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25 Best-Kept Secrets of Nurses — Finally Spilled!

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By Sheena Maireen Saavedra, BSN, R.N.

Society is blind to some truths, mainly because it is better to hide them than to share them to the outside world and risk being misunderstood. So we nurses keep some things a secret just to maintain the peace of everyone involved.

Being a nurse is a challenge in the sense that a person’s physical, emotional, and mental ability are being put to the test on a daily basis. It drains us in all those aspects – from lifting patients that weighed a hundred KG, to crying in the corner when a baby in the NICU passed away in our arms, to always be quick with our decisions on what to do next when the patient is vomiting copious amounts of blood.

It’s pretty graphic to read, I know. But that is why we nurses have learned to create our little workarounds to make our job a bit lighter to bear – the secret to our success.

From the day Florence Nightingale founded the modern day nursing in 1860 down to the newer version of the profession, here are some of the secrets that has been passed on from dear Florence Nightingale herself to her daughters who have answered to her call of servitude to the world (just kidding, these secrets that I am about to spill may or may not have happened in the time of Florence at all – but who can know these things?!).

If you are a nurse, these 25 best-kept secrets of nurses might resonate with you as well.

1. You have no idea how many times we have saved you.

There are those times when the doctor-on-duty is super groggy from lack of sleep, that they may have prescribed you with a laxative when you are already having diarrhea. Or those times when he might have prescribed you with a minuscule dose of the painkiller, so we asked him to change it because we think you need more – or the other way around, when we think that you are getting overdosed.

Checking it twice, gonna find out who's naughty or nice.
Checking it twice, gonna find out who’s naughty or nice.

We have the courage and the professional obligation to question anything that the doctors have said that we think is off – because we are the ones who are with you 24/7. We, nurses, know you better. Keep this in mind the next time you receive medication from your nurse. War might have occurred before that, but we won’t tell you these things, because we are protecting our doctors too, like how they are protecting us nurses in return.

2. We are so used to anything crazy that almost nothing fazes us anymore.

An unfazed nurse is an experienced nurse.
An unfazed nurse is an experienced nurse.

You come into the ER with a knife stuck on your arm? Cool, no problem. Lie down for a second while I get you some chamomile tea, and we can chat about what happened while I patch you up.

3. We know if you are telling lies.

Oh we know. We also have a high-tolerance for bulls#it.
Oh, your nurse knows. We also have a high-tolerance for bulls#it.

Sometimes, we sneak around your door without you knowing to see how you are doing. If you are laughing and texting and started moaning the minute, I come in, better, believe me, I am trying my hardest not to roll my eyes. It is a battle of wits me and you. And please, you have to stop this malingering thing, this hospital is not your vacation spot. And no, I won’t cut your food for you, I saw you texting just fine a while ago.

4. Like how we can see through your lies, we can also see through your drama.

Can someone die from eye-rolling too much?
Can someone die from eye-rolling too much?

There was a time when one of my colleagues in the ER has a patient who needed a tetanus shot. The patient was whining and being a drama queen, refusing to get his tetanus injection and not wanting to leave the hospital premises. Ironically, the patient’s body was riddled with countless tattoos! Can you imagine my friend’s disbelief? After an hour of convincing, he finally consented. Then my colleague took a needle with a bore that’s larger than the usual gauge we use and gave the injection with a poker face. Vengeance is sweet as what she said, for that patient wasted her time as she tried to convince him to receive the medication.

5. They say among the tribes of men, this is the age of heroes because nurses are abundant.

Always thank your nurse quote!
Always thank your nurse!

Well, for most of the shift, we don’t feel like heroes at all. We just want the shift to be over and look forward to just crash on our bed. Most of us would like to quit as well.

But once you start saying a simple thank you, or you specifically acknowledge those moments when it was evident that we definitely went out of our way to make you feel better (like buying you a slice of pizza perhaps just because you are refusing your dinner) – that’s when we feel like we can conquer the world.

It feels wonderful when our actions are being recognized and appreciated. And the more you appreciate our acts, the more we do things for you to make your stay in the hospital a better experience. And I guarantee you, without you asking, you will get an extra blanket or another cup of coffee, or anything that will make you feel extra special. We are human after all. We respond positively to kindness by spoiling you in return for just a wee bit.

6. But believe me that how you deal with me will be passed on to the next nurses after my shift will be over.

When a patient calls you a bitch, then 5 minutes later asks you to do something. Nurse meme
*puppy eyes*

These colleagues of mine have been my allies since time immemorial, and they would trust my words over yours. And it will definitely affect how they will deal with you later on. So if you are being b*tchy and is all over the place with your unattractive attitude, the rest of the team will get the word.

7. It is still a mind-boggling thing for us when everything that happens around the patient is always our fault.

Nurses: The Frontliners of Fault-Care *ahem* I mean Healthcare.
Nurses: The Frontliners of Fault-Care *ahem* I mean Healthcare.

There are times when nurses get berated for things that are not in our scope. For example, how could a delay in your X-ray result be our fault? When it’s the other department who were slacking with their job? We sometimes get yelled at by disrespectful family members or shockingly, our own senior nurses, and the humiliation hurts a lot. So we cry in the bathroom, dust it off, and pretend that we are still bright and shiny after that. After all, the show must go on, right?

8. Sometimes, we don’t wait for a prescription.

Nurses Dispense Comfort, Compassion, and Caring Without Even a Prescription (Nurse Quote)
Experts of comfort, compassion, and caring.

We don’t wait for the written recommendation by anyone if we can get away with it. Believe it or not, we also hate the waiting game. If let’s say you are rapidly losing weight in a span of few days, we are already giving you a food supplement or two with your meals before the dietician comes in and prescribe one for you. On nursing homes, this is especially true as dieticians would only do rounds once a month and it’s painstakingly frustrating. Don’t worry, experience already told us clues on what the dietician would recommend anyway.

9. I know sometimes we would ask you to do something that is not your usual behavior.

We care for your wellbeing. It's our business!
We care for your wellbeing. It’s our business!

Perhaps a nurse has requested for you to hold the hand of your dying mother, or have asked that you snuggle with your mom on her hospital bed. It may seem awkward at first, but chances are, these nurses would know what is best for both the patient and the next of kin – and they would know how a dying person looks. Years of experience have sharpened our internal radar for that. Nurses have seen death so many times, and they have seen how lonely a dying person must have felt. The human dynamics is the same in almost everyone, and we would know what works or what wouldn’t – and we know that love and affection are needed the most in the last hours of a person’s life.

10. We hate charting.

No kidding. It is a very unproductive part of our shift. But we have this ridiculous mantra which goes: If it’s not documented, it didn’t happen. 

Yes, I charted that I charted what I previously charted.
Yes, I charted that I charted what I previously charted.

We spend our days thinking we might get sued, so we make sure we cover ourselves first by writing how we cared for you. Whether we like it or not, it is a fact that half of our body is already in jail – which is why some people would blackmail or threaten to sue us in court. Basically, that is our kryptonite. Yikes.

11. Just ask for the good stuff.

We know where the goodstuff are, just ask nicely.
We know where the good stuff is, just ask nicely.

If you are good to your nurse, your nurse will be good to you too! We know where the hospital keeps the extra pillows and blankets. All you have to do is ask.

12. The physician relies on the nurses the most.

We got your back and your physician's back! ;)
We got your back and your physician’s back! ;)

The patient may rely on the doctor’s opinions and decisions, but here’s a little secret for you: The doctor’s decision would always include a nurse’s point of view. Your doctor would ask for our assessment and opinions regarding your health. You may say that you are well and ready to be discharged, but if your nurse saw you wincing while massaging your chest a while ago, your doctor will take the nurse’s word for it. Patients spend most of their hospital time with a nurse so we know. Hate us for being too observant but you’re welcome!

13. We wish you to stop googling your symptoms.

My mug for my fuel.
My mug for my fuel.

It’s good to know that patients are educated with their symptoms. But if you think your snoring at night is directly caused by a tumor growing in your throat as what WebMD says, please stop, I beg you. There is a high possibility that you are overreacting.

14. We have a love-hate relationship with the profession.

"I AM the nurse"
“I AM the nurse”

Some days we feel like we are endowed with the ability to heal people. And then some days, we just want to throw in the towel and run screaming into the woods. Nurses are vulnerable to burnout and compassion fatigue. It takes a brave little heart to still show up for your next shift after so many unpleasant encounters in the job.

15. You might witness us in the ER during a code, and you might be impressed at how everybody works like a well-oiled clock, all in sync.

Unsupportive and bully nurse colleagues meme.
Well, sometimes.

Like we can do no wrong. But always keep this in mind: before we got that kind of efficiency when we were just little chickens of the industry, we have cried in the toilet at least twice, or more after the doctor had yelled at us, in front of everybody, for being “too slow.” Sometimes we are called stupid. And pathetic. And useless. But that harsh lesson is part of the learning curve. It is part of the nursing culture where the seniors would often eat their young. It is a vicious cycle because we would sometimes take our frustrations out on one another.

16. To our family, please forgive us if we can’t celebrate a holiday with you.

What holidays?
What holidays?

And what is Christmas? What do you mean it’s today? What are we celebrating on January 1 again? I think I’ve heard about that years ago, but I can’t remember now after I took up this job.

17. We don’t need to go to the gym to do deadlifts – we just lift our patients instead.

Let me know if lifting a 350lbs patient becomes an Olympic sport.
Let me know if lifting a 350lbs patient becomes an Olympic sport.

It is all part of the care that we do to ensure that your skin remains intact and free from bed sores. And while this may seem odd that I would highlight this in this post, but please, be aware of the rising cases of obesity in the country. Most of the patients we’ve had either suffered from a mild or severe case of obesity and lifting them is putting a danger to us even with the proper technique and equipment. So please, cut off the soda drinks and the fatty foods and the sugar in your coffee. It benefits both of us.

18. We know how to have fun! But we seriously have a dark sense of humor.

Nurse-someone who has seen more penises than a prostitute. Nurse meme.
Yeah, it’s kinda alarming.

Have you scared your colleague in the middle of the night by ringing the call bell of an empty room and then grabbing them by the ankles when they check in? Or have you made a squirt gun out of syringes? Or have you talked about poop while eating chocolate mousse during lunch break? And yes, we are very inappropriate with our jokes at times because they are too “green”. It will definitely cause my poor dead grandmother to turn in her grave.

19. We gossip.

Nurse gossiping -- artist's rendition.
Nurse gossiping — artist’s rendition.

And yes, about your personal life too. But don’t worry, we keep your secrets amongst ourselves, and we will never judge you. But, we are sorry though, we just can’t resist.

20. Don’t mention the “Q” word.

Nurse Quiet Meme
I double dare you…

If you don’t want to be murdered in the ER, don’t jinx the shift by saying “it’s quiet in here”. Nurses abide by a number of superstitions and saying words like “quiet” or acknowledging that it’s a “slow day” will guarantee an influx of new patients. Speaking of superstitions…

21. The Full Moon phenomena are real.

Full moon differential...that might work! Nurse full moon meme.
Full moon differential…that might work!

When everything is screaming, spitting, roaring, and generally going mad – yep, it is a full moon night. Believe me, it’s real. So if you are planning to go to the hospital on a full moon – don’t!

22. We get sexually objectified – a lot.

Nurse sexy funny meme.
Yes dear, helping people is the NEW sexy.

I blame those raunchy websites depicting the nurses as super hot and sexy! Have you seen how our hair is all jumbled because we have been on our feet running around for the most part of our toxic shift? That is not sexy at all.

And no, the nurse is not flirting with you just because we’re being kind and nice. We, nurses, know how to maintain and keep a professional boundary with our patients. We’ve had a whole semester to learn about it in nursing school!

23. We like your gifts, but a ‘thank you’ is more than enough.

We like your gifts, be it meals, donuts, or cakes. With all sincerity, we like them and thank you! The gesture alone is enough to lift our spirits!

24. We are starving but we haven’t got the time to grab our lunch yet.

Sleep, shower, or eat? So tired nurse meme
Story of my life.

We want to pee but we don’t have the time to do that either. These are just two of the selfless acts that we do for you on a daily basis, just to ensure that we cater to your needs first. Working as a nurse is so hectic, we don’t take breaks as often. Because at the end of the day, your comfort and well-being matter to us the most.

25. We are so full of love, despite the stress that this job gives us.

When we talk to you and your family about the course of actions that we have outlined for you, we are treating this discussion like we are part of your family. You shouldn’t hesitate to ask us for anything because deep inside us, we are very willing to serve you.

The nursing profession may have their differences with the policies in every institution, but I do believe that these are some of our universal similarities, anywhere you go. These truths or secrets are like traditions that are passed on from one generation to the next. This is why we are begging you to be patient with us nurses because we are really trying our best to keep it all together. It doesn’t mean if we snap at you, we are angry at you. It just means we are already at the shortest end of our patience stick. However, this occurrence is very rare, because it really takes a huge load of bad events for us to be on that crabby end. But being a nurse is just like being in New York: If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. We just learned how to roll with it, and so we are still doing fine.

Sheena Maireen Saavedra is a registered nurse since 2007. She is working as a general nurse in Ireland since 2016 but was a nurse in the Intensive Care Unit and Coronary Care Unit when she was in the Philippines. As a person who continually challenges herself to expand her skill set, she ventured into different fields of the medical world, which includes working as a Product Performance Analyst and Quality Analyst in Boston Scientifics Inc, a medical company that manufactures Class III implantable devices such as pacemakers, ICDs, and CRTs. In general, she enjoyed being a nurse as it helped her meet all kinds of people – which impacted her life the most as she listened to their stories of triumph and tribulations. The profession has created avenues for her to make a difference to somebody’s life. This inspired her to write materials, guides and stories that served as sources of inspiration and help to the world around her, in particular to her fellow sisters and brothers of the industry.

20 thoughts on “25 Best-Kept Secrets of Nurses — Finally Spilled!”

  1. I have been a nurse for 32yrs. This article is dead on. Great pick me up. I have faced burn out during my career. Great synopsis of the world of nursing. cheryl

  2. Loved , loved, loved every word…Author nailed it!…25 blessed years a pediatric nurse, now venturing to change my role to adult nursing but ” I know I got this!!”. We are stronger in so many countless ways and for many of us like me, able to raise independent adult educated kids….. So yes, NURSES are great!

  3. I love it! You made me laugh and brought a tear to my eye.
    I’m disabled now, 6 spinal surgeries and counting. I really thought I was using the equipment correctly and lifting properly!lol Your blog made me smile and realize how much being a nurse is in my DNA.
    Thank you, I honestly miss being an RN.

  4. You are still an RN. Once a nurse, always a nurse. It’s like the mafia, they don’t let you out, because you know too much.

  5. So true… I was a phyc. nurse (RN) since ’96 and a phyc. CNA since ’78.
    Talk about a dangerous, stress filled job. I burnt out, got PTSD, I’m now on SSDI.
    Next time around I’m coming back as a Unicorn 😊.

      • Excited for you! Hope the humor you find here will help you through the tough road ahead! :) Best of luck!

  6. Sadly there is a group on Twitter using the art work of the nurse pictured at the top of this post on their Twitter feed to bash nurses and post their information on Twitter. Please check them out because they may be trying to impersonate the author. Twitter account is NPliabilities

  7. Phenomenal humans beings! I had a few surgeries though out my life and always appreciated their hard work. They go through alot, see it all, feel it all….Thank you Nurses for being strong and kind!

  8. It is OK to think about inflicting unnecessary pain on a whining, “needle phobic”, tattooed patient. They are such pains in the A**. It is NEVER, I repeat, NEVER, appropriate, legal, moral, or professional to do so. I’ve been a nurse for 45 years.


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