5 things I’ll never do now that I’m a nurse

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Oh, heavens. When I look back on some of the crazy stuff I did as a young’un, I can’t catch my breath. Working in a hospital that specializes in neurocritical care has meant a big change in my perceptions of what’s smart and what’s not.

I wasn’t all that wild as a teenager and young adult, really. (Hi Mom!) There were just some things I did that I remember with awe.

Now that I’m a nurse, I would never:

1. Go car-surfing while a buddy of mine attempts to shoot me with a homemade bazooka that fires things tied to firecrackers.
You’d think this would be self-explanatory, wouldn’t you? It’s not.

2. Mix muscle relaxants, alcohol and Tylenol.
I shudder to think that I actually did this more than once, back when I was working in a college bookstore. Something about lifting three or four tons of books a day made it seem like a really good idea.

3. Ski.
If somebody came up to you and said, “Hey! I want you to hurl yourself down this steep hill while wearing a pair of fiberglass knife blades attached to your feet!” you’d look at him like he was cray to the cray to the zee. Yet, if the same person said, “Hey! Let’s go skiing!” you’d be all over it, wouldn’t you? I was, before I saw what running into a tree could do to a brain.

4. Assume that I know anything about anything.
People think that because you’re a nurse, you’ll know everything there is to know about everything from wound glue to chest tubes to newborns. It’s not true. You might have a good overview of things when you come out of school, but specialization rapidly deprives you of any knowledge you might’ve had outside of your field. I tell doctors all the time, “Don’t assume I know jack about what you’re doing, okay?” and it’s true.

5. Take my health or my ability to move for granted.
Any day spent on the right side of the ground is a good day. I am not kidding. If you can get up, move around, take care of yourself in a reasonable manner and communicate somehow, you’re way ahead of a whole bunch of people that I see every day. I have never been so thankful for what I’ve got, and so determined to keep it, as I was after seeing a few brain-injured people in a rehab facility.

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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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25 Responses to 5 things I’ll never do now that I’m a nurse

  1. sharon

    lol…know exactly what you mean…the average american goes to an amusement park and sees a roller coaster, ferris wheel, etc….I see lacerated livers , fractured vertebrae, and traumatic brain injuries…sad isn’t it

    • jadab

      You’re exactly right Sharon! They’re making those rides faster and steeper. The body can only handle so much g-force.

  2. Amyjean

    I have been on the other side of the bed. Lost my career and been out on comp for 10 years due to taking a fall on a wet floor. I would give anything to go back and tried to avoid the wet floor sign rather than walking so close to it.

    • PennyRN

      Amyjean you are the perfect example of being careful and loosing out. So sorry about your pain and loss. I am always called “the wild and crazy nurse” but I’m nott wild & careless. I want to live to the fullest…rather fall off the roller coaster than trip over the wet floor sign, no disrespect meant.

  3. donnarnc

    I will only eat hamburgers well done since I had a patient with ecoli so sick from a raw burger!

    • Scrubs Editor Scrubs Blogger

      Ugh! Great point!

    • StraightCathNoChaser

      Thanks for putting that in my mind as I will never be able to eat a medium or medium rare burger again. I both like you and hate you.

  4. abbyloflin@gmail.com

    Yes, well, there are many things I will not due after my experience recovering from a severe TBI. Medically miraculous and unexplainable they say I am. Learn to walk, write, cook, everything, a second time. A recent graduate from LPN school when the brain injury occurred and recently accepted to RN school, I scored higher on my ACT post brain injury than I did my senior year of high school. I spent three weeks in a coma with a frontal and parietal lobe injury. They debated on opening up my skull to relieve the pressure, but they didn’t have to. I had a collapsed lung and crushed cheek bone and broken jaw. I was deemed legally incompetent by my family as that was the expected outcome. Ten months later I was deemed legally competent, driving, and living on my own. The majority of people do not understand how significant the brain is to the simplest of daily functions, I had a first hand experience. It was a car wreck, I was not driving, nor was I wearing a seat belt. I learned to wear a seat belt.

  5. PennyRN

    I’m 54, done most types of nursing for almost 3 decades. I’ve had cancer, thoracotomy for a lung infection, numerous surgeries and been a health nut. I’m spiritual but not religious. I’ve lost many loved ones and found even more. What I’ll NEVER do as a nurse? I won’t miss the chance to tell someone how much I love them. I won’t miss a chance to try skydiving. Saturday I’ll go to an amusement park with my kids and NOT worry about that big roller coaster crashing. I WON’T listen when I hear naysayers to my motorcycle rides. What I won’t do is to miss a chance to live and experience every rush I can…I know life is too short. I probably won’t try the car surfing bazooka shooting firecracker thing but other than that: I AIN’T DEAD YET!

    • Chellybeans

      I completely understand. Life is too short to take unnecessary precautions that will dull your experience of life (within reason, of course. No fire crackers for me, either!)
      I’m an avid snow skiier, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to give that up. I’m sensible in every other aspect in my life, and while I’m skiing I don’t take any outrageous risks that could possibly end my life, but I want to have fun while I’m on this Earth too.
      As long as we’re sensible, we can have fun too.

  6. jblank2@yahoo.com

    We all are amazed that we made it thru childhood and teen years. Many of us do not know how we survived. Fans with exposed blades, electric sockets with no dummy plugs, red meat…..need I say more? Nursing has a way of waking each of us to the ugly truths of how life honestly turns out. The lessons we learn are painful, emotional, and many times fatal.

    We work daily to save patients from themselves and their families.
    We should all respect each other as Nurses…we know the truth.

    Read more about real issues facing Nursing at http://www.NursEtAl.com We are proud to partner with Scrubs to further the positive discussions facing nurses today.

  7. cheriv




  9. Phancy RN

    One thing I would never do is present myself as a moron to a doctor. I’m a critical care RN, and if you’re working a neuro ICU, then you are too. If you don’t know an answer, of course you can defer to the physician, but you have other resources as well. Saying “don’t assume I know jack about what you’re doing” makes you look like a moron and it doesn’t bode well for the rest of us, either. If you really “don’t know jack” then you’d better start to bone up on your practice.

  10. jclrn

    Things I’ll never do since becoming a nurse:
    1. Sitting on a patient’s bed. I’ve seen doctors and nurses do it to provide a closeness for patient communication. I’ve also had to tell them the person they are sitting with is incontinent—like right now.
    2. Never pick up loose change. Once I was cleaning up an incontinent patient then transferring them from bedside commode to bed. The patient had to have their feet cleaned up before getting in bed. I forgot that I had change in my pocket. I leaned over to wash feet and my change dropped into wet stool. EWE I did not want it back! I placed the filthy coins on a towel and cleaned the patient. I forgot the change and the patient was transferred out of the room. I returned to the room to find the change gone! I asked around and finally asked the housekeeper if she knew what happened. She said yes, she had found the money and put it in her pocket before lunch and she held it out to me in her bare hand. I said,” Keep it!”
    I was not upset with her for taking the money, I didn’t want it. The money had it’s own revenge.
    3. Never let go of an enema. In nursing school, I had to be observed giving a soap suds enema. I had been an aide for years so this was no problem. My instructor stood beside me and she was closer to the patient’s feet. I placed the enema, then my instructor insisted that I let go of it. I knew what would happen. I looked shocked and asked,” Are you serious?!?! I would not do that normally.” She insisted again that letting go was the correct technique. I let go…….. Yes …Those with experience will know. The enema tube shot out like a rocket, spewing it’s vile contents all over my instructor! I said,” You made me LET GO!” She did not grade me negatively.
    4. Never stand at the foot of the bed when a femoral arterial sheath is being removed. No funny stuff, I’ve just seen staff drenched in blood when the site is not stabilized immediately.
    5. Never wear ratty underwear in ICU. Make sure you wear good underwear or your scrub pants are tied if you work in an intensive care area. We have had a code, where the valiant nurse went in and began great chest compressions and then in front of a whole code team ,her scrub pants dropped to the floor. Of course she was a top professional and did not stop cpr. One of her coworkers quickly managed to replace them in sync with the cpr.
    6. Be careful when you turn your patient. Of course to protect the patient but …
    my experience was with someone on a vent, sedated, and medicated. As I started to lift the person’s hips up and over, a familiar toot could be heard. I quickly laid the hip down. Then with a grin at my PCA helper, we started again. The toot happened again. Quiet giggles. We are very hard working and very dedicated so It’s nice to break a smile. I attempted a lift again and the whole horn section of the band started. This was an unusual case. I finally whispered to the PCA, “Would you like me to play you a tune!”(on this instrument)
    7. Never wear white while giving charcoal down and ng. It does not wash out. Just saying…
    My experience involved a person that was non responsive. Tube was placed. Charcoal given. Patient slept through it all. Later, I peeked in on her from the door, and she sat up like a scene in the Exorcist and projectile erupted from her some 12 feet to saturate me from head to toe in charcoal emesis. I stepped out of the room and the doctor was there. I said, “Your patient did not tolerate the charcoal. The Charge nurse said, ” It’s dripping off the end of your nose!” YES, A shower at work time.
    8. Make sure all personal belongings are removed from a person going through DT’s, if possible. I’ll never forget the day I had a patient who went into DT’s , she had refused to give up her purse. . I said,” I have cleaned it up as best as I could but she has pooped in her purse. Do you want it thrown out.” He took it home.
    9. Walk into a dark hospital room at night–have done it-don’t like it! Yes, dark hospitals at night can be spooky for a young new grad. I had a patient at the end of a very dark, quiet hall on night shift. I overcame my fears/willies by braving it down the hall. I had a little flashlight, anyway. Kept saying, I’m supposed to be a professional! I stepped into the room. All was quiet. The patient was in bed, but he had wrapped himself up like a mummy, head and all with the sheets! I was very young and spooked and was thinking, “I don’t want to wake him up!” As I fearfully stepped closer, this mummy raised up to a sitting position an gave out a loud gorilla like grunt, then fell back. I was weak in the knees, then I thought he was messing with me. So I came closer. He did it again!!!!!!. What in the world!!!!! MUMMY, ZOMBIE! VAMPIRE! When the repetition continued, it started my brain again. OH, HE”S SEIZING! I’m so silly, I’ve got to get him help.
    10. NEVER ignore a child./Never go against YOUR moral code This one is close to my heart because I love my kids plus my mom’s life is an extreme poverty to success story. I was caring for a woman. She had made some less than great lifestyle choices which made for a very young open heart surgery. She was having a very slow, recovery and was very weak. The father of her children showed up drunk and promptly passed out on the floor in the corner of her room. A daughter of age 5 or 6 was with him. This particular unit had an absolute– never to be violated–no children policy. At first I kept quiet about the child, breaking a rule, risking my job, hoping he would sober up. The little one came out of the room and said, “I’m so hungry.” The charge staff heard. I was told, “She can go home and eat.” “Wake him up and get them out of our unit”, I was told. So I said,” The man drove here! I can’t insist he drive a child home while drunk.” I was told that, that was his problem. So I continued my care with a dagger stare in my back,not doing what I was ordered. I fed the little girl. I Contacted social services for childrens protective. I allowed dad to sober up in place on the floor. Then they left together. Then, I was given a disturbing lecture by the oncoming Charge nurse about how children like that are weeds. No one cares for them. No one feeds them. They keep popping up underfoot. They will always be with us wanting handouts. They will grow up even if no one feeds or takes care of them. And they will have kids that will be the same way. WEEDS that is all they are. WOW, Just scary. That is still disturbing.
    On a better note.
    11. Never take health for granted…I was born with joint issues. I have joints that have a sense of humor and needed special treatments. Abduction at birth. Forest gump leg braces, special shoes up through middle school. Now, my joints just think it’s hilarious to throw me to the ground at totally random times, football games,soccer fields, night clubs, while a band played, my body tossed me down right in front of the drummer with dress over my head once. he was sweet-said it happened all the time. Hey, I’ve gotten good at prevention of injury while falling. I have ALSO NEVER called myself disabled. Even now I have been told that many nurses would have trouble keeping up with me and I’m one of the strongest with lifting. :) Some might think falls were aging but these issues were here from birth. As a new grad I had a jolting memory of racing around the halls to get my work done as fast as I could. I then zoomed around a corner,……that had just been mopped! (no signage) I went into this spread eagle Pete Rose (head first on belly) slide down the floor in white scrubs. I had a lot of momentum! I only stopped just short, in front of a lovely little lady and her walker. She leaned over the top of her walker with me still spread out on the floor and asked,”Are you OK.dear.” My pride was damaged, but you have to have a sense of humor.
    11. if possible, Never let visitors linger in the hallways. I’ll never forget seeing a group of young men who were visiting their friend , all standing in the hall. This was when another young female patient decided to do the AMBIEN stroll…with her gown on backwards giving a full frontal view to the crowd.
    12. Never miss out on meeting all the interesting people. For HIPA I will only give occupations. War lord of the Iron horsemen, city mayors, bridge inspectors, lawyers of many specialties, gay strippers, heroin addicts, witches, psychics, people shot in the head and lived, multiple people who have broken their penis???,Yeah, ouch. An older person with a lawn mower tattooed down low. afghani rebels in the 80s, saudi well to do, and etc, any famous person out there will need medical care eventually.
    13. I also met a survivor of Auschwitz who told me many rough things about her experience. For all she said, she didn’t sound angry as I would have thought. Her demeanor was so gentle. She said we should be thankful for every thing and every moment. She said we should be thankful for even the very smallest of things, babies, children, gestures of kindness. I left her room with life gifts that I will have the rest of my days. ……Yeah….I’m JUST a nurse.

    P.S. I could just go on and on…this is fun.
    Extra… Never leave a patient with a high ammonia level unrestrained…because they are confused usually and on lactulose. I had a man that wanted to randomly walk all over the place and left a chocolate trail everywhere he went( walls, hall, all furniture, side rails, ) including leaving a large surprise in the bathroom sink.) then he wanted to wrestle me. Not my idea of mud wrestling!
    =Wear gloves with monitor equipment… I’ve seen pulse oximetry used as chewing gum and telemetry monitors all applied by the patient to their uglies and a patient walking around with the bp cuff stuffed in the front of his underwear.
    =Never touch hospital curtains—you really don’t want to know.

    • jclrn

      Once I had a doctor yell an insult at me…..She yelled,” You care too much for your patients!!!

      She was very angry but she made my day! :)

    • Catherine Cruz

      This is by far the greatest tip ever. But sometimes when I get to engage into something, I totally blackout. It’s nursing school all over again. I’m excited and nervous at the same time. Never had much experience that’s why I want an advice, how can I regain focus? Well I guess probable answer would be, “figure it by yourself” and that just sucks.

  11. xpeacelovekoala

    I avoid skiing like the plague for that exact reason! Great article, I’m gonna use that line next time someone pitches the idea. Brilliant.

  12. Catherine Cruz

    I agree completely, specially at the last two articles. First, if we do not know something, we must admit it, we should not be ashamed to accept our limitations and to ask for help. After all, nursing is a continuous process of learning and it’s better to be guided during a nursing intervention than risking the client’s health. Second is health, we can do our part, and we do it consistently & without fail, but we cannot serve our clients if we cannot perform at our fullest. If it’s rest day, take a rest. Eat healthy, socialize and live, that’s the secret of healthy living, and we as nurses should exude such example.

  13. Sheila Davis

    As a flight nurse, I have seen some horrific accidents. When my daughter was about 12, I flew a 10 year old girl that was a front seat passenger in a car that her mom was driving. They wrecked in a low speed collision and the air bag deployed. The young girl weighed just over 100 pounds and was under 5 ft tall. She was heavy enough that the air bag didn’t shut off, she was also seat belted. This child suffered a C1, C2 fracture and wore a halo for weeks. She simply was too small to withstand an airbag hitting her in the head. After that, my 90 lb daughter was relegated to the backseat for a few years. She wasn’t happy, but at least I had some peace of mind!

  14. carolslee1949

    My family and many of my friends know that I’m an RN, and will ask for advice. If they have a concern I can answer without sounding too stupid, I will. Many times, the answer will be, maybe you should see your doctor, or worst case, go to the ER, now. One morning after a night shift, I stopped in to pick up a prescription from the drugstore. I usually take off my creds but this morning I was so tired I forgot to. While looking for something, a young woman came to me and remarked that she saw my great big RN on my badge. Yes, I answered. She then proceeded to ask what she ought to get for her grandmother’s arthritis. I frankly told her that she needs to take grandma to her doctor, that technically by law, I would be prescribing and I couldn’t do that. She then became extremely belligerent and yelled at me, “You’re an RN; what good are you! You’re supposed to help people!” Fortunately, the drugstore manager, who knew me, intervened, and escorted the woman from the store. From then on, if I have to stop anywhere after work, I make sure I remove my name badge. If possible I try to go after I’ve changed out of my scrubs.

    • lighthouser41

      Unfortunately our scrubs are branded with hospital name and Registered nurse. So, if I don’t change, I am an RN everywhere I go.

  15. Jonna

    1. I’ll never mix medications with alcohol.
    2. I’ll never mix medications with other medications before checking for interactions.
    3. I’ll never use hydrogen peroxide.
    4. I’ll always use a menstrual cup instead of tampons.
    5. I’ll never have anal sex again – the colon is a very fragile and important cavity. I don’t ever want to have a colon resection.
    6. I’ll always wash my hands with soap and water any time I can – I don’t need C. Diff in my body or in my house.
    7. I’ll always take off my scrubs as soon as I come home and put them in their own laundry basket.
    8. I’ll drink much more water.
    9. I’ll never assume I know anyone’s story.
    10. I’ll never consume undercooked meat.

  16. Nailil

    I’ll never walk in patient’s room without a pair of gloves in my pocket. I work in a pediatric hospital and I have found my self severally going to answer a call light only to find out that the child has pulled off the iv cannula and the site is bleeding. You can imagine, you have no gloves and you don’t have time to pick a pair.