A nurse’s subconscious mind

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There are just some things non-nursing folks will never understand. It’s not a ‘knock’ against those who are not a nurse, really it’s not. What I’m talking about is how your brain gets ‘re-wired’ once you become a nurse. I don’t know if it happened overnight? Maybe it happened gradually over the past half decade? What I do know is my mind thinks and processes things SO differently than it did prior to being a nurse. I wonder… am I brainwashed??

Here’s what being a nurse can do to the mind!

  • At the restaurant, we silently hope that the person choking at the table next to us doesn’t need assistance – yet, if they do, we’ll be the first to run to their side.
  • Walking through the fog of a public ‘smokers break area,’ we all want to reach out and smack you. Do you want to die breathing through a tube?
  • While phlegm doesn’t normally bother (most) of us at work, the sight or sound of you hacking up a lung in public really does bother us. Especially when you don’t cover your mouth!!!
  • Public restrooms. Yes – there is nothing sanitary about them most of the time. What we can’t stand is witnessing someone use these facilities and then walk out without washing their hands! (How am I supposed to pull the door open and exit the bathroom without contaminating my hand??)
  • For some strange reason, we can never look at another person’s arms the same ever again. Every time we see a good vein? Yep, you guessed it. We think to ourselves, “Wow! I could start a #16 gauge needle in there!” Sorry.
  • We continue to micro-analyze anything on TV or in the theater that has a shred of health care related activities. “Oh yeah, THAT would happen,” has echoed through our minds one too many times.
  • To this very day, I think we all have been cursed with measurements. We subconsciously measure how much we’ve urinated, how many CC’s of fluid we drank and, of course, how many carbs were in our meals.
  • While on vacation – no matter the geographic location – we somehow ‘notate’ and remember where the closest emergency room and hospital are located.
  • I’m not sure if it’s just a nursing thing, I think paramedics share this curse, too. We carry a spare set of scrubs stored in our vehicles, along with old ‘not in use’ equipment like stethoscopes, pen lights and scissors.
  • We shake our heads at those wonderful ‘blood pressure screening stations’ located throughout the supermarkets and discount stores. Ahahaha! I think we are more troubled by the fact that the public believe these measurements to be accurate.
  • We still (often) forget that it’s not common practice to talk about blood, bodily functions and bodily fluids as a discussion topic during a meal. Again, sorry.
  • Yes, we find humor in the most disgusting and disturbing things sometimes (OK, all the time). I’d like to think it’s our defense mechanism for making sure we don’t drive ourselves crazy and burn out.

This just scrapes the surface of what goes on behind the doors of our minds. I continue to convince myself that I’m not brainwashed, but that I have been trained and educated to always ‘be prepared’. I have to admit though, sometimes you have to wonder…

(That was a joke folks)

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7 Responses to A nurse’s subconscious mind

  1. wahela LPN

    I get all nerved up if I see someone sitting on the floor. (yes, I subconsciously think they fell). I was in a bar with a close friend, and I noticed the guy sitting next to us looking at us in horror. I thought back to what we were talking about and sorry Mister, i didn’t realize we were talking about urine casts and how a guy with BPH can have the foley come back out the top when it can’t go through the prostate.

    • Sean Dent Scrubs Blogger

      @wahela Ahhh yes. I think we’ve all thought someone fell when we see them on the floor.

  2. hp4373 RN

    In smaller towns we tend to go out of our own town to grocery shop or enjoy a meal out to avoid running into patients who will stop you to inform you they need a refill on their prescription or that they will begin to tell a story about the pain they’re having in their abdomen and pull their shirt up to show you exactly where it hurts…in the meat isle at WalMart…

  3. Jason Hautala RN

    I totally agree that nursing changes you forever. Just to vent some of the horrific things I see in the ED, I wrote a collection of emergency medicine haiku. If you think poetry should be about important things like lung butter, poop, and narcotic seekers, then check out Haiku STAT! at haikustat.com. My home town newspaper wrote up a little article about it here: http://tdn.com/lifestyles/er-nurse-deals-with-harsh-working-conditions-through-haiku/article_73d8da04-189d-11e1-8fb1-001cc4c03286.html

  4. UserNameRN

    Any time you are in public and you see elderly people who are very unsteady you are mentally assigning them a fall risk score and wondering where they put their red/yellow socks!

  5. carolslee1949

    One of my habits that my family finds annoying is analyzing everything the staff does, especially the nurses. When my son was hospitalized, he had to have a suprapubic catheter inserted because of urethral damage. I noticed that the dressing was working it’s way down the tubing and asked his nurse shouldn’t it be changed. The nurse did not know I am an RN, looked at me, and asked, rather sarcastically, “So, how long have YOU been a nurse?” I answered, “I’ve been an RN for over 40 years. I’ll be glad to change the dressing for you.” After that, I heard from a friend who floats to that unit, that when they give report, they always reference that “the mom is an RN”, like keep clear of her. I know that sometimes my behavior embarrasses family members, but it feels ingrained.

  6. Lee Lynnette Szczepura

    So true, I remember my mother and I talking, she was a nursery CNA back in the day; we talked about Meconium at lunch and how babies sometime swallow it in vitro. I looked up and saw the waitress looking at us with disgust. Of course we laughed. How we find humor sometimes is beyond me.