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12 situations that make me panic on the job

iStockphoto | ThinkStock

iStockphoto | ThinkStock

When is it appropriate to panic? I get that question from patients a lot: “Do you ever just panic?”


And I can tell you when and how I panic: In the following situations, in a calm and professional manner. Check it out and add your own!

1. When you can’t get somebody to start breathing or stop bleeding (call for help!).

2. When a patient has an explosive, err, Code Brown and is projectile vomiting simultaneously.

3. When YOU have an explosive, err, Code Brown and are projectile vomiting simultaneously.

4. Audible bleeding.

5. When, no matter the drugs you’ve given, you cannot get the patient’s blood pressure to do what it ought to do.

6. When you see brain exposed to open air.

7. More than a foot of intestine exposed through a wound.

8. Any patient who’s found on the floor (that always should be a group project!).

9. Precipitous labor in a patient not previously known to be pregnant (yes, I have seen this).

10. If you can’t get the vent to stop alarming.

11. If the air conditioner goes out.

12. And finally, and most importantly, if there is no coffee.

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

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