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8 Frustrating Work Scenarios Nurses Can Relate To

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By Monica Florita, R.N.

Our profession as nurses makes us exceptional compared with the others. We have experiences that make us distinctive, that even if mixed with other professions, we can identify who are the great nurses based on the focus of the conversation. When we are having our therapy sessions – meaning our chitchats during break times – these scenarios have high probabilities of being talked about:

1. IV Insertion

IV insertion is a skill needed to be mastered in our profession. However, for some nurses, this is a one-of-kind frustration that may turn you upside down and tilt you for the rest of your shift!

Failing to hit the vein in one shot makes you low-spirited. During times of bad omen when you can’t hit it while the relative is watching intently or your patient is also a health professional, can you relate to these?

  • You uttered a prayer before and during the procedure.
  • You swore to the vein gods that you will accurately count and not guess the respiratory rate of you stable patient for a one full painful minute, just if you hit this one.
  • Telling the patient, “You seemed tense, that’s why your veins are hiding” or “You moved, relax and then we’ll try again.”

See? It’s just hilarious how witty we are in creating passable excuses.

iv insertion gone wrong

This can be a top notch in the list of nurse’s frustrations. The best we can do? Ask for help. If you cannot do it for the first time, you may try for a second but reassure and don’t let your patient doubt you. If needed, ask your fellow nurse to break your chain of negativity. Remember, there is always tomorrow to try out your skill. Just tap your back for trying. A failed attempt is always better than not trying.

2. Foley catheter insertion.

Foley catheter insertion can be confusing especially in older women. Have you asked yourself “It’s so easy in the picture, why does it have to be this complicated in the actual scene?” I remember my preceptor telling us to recall the mnemonic CUVA which stands for clitoris, urethra, vagina, anus – the landmarks you need to look out. This can help but make sure to do it discreetly. You don’t want to do that work too long, or make your patient left wondering why are you looking starstruck on her. Do not try on every hole you see. Tip of advice, it’s the second hole.

foley meme

Also, during IFC removal, remember to aspirate, or you just gave your patient the worst pain of her life.

3. NPO disobeyed by patient (or any other orders)

A necessary procedure to be done requires a patient on NPO (non per orem). You did not fail to remind him not to eat or drink anything from midnight until the morning. Morning came, and you’re ready to transfer the patient, only to know that he brushed his teeth and drank water. What a bomb to be dropped directly in front of you. Frustrating, right? Is it your fault or the patient? It can be both.


My instructor in college told us that it’s the nurse’s responsibility to explain every procedure and makes sure they understand. You wonder it yourself, “What more explanation do I have to say?” In other words, it’s a case of misunderstanding which leads to a frustrating phenomenon.

Tip: Include the relative during health teaching if the patient finds it hard to interpret your instruction. Remember to use layman’s term in explaining.

4. Lost and Found pens

Nurses’ goal: Remain with my pen intact throughout the shift. Not just doctors, nurses as well often makes an exasperating sound upon finding out that they can’t grope their pens in their pockets, at the moment they need it.


When you are a pen-dependent-nurse, this occurrence is simple yet frustrating. Even during check-ups where pens are a crucial tool, a lost one makes you look everywhere, consuming your time and energy. I know this is very childish, but admit it, some nurses can’t work without gripping their personal pens, right? You are a nurse if you don’t have your own pen, or you have one that is not yours.

5. Last Hour Toxicity

Who wouldn’t find this frustrating? Last hour toxicities are a pain in the gluteal muscle. Though these are inevitable, you can’t help but sigh to another ‘wrong place in the wrong time’ scene. Wrong place: you are still there in the ER. Wrong time: happened one minute before ‘the bell rings’. Oops! It’s your day off tomorrow.

spice things up

For us nurses, this can be a dilemma: to help or not to help. I’ll be neutral on this one. Have a choice, but be sure to prioritize also yourself. Similar to giving first aids, ensure your safety first. It’s your choice to help but if there’s an available help, let them and take your break. In nursing, you’re one lucky guy if you get home in time.

6. Explaining to the patient (or relative) that internet data is not the answer.

This is a drawback of using the information on the internet. All kinds of information, may it be right or wrong, can be unrestrictedly available to everyone.


Some omniscient patient or relative got you and asked all about your procedures because they did not read it on the internet. Worse, they accused you of doing the wrong thing! Ugh! Nurses, be calm. They are not testing your patience; they are merely using intellectualization to ease their anxiety. So explain carefully, be patient and do not let this frustration eat you.

7. Monitoring the vital signs of a difficult patient. 

Has your patience been tried by a difficult patient who is on strict vital signs monitoring, let’s say every 30 minutes or so? Now this can rather be annoying, isn’t it? For these kinds of patient, explain the procedure ahead to set expectations. Maintain eye contact to assert that you are serious but avoid striking body languages like grimacing or scowling.

8. Bubbles in the IV tubing. 

For some, this an occurrence that can be time and energy consuming, a simple task yet like magic, it just happens. This can be a frustrating for a busy nurse.

You know what? Instead of being annoyed, use this as a bonding time with your patient. Just be sure that you are finished before you run out of topic. Let this experience be a frustratingly funny thing you can discuss with your fellow nurses.

Monica Florita is a registered nurse in the Philippines. She worked in hospitals before deciding to be an Occupational Health nurse. She considered writing a hobby as useful in imparting knowledge and inspiration to members the nursing profession.

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