8 tips and tricks new nurses have gotta read

Dorling Kindersley RF | ThinkStock

Dorling Kindersley RF | ThinkStock

When you first start out as a nurse, you tend to be in awe of all the little tricks that more experienced nurses have up their sleeves.

I remember the first time I saw somebody pull air out of an IV line with a syringe, rather than unloading the IV set from the pump and dripping out the fluid and air together.

So simple! So obvious! So sensible! So not anything I would’ve thought of myself!

Now I do it all the time without a second thought.

So I thought of putting together a list of tips and tricks for new nurses. Please leave yours below. Maybe we can get a real Trick Wiki going. (What a treat!)

1. Wiping “up” with your last iodine swab before inserting a catheter will cause a woman’s urethral meatus to “wink” at you, so you can see it more easily.

2. If you’re having trouble placing a catheter on a man because of a swollen prostate, a larger gauge will often bypass the blockage more easily than a smaller gauge.

3. The foam boots used for Buck’s traction can be cut down for people with dwarfism. Just save all the Velcro straps and re-wrap them in whatever way works best.

4. If a patient pulls out a PEG tube, you can insert a Foley catheter in its place (provided you get to it quickly enough) to hold the hole open until a new tube’s inserted.

5. If a hot pack doesn’t bring a patient’s veins up to the surface, try alternate hot and cold packing. Sometimes the temperature difference will do it.

6. Lemon juice reduces the need to salt food. This is particularly useful when somebody’s on a low-salt diet. Skip the Mrs. Dash and grab a slice of lemon.

7. Potato chips eaten immediately after taking metronidazole will keep the nasty metallic taste of the medicine at bay.

8. Cold water for blood, hot water for poop, and if it’s got iodine or benzoin on it, just replace it.


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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13 Responses to 8 tips and tricks new nurses have gotta read

  1. These are GREAT tips. I’m not a new nurse and didn’t know many of these. The lemon juice trick is awesome as is alternating the hot and cold pack to get the veins to pop. Thanks for sharing.

  2. saturn567

    awesome tips been a nurse over two years and trying out teaching this term, will have more to share with my students

  3. Beardsley the Cardiac RN

    Use a manual BP cuff to really get the veins to obey when they see a butterfly or IV coming there way. Keep the pressure at a minimal till you see the veins well. It acts as a large tourniquet.

  4. Mike RN

    When I was feeding preemies in NICU and well-baby nursery, I would always “pre-burp” the infant before starting a feeding. It’s amazing how much gas they have built up in their stomach before you even start feeding. The feeding goes down better and stays down better if you relieve gastric distention before attempting to add anything to the stomach. Even some of the old, seasoned NICU nurses were amazed at how little reflux my kids had when I used this technique.

    • stephplum

      This is also good with term babies too, especially breastfed babies that can be difficult to burp after feeding. I give this tip to all my parents.

  5. mgsang

    Iodine doesn’t have to be the end of your stuff! Just remember… we use iodized salt all the time and sea salt doesn’t have it but has an affinity for it! A little sea salt, a little cold water and maybe a little meat tenderizer will get iodine out of even whites.

  6. makernurse

    These are great! At MakerNurse we’re trying to hear from all of your examples of making things like this! Let us know how we can help!

  7. txsbaby911

    I accidentally stumbled across the magic trick to remove ALL TRACES of iodine from your scrubs while doing wound care! Immediately saturate it with your alcohol hand sanitizer and blot it away. This won’t get all of it immediately, though. You have to saturate it again with the hand sanitizer right before you throw it into the washing machine. Doing this got every bit of it out of my butter yellow scrub pants! Amazing!!!

  8. Katatonic RN

    PICC lumen won’t budge? An extra pair of gloves and a hemostat can undo even the tightest of lines.

  9. 1974 nurse

    If a patient pulls out his trach,take a sterile suction catheter placing the open tip in the stoma(like you are going to suction).Hold the catch up to vkeep stoma open till new teach can be replaced.I had to do this a few times while working Neuro Trauma…