol swabs, saline flushes, tape, or any such thing it will always be while fully garbed in an isolation room.

2. If you bring more than one IV start kit, you will get it on the first try.  If you bring only one IV start kit, you’ll miss it & have to go back for more supplies.


3. Insulin drips, PD (peritoneal dialysis), & other such patients who require a reduced nurse to patient ratio will always come in 2’s & 3’s which will invariably screw with staffing.

4. Management’s idea of fully staffed will always mean no one ever takes vacation, gets sick or injured, requires surgery, has a family emergency, has a baby, or calls out due to fatigue & exhaustion.

5. The patients who are the sickest &/or in the most pain are often the least vocal about it, sometimes because they are truly too sick to waste energy complaining & sometimes because they “just don’t want to bother you.”  On the other hand, the least sick patients are often the ones with the longest list of demands, many of which are far from reasonable.

disatisffied patient

6. The most popular time to admit or transfer a patient will always be at the very beginning or end of the shift.  And they will always come in 2’s & 3’s & 4’s.

7. The doctors who are the most difficult to get up with in the middle of the night will always be the ones who never order any prn meds or anything that would help save you from having to wake them up at 0300.

8. The patients whose family members are really close to them & truly take good care of them are often the most reasonable & even downright helpful to the nurses.  On the other hand, the patients whose family has ignored them or cared for them poorly will often be the most rude, demanding, & generally impossible to deal with.  A lot of this probably stems from guilt & embarrassment of course, but it’s nonetheless a frustrating paradox to observe someone who has clearly ignored their sick mother for a decade suddenly  watch you like a hawk & quite literally TRY to find a problem with every single thing you do.

demanding patient

9. If you need to perform a STAT glucose check, that will be the exact moment that the glucometer needs to be QC’d.

10. The patient who needs 3 different IV antibiotics, blood transfusions, IVF, & Dilaudid/Phenergan on a regular basis will be an impossible IV stick.

iv cartoon

If you’re a nurse or anything medical, feel free to comment & share your own Murphy’s Law stories.  I’m sure there are tons more.  We really do have the best job in the world, but we have to be able to laugh at the absurdity of it all or we won’t survive.