In this post, I’ll pull the curtain back and let you know what your nurse is really thinking. Let’s dive right in!
- Sometimes we talk in riddles, hoping you’ll get it.
A nurse will never outright tell you they think your doctor’s an idiot. They will never tell you your doctor used to think a quarterback was some kind of refund. Or that Boyz II Men was a daycare center. But if your nurse says something like, ‘You have the right to a second opinion,’ take note. Often, that is code for, “I think your doctor’s an idiot.” Doctors aren’t perfect. Want an example? Sometimes doctors don’t order enough pain medication for terminally ill patients.
Once, we had a patient who was going to at the hospital a while and the doctor forgot to order one of his medications. Another doctor ordered the wrong diet for a diabetic patient. Still another MD tried to perform surgery on a patient who didn’t need it.
- Sometimes vein hunting makes us nervous, even though we’re the pros.
John was a jogger. Ordinarily, he took impeccable care of his body, but on one wintry September day, everything changed. John’s wife filed for divorce. He was plagued by half-processed feelings and barely acknowledged fears. John missed work and started eating whatever he wanted whenever he wanted it. At the same time, he doubled down on his jogging routine.
What John did not realize was that he wasn’t drinking enough water. It didn’t help that he was ingesting too much sodium. He chalked his dark amber urine up to “working hard.” John presented with extreme dehydration, with a high fever. He needed an IV line for fluids and antibiotics, stat. Several day shift nurses tried and failed to get the line in. The day shift resource nurse (our “gun slinger”) attempted to find a vein, and failed.
Things weren’t looking good for John.
Three night-shift nurses tried and failed. By the end of it, 8 attempts had been made to get this line in. We were going to go in the hard way: an invasive line—
—I don’t want to freak you out, but a lot can go wrong during venipuncture. Patients faint. Sometimes the tube loses vacuum, which means we stuck you for nothing and will have to stick you again. Sometimes a puncture swells very quickly—hematoma—, leaking blood into the surrounding tissue. This leaves you with a nasty bruise. Nurses searching for an easier way are turning to so-called vein illuminators. These powerful lights render even deep veins visible. That’s exactly what I used to help John. I dimmed the lights, flipped my vein illuminator on, and there it was—a bug juicy vein.
- Keeping your secrets isn’t a huge priority.
Look, we don’t mind when you tell us how clingy your significant other is, how often your mom gripes at you or that you under-reported your income to the IRS. We get it. Life is hard. But you should know that we’re on our feet for 12 hours with nothing to talk about. We reserve the right to parrot your stories to our coworkers.
- You shouldn’t curse your waiter, either.
I’ll give you a quick example. We treat many incontinent patients. We’re supposed to use a wet washcloth to take care of these patients, but often the nice patients get a better treatment: heated wet wipes. Now, your mileage will vary. But I hope the moral of the story is clear: be nice to your nurse.
- If your wife tells you to go to the hospital, go right away.
I’m not sure why, but the women folk are usually right about this. Trust their intuition. It could save your life. We won’t insert ourselves into a marital disagreement. Similarly, we won’t tell you you’re an idiot for waiting a week to go to the ER with chest pain or stroke symptoms, but we will think it.
- We know when you’re faking.
If you’re giggling at your phone and texting at 30wpm when we walk in we won’t buy that your pain is an “8,” “9” or “10.”
- You’re a moderate drinker, huh?
When you tell us how much you smoke, drink or do drugs, we might just triple it to be safe.
- I don’t bring my shoes in when I get home, so you shouldn’t either!
Hospital folks try to keep things sterile. However, sterile is an unobtainable standard. It’s a constant war, and the best we can hope for is “clean enough.” Look, it’s not our fault. We try hard. We’re talking about a facility that takes in sick people. Sick people carry germs. There’s a steady influx of nasty, drug-resistant bugs. When you get home from visiting the hospital, wash your hands several times, then change your clothes and throw them in the wash and take a long shower.
- That may not go so well…
Remember what I said about being nice to your nurse? Don’t say, “You’re too smart to be a nurse!” Assume they became a nurse because that’s what they wanted to do with their life, not because they wanted to be a doctor but couldn’t make the cut.
- If you’re really sick….
Patients who are truly sick don’t complain a lot. Why? Because they’re in pain! Not to be too morbid, but terminal patients can be very considerate. They know they’re dying, and even though they’re in pain, they don’t want to bother the nurse. But the guy a few beds over with a skin infection can’t shut up. No matter how many times you press the call button, your nurse will greet you with a smile. But that doesn’t mean he or she won’t complain about you to the other nurses. This can affect your level of care when the next shift comes on.
- We wish you would tell us about the organic supplements you’re taking.
When you give us a list of drugs you’re taking, make sure you include “organic” or “herbal” preparations. Herbs can interact with drugs.
- Sometimes we lie to you.
One example: if you ask about your biopsy results, we’ll probably tell you they haven’t come in even if they have. Your doctor is the only person who should discuss the results with you.
Thoughts? Let me know in the comment’s section below!