10 more things only nurses understand

Shutterstock | michaeljung
Shutterstock | michaeljung

Superstitions, secret codes and special language—they’re part of any profession. What do nurses have that nobody else does? As a follow-up to my post last year, here are 10 more things that only nurses understand.

1. How the word “quiet” is like “You-Know-Who” or “The Scottish Play”: You never, ever say that word at work.

2. Why one pair of hemostats isn’t enough. Why stop at one when you can have two to undo stuck IV line connections?

3. The feeling of taking off your shoes at the end of a day that’s been beyond crazy. It’s not just a relief; it’s a ceremony.

4. How you feel like Cinderella when you finally find a box of gloves in your size.

5. The mild anxiety that accompanies any appearance of blood where it ought not to be.

6. That mingling of sadness and relief when a patient who’s really been suffering finally gets put on palliative care.

7. Hearing a doctor who doesn’t know you’re outside the door talk you up to a patient.

8. Punching out at the end of the day and knowing you haven’t left anything undone.

9. How often we use gallows humor just to get through the day.

10. That perfect IV stick on the patient nobody else could get an IV on.

What would YOU add to the list?


Agatha Lellis

Agatha Lellis is a nurse whose coffee is brought to her every morning by a chipmunk. Bluebirds help her to dress, and small woodland creatures sing her to sleep each night. She writes a monthly advice column, "Ask Aunt Agatha," here on Scrubs; you can send her questions to be answered at askauntieaggie@gmail.com.

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14 Responses to 10 more things only nurses understand

  1. Katherine Wylde

    The look on the resident physician face when he realizes the nurses know a heck of a lot more about patients than he/she does.

  2. lemartinez7@hotmail.com

    Secretly knowing your scrubs are more comfy to sleep in than pjs

  3. cassduncan

    that moment when a “baby” nurse realizes they didn’t learn everything in school.

  4. rn16y

    Playing guess what was for dinner after inserting an NG tube!!!!

  5. Grandma Morgan

    the look on a senior persons face when you stop and talk with them

  6. vonya7@aol.com

    The look of incredulity on ur face when the patient walks 2 laps by themself then go to room,get in bed & ask u to bring them water!

  7. ggat11

    As you make your final rounds before 7am and all the patients are alive and breathing on a med surg floor!!

  8. Mustangette

    Trying to keep a straight face and a professional voice when a patient is snoring 30 seconds before they ask for a pain med and rate their pain level at a 10!

  9. RNamy

    Actually being able to go to the ladies room when you want to!

  10. pjks

    The feeling that overwhelms you when a patient comes back to say “thank you” and he was one you really felt wasn’t going to walk out of the hospital.

  11. mangatak

    I’m an unofficial DIALYSIS nurse for my husband nearly 8 years now. Things only at home dialysis partners understand:

    1.The Epogen is in the fridge door right next to the butter.

    2.The insulin is right next to the epogen.

    3. They wonder how I got blood on my shoes?

    4. Just when you thought a “bolus” was a piece of jewelry.

    5. When you talk dialysis talk, your friends think you are speaking in a foreign language.

    6. When some people think my husband has little faucet handles for a dialysis access under his shirt.

    7. Sometimes folks think that I can hook him up and go shopping as long as I’m home when he’s done.

    8. People ask why I carry all the gauze, tape and bandages with me wherever we go.


  12. USArmyBearden

    In response to Things only Nurses Understand! Back the good old days, the relief felt when you FINNALLY broke in those CLINIC Nursing white Oxfords. True heaven was getting home and taking off those H**** Total Support pantyhose!!! I use to kid my male patients when I would remove their thigh length TED Hose at HS, “Now you know what pantyhose feels like! Always got a laugh!

  13. USArmyBearden

    I know this is not “nice” but what shift of ER nurses didn’t set up a pool (change for sodas) for guessing the ETOH Blood Level?

  14. Stephen Segun

    The look on the Dr when u set an I. V line he has been battling with.