5 (humorous) times when it’s okay to panic on the job


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As nurses, we pride ourselves on being calm and collected, even in hectic situations. If somebody’s having a breakdown, or coding or bleeding everywhere, we remain cool and do what needs to be done.

When should you panic, though? I have some answers.

1. When your patient is actively, incontrovertibly on fire.
Put that bad boy out, but feel free to panic while doing so.

2. When your patient codes after being involved in a biological waste spill, then starts mumbling about brains when you bring them back.
It’s probably best to leave the building at a high rate of speed before they get really hungry.

3. When your patient is having a baby. And the patient’s a man.
Who on earth do you call? OB? General surgery? The Weekly World Crazypants News?

4. When your patient has long fingers and toes, looks a little grey and listless…and then you realize he has horizontal eyelids.
Aliens are a very small subspecialty of general internal medicine; it’s probably best to try to get Mr. Grey transferred to another facility for a higher level of care.

5. When you notice that the window is open and there’s a rope made of bedsheets leading out of it.
This is the perfect time to panic, unless your patient was a total pain in the patookus, in which case, remain calm. Say nothing. Shut the door and smile to yourself.

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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