5 comebacks I wish I had said out loud (and one I actually did!)

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Every once in a while I dream of a day when I can say anything I want—anything at all—and suffer no consequences for it. So, when the Scrubs team asked me to write about the five best comebacks I’ve never actually used at work, I jumped at the chance.

1. To the drug seeker
Patient: “I’m allergic to morphine, codeine and NSAIDs.”
Me: “So…that’ll be two of Dilaudid every two hours, with 25 of Phenergan for the nausea, am I right?”

Nothing says “I’m a junkie!” like swearing you’re not a junkie.

2. To the rude family member
Patient’s family member: “I’ve worked in five hospitals and I’ve never seen a nurse take a lunch break!”
Me: (And yes, I’ve actually heard that one) “You have trouble keeping jobs, then?”

3. To the resident
Resident: “I need a gamma-frogumin three-alpha 6D-90 squammawamma test by TOMORROW!”
Me: “Are you high?”

4. To the patient with a ’tude
Patient: “I don’t have to do what you say!”
Me: “I have all the needles and all the catheters. Choose wisely.”

5. To the physician
Attending physician: “You people are all idiots. It’s amazing patients don’t die here every day.”
Me: “Your fly is open.”

The one smart-ass comeback I’ve actually used came about in this way.

A scruffy-looking individual with his ID tag turned to his shirt came barrelling into my unit one Friday afternoon and demanded report on his patient. I gave him a brief update, covering lab results, neurological status, skin integrity and GI/GU.

His response: “Skin and bowels. Isn’t that just like a nurse?”

Me: “A**hole response. Isn’t that just like a resident?”

Two days later he was introduced to me as the new chairman of the department. He was gracious, extending his hand and saying, “I believe we’ve already met.”

Yeah. Not my finest moment. Thankfully, we’ve gotten along beautifully since then. Still, I wonder: Has my chance to say whatever I want without negative reactions passed? I hope not.

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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