5 things they didn’t teach you in nursing school


Nursing school prepares you for everything…right? (Insert sarcasm here) Of course, nursing school cannot prepare you for everything. But I’m not talking about the key principles that you find in your curriculum, or in the handbook or even in a job description.

Here are some key pieces of information they really should have warned about in nursing school:

Combat training 101

Ever taken care of a confused patient? Maybe a patient suffering from dementia? Ever taken care of a combative patient?

Yes, you WILL need to know how to dodge punches and avoid the death-grip extension reach. While there is no blame to be placed, it sure doesn’t feel good to get hit. Ask anyone.

Ballerina basics

Yes, 99.99% of the time there is the proper signage and safety cones in place. It’s that .01% that I’m talking about. You MUST learn how to pirouette with grace when slipping and sliding on a newly mopped floor. All while holding a patient’s food tray or a handful of medications or IV fluids. Sorry. It’s almost an unspoken rule these days.


The rooms in hospital facilities are not what you would call illustrious and ‘roomy’ (at least not in the ones I’ve worked). It usually resembles a walk-in closet where you shoved 2 beds, 2 bedside tables, 2 IV poles and usually at least 2 garbage cans (at a minimum). You HAVE to learn how to do the same tasks using either hand. Otherwise the task won’t get done sometimes.

Jerry-Rigging 101

While contour pillows, foam rolls and plush positional wedges are ideal, you WILL have to learn how to create your own ergonomic environment most of the time!! Budget cuts can make things interesting. Folded towels and rolled up linen works wonders!

Swap-Meet Racketeering

You need a recliner chair for your patient who is getting out of bed, but the nurse down the hall needs another pillow for their patient. Hmm? There WILL come a time when you will have to beg, barter and steal you’re way through a negotiation. Whether it be with a fellow staff member, supervisor, neighboring facility or your patient, you have to give a little to get a little.

Yes, once again I’m poking fun at the lives we lead, but there is a hint of truth to all the above? Care to add anything to the list of things they did not teach you?

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11 Responses to 5 things they didn’t teach you in nursing school

  1. Yvette Greffrath

    Had a good laugh. Not that I’ve experienced all of these during the sum of my “extensive” nursing practice (which boils down to nursing school clinicals). Some, yes. Right from the get go.

    Here’s another skill that should be incorporated in Basic Fundamentals of Nursing: Superior Facial Control. Whatever it is that you’re trying to suppress – be it angst over a procedure you’re about to perform for the first time on a real patient, or be it the overwhelmingly strong gag reflex in reaction to foul-smelling substances originating from any number of possible exit routs on a patient, DON’T let it show.

    It’s great if these situations can be anticipated because there are a few good tricks to get you through it. But for those unexpected events, do whatever you need to do to develop superior facial control.

    • Sean Dent Scrubs Blogger

      @Yvette Greaaaat one to add! No doubt a needed skill.

  2. Sara

    I did learn the one about how to make trocanter rolls with flat sheets and towels! lol. But def got a good laugh! :)

  3. RRLongRN RN

    Ballerina basics – let’s not forget how to do the Jello Slide! For example, as I careened across the room after planting my heel in someone’s dropped Jello, I planted the tray on the table in front of the patient without spilling a drop before I planted myself on the the floor. Tah-dah! (with only a few tears spilled after I escaped the room, when someone said the fatal words, “Are you okay?”)

    • Sean Dent Scrubs Blogger

      @RRLongRN a *high five* to you and your Jello sliding skillz!

  4. acates11 Caption Contest

    Have tape will nurse!!

  5. nursebrittany

    Yea, nursing school told us about the hallucinatory patients. They even told us that a “simple” reorientation lesson would cure them. What they didn’t tell us is that there’s NOTHING simple about reorientation! (Sometimes it’s easier just to play along with the hallucination…so you won’t get hit by the patient when they’re angry you don’t believe them)

  6. JerZFox RN

    There are certain topics you should not discuss with patients; namely sex, politics, and religion. And baseball.

    • Sean Dent Scrubs Blogger

      Baseball? I’m sure there is a wonderful story to go along with that one. =]

  7. roswilliams

    They forgot to add one thing: multitasking. Yes, you WILL need 8 arms, and yes, you WILL need to be an octopus.