Are you a superstitious nurse?

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Does the idea of working on Friday the 13th make you squirm? Have you banned the “Q” word from ever being uttered on your floor? If you said yes to either of these, you’re definitely a superstitious nurse. If you said no, let’s see if you’re really not superstitious, or if you’re just not aware of it yet!


1. The “Q” word
It’s practically a given. If you say anything remotely like “It’s a quiet day today,” all heck will break loose not long after. Patients who were quiet before are now ringing the call bells, a stable patient begins to decompensate and your little old lady in room 5 is trying to climb out of bed—again.

2. “We’re full—we can’t get too busy.”
Okay, the unit is full and you all have your assignments. The temptation to relax and say that you can’t get too busy because you can’t get admissions is a surefire way to make things go haywire.

3. Remembering a frequent flyer who hasn’t been in lately
All hospitals have them: patients who are admitted frequently because of their chronic illnesses. Some patients we enjoy, and others…not so much. But as soon as you say to a coworker, “I wonder how Mrs. B is doing? She must be doing well since she hasn’t been here in a while,” she’ll be in the ER.

4. A fly in the hospital means someone will die
Some nurses swear that if they see a fly, that means someone will be dying on their shift.

5. Tying a knot in the sheet for a DNR patient
If you have a patient who is a “no-code” or DNR, apparently tying a knot in the corner of his or her sheet will get the patient through your shift. The thing is, if every shift does it, the poor soul will never go anywhere!

6. Ordering a pizza or organizing a pot luck
It may be a quiet enough shift to grab a bite to eat, but never order a pizza or arrange the shift before for a potluck dinner, because you just know that this is when the patients will need you the most.

7. Starting IVs
No matter how beautiful a patient’s veins look, never say, “You have great veins; this will be a cinch.” Because you know that it won’t be now that you’ve said it. Along the same vein (sorry, pun intended), if you forget to bring the extra 2×2 gauzes, go get them, because if you don’t, your IV will be a squirter.

8. Never leave a room unprepared
If you have an empty room, don’t delay preparing it for the next patient. If you leave it unprepared (bed not made, supplies not stocked), it’s guaranteed that the ER is coming up with a patient RIGHT NOW.

9. Never say aloud that you hope the nurse taking over will be a few minutes early
Let’s say you are having a “Q” shift. Never say, “I hope so-and-so comes in a bit early today. I’d love to leave on time.” This is absolutely a surefire way for a patient to crash near the end of your shift or your relief will be stuck in traffic, miles away.

10. Preparing to leave a few minutes before shift end
Never, ever, ever cap your pens, put away your supplies in your bag and declare that you’re ready to go home. You just know what will happen then….

Do you have any superstitions?

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Marijke Durning

Marijke is a professional writer who began her working career as a registered nurse over 25 years ago. After working in clinical areas ranging from rehab to intensive care, as a floor nurse to a supervisor, she found she could combine her extensive health knowledge with her love of writing. Although she has been published in a wide variety of publications for professionals and the general public, her passion is writing for the every day person to promote health literacy.

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38 Responses to Are you a superstitious nurse?

  1. Tory

    Another common one is that patient’s go crazy on the full moon. Also that patient’s always pass away in groups of three. Neither of which I believed until I actually started working in the health care profession but both have proven true.

    • domino1

      I work in a longterm/skilled nursing facility and our patients die in 3’s everytime.

  2. Kay crain

    No one is allowed to look through the prenatal records
    On our labor and delivery unit. Also, never erase
    ALL the names on the dry erase board even
    If you’ve completely cleaned house! Always leave
    One up there. 😉

    • chriscross74

      As a labor and delivery nurse I can also attest to that! It is bad luck to erase the very last name on the dry erase board. :)

  3. Dusti

    Along the same line as the “Q” word, I refrain from saying the “C” word- code. and I never take anything to read on my break because I won’t get one.
    Also, in one rural hospital I worked at, some of the CNAs and nurses would open a window before performing post mortem care, to “Let the spirits out”

  4. Jeanine

    Now matter how full the unit is, never, ever, put a laboring patient in the room set aside for women who have experienced a fetal demise…NEVER…..

  5. Janice

    We would tie a knot in the bedsheet to “hold them there” or open a window to “let them go”

  6. TDK227

    1. A full moon means every psychiatric patient will come to the ED. I don’t care what anyone says, this is true.

  7. Angel pick up times: 06:00, 12:00, 18:00 and 24:00. I worked at a Catholic hospital where the employees seemed convinced of this.
    Also I found it helpful to have our hospital chaplain bless specific rooms on our unit when the nurses and CNA’s deemed it necessary.

    • MrsShippy

      Our celestial discharges were usually around 0300-0400. Of course, never said the Q word, EVER. And when i lived in Illinois, during winter, we never said, ” It’s not snowing too hard”. That was a guarantee that someone on the next shift would get snowed in by the freak snowstorm that suddenly came up at 0630.

  8. Beth

    Never open the crash cart for un-intended purposes

  9. rakhel

    bad weather bring laboring patients and a full nursery!

  10. Sharon

    never heard about the fly, nor about tying the sheet for a DNR…but yes, I can add one…NEVER talk out loud about plans to go to the beach or any other outdoor activity on your next day off. It’s a guarantee that the storms will come in from nowhere on that day, even if it hasn’t rained in weeks! Hey!!! Maybe the nurses in the drought areas of Texas should start doing this now…it IS the miracle cure for lack of rain.

  11. Jill

    “This discharge will be easy-everything’s already been done!” are words never to be uttered on out unit.

    When you float to another unit, don’t let them say, “We gave you the easiest patients since you are floating here today.” Really worry if you’ve floated to the psych unit…

  12. Kim

    Don’t even think about a frequent flyer or repeat offender . Just thinking about them will send them in to the hospital. We never mention names when we talk about past patients we don’t want to see again. We just give each other clues to their identity. This will still make the person come back in for a long visit!

  13. Suzanne

    Always do your personal ritual when starting an IV.

  14. Abby Student

    This all sounds like murphy’s law only for a hospital setting

    • cavandre RN

      Always pack an overnight bag if you are on surgical call during a full moon! If you don’t you will be there 24 hours.

  15. beliefnhope Caption Contest

    All so true!!! The full moon means all heck is breaking loose. Don’t let the nurse from the previous shift tell you the patients she is giving you were easy or no trouble at all.

  16. ynutt1973

    Never erase the last case of the day off the board in surgery, the call crew will hate you for ever. Never say the tripple A word, it will happen. Never try to shower, bathe, cook, or read at home, when your on surgical call you will work all night. never say just one more case, the surgeons will add 3.

  17. Granny RN RN

    Oh yes! Let me count them: 1,2,3,6,7 and 10.
    Been there, experienced that!

  18. sassyred RN

    Well in all honestly I have been tying a knot in the sheet for over 20 years and a result have had only 5 patients pass away on me that were near the end, one passed one minute after I had clocked out. The motto is “Keep them alive till 7 :05. One other superstition I used to do was when a patient expired I would crank the window of the room open to set the spirit free otherwise they would roam the hospital. Can’t do that anymore now that windows are permanently sealed which explains why tv’s come on and bed alarms come on by themselves,elevators open with no one there you get the drift.

  19. pepsigrl70

    We used to keep Atropine at the bedside. It prevented your patient from bradying down or coding.

  20. nursegirlygirl RN

    No “Q” word it’s all about it being “none verbal”

  21. Pingback: ¿Eres una enfermera supersticiosa? | Enfermería JW

  22. raynydayz0116

    Full moons are crazy in our unit. Fridays can also be pretty rough, in part due to the decreased staffing ratio since no one wants to work Fridays. So when the two are combined I try to avoid working.

  23. babynrs

    I’m totally superstitious. I’m a NICU nurse. My superstitions are closely tied to L&D. I always get TWO beds ready if I’m 1st or 2nd admit. If I’m delivery, I never take the scrub hat off until I’ve clocked out–that’s a sure way to end up back in the OR a few more times after all the scheduled c-sections are done. Never say “that vein looks good” when starting an IV; doesn’t matter how good it looks, you’re going to blow it for sure. Bringing in something to read at lunch guarantees neither will happen. Making any plans for my on-call day because the census is low opens the floodgates and lets the babies rush in. Telling a parent that we’re getting really close to discharge within earshot of the baby…well, you can figure that one out.

  24. rn_teri

    1,2,3,6,7 and 10 on this list are facts…not superstitions!! :)
    also, opening the window to release their spirit. (we are now in a new hospital where windows are permanently sealed….any suggestions??

  25. debkayc

    I work with a nurse who’s not allowed to touch the crash cart during her shift. If she does, watch out! Never heard the corner knot thing nor the fly thing. What about wearing black scrubs being the cause of busy, weird shift? In my case, run the other way if I ever say, come with me, I have something unusual to show you!

  26. debkayc

    Or certain nurses working together or in ER certain nurse and Dr combinations together causes a crazy busy weird shift.

  27. pjking227 RN

    I don’t close the doors to my empty rooms. Never fails, as soon as I close the door, I get a call that a new patient is coming.

  28. mariadelcarmen

    Bueno no soy una persona superticiosa pero en mi país dicen que cuando aparece una payacucha (algún tipo de insecto) va a morir alguien.

  29. ergirl

    Always – Always check the crash cart as soon as you come on shift! If you don’t – patient will be a code.

  30. aussie

    Patients who get red and white flowers – never knew the origin of this but according to my Mum it symbolises blood and bandages!

  31. ScrappyEDRN

    One night doing Charge in our Level 1 Trauma Center ER the outgoing charge nurse patted me on the back and said, “Hey, I’ve left you in really good shape today!” I cringed at this greeting for a second but decided I was being silly. Within the next 30 minutes the EMS radio started going off almost non-stop for 4 hrs. We had 59 ambulances show up in that time!!!! I told the dayshift charge nurse that if he EVER said that to me again he would be a Full Alert Trauma on the spot!

    We also have the “in threes” problem in the ER and it isn’t just for deaths, lol. Not only have we had 3 pt’s die on us in one shift but I’ve personally had 3 STEMI’s in one day, 3 Code Strokes in a day, 3 dissecting aneurysms over 2 shifts in a row, 3 cardiac tamponades and once even 3 “vampires” in my psych zone all within a very short time of each other. Crazy stuff!!

    And the “Q” word, “B” word (_oring), “S” word (-low) and any other such utterances will get you stabbed in our ER.

    Would never have believed it was all true until working in the ER!

  32. dolphinbabie

    I never allow anyone to say the Q word on my shift. That is just asking for trouble.

  33. eaglerr

    Nope, we are not superstitious R.N.’s in the Emergency Department ! Not at all. Just because you get to sit and eat something, put your feet up a a chair in the break room while sucking MORE caffeine to get through your shift. Once you put the spoon in your mouth there is another CODE: Room #______Really? That’s my room! Shizzerners…no joke! As far as the full moon, my theory is: if the moon moves the oceans and our body’s are mostly made of H 2 O, why wouldn’t the moon affect us and our patients?

  34. Anitta Tallon

    Death comes three at a time.
    If you plan a break it will never happen.