Never will I ever again…

Flickr | Jerry Bowley
Flickr | Jerry Bowley

You learn some things in nursing school. You learn more things when you’re actually nursing. Some of those things are useful, in an abstract way: Bicarbonate can protect the kidneys after a CT scan with contrast. Other things are useful in a much more immediate way: Taking an overdose of acetaminophen is a bad, bad way to commit suicide.

So never will I ever again…

1. Be without some over-the-counter anti-nausea aid, like Dramamine or Bonine. You’d think it would be obvious, but it wasn’t obvious to me for years, how much of a difference not vomiting can make to a person’s general well-being.

2. Take acetaminophen or any medication containing it on the regular. If Tylenol were put forward for testing today, it probably wouldn’t be allowed to be sold over the counter. The effective dose and the toxic dose are close enough that I don’t feel comfortable taking the stuff on even an occasional basis.

3. Drive with even one drink in my system. I wasn’t a big drinker before nursing school and I’m not one now. (We’ll give the intervening years a pass, shall we?) Even in the depths of Scotch Discovery, though, I refused—and still do—to drive when I’ve had anything that’ll affect my level of alertness. That includes alcohol, diphenhydramine and any other medication until I know what it does to me. The brain is a precious thing, and so far we haven’t worked out a transplant system.

4. Not have “DONOR” stamped big and bold on every piece of ID I have. I’ve seen too many people who’ve been helped by donations of organs, tissues, corneas, you name it, to not want to scavenge anything left of me after the Great Trumpet blows.

5. Ignore small, everyday risks in favor of large, controllable ones. One of the things you learn as a nurse is how to assess risk. I drive just under eighty miles a day on one of the busiest highways in the U.S. four days a week, and I am not yet dead. This helps me assess my risk when it comes to things like surgery, cancer risk, the likelihood of getting eaten by a hippopotamus or whether or not a particular attending might yell at me. Nursing has taught me to figure the odds; I do that more often than I’d like to admit. Especially when it comes to that one attending.

What have you sworn to never do again—or always do—now that you’re a nurse? I’m particularly interested in what Old Nurses have to say on this subject.


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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11 Responses to Never will I ever again…

  1. Ruth Telford

    I appreciate your comment about acetaminophen (Tylenol). I decided back in the 1980’s when I was still on my feet regularly and working an important part of my body off……no thanks to Tylenol. I was concerned that there was info on toxicity even then. People were chomping it down regularly. The few times I took it I noticed that it had little or no effect on a headache or whatever pain I had. My biggest concern was that doctors were handing out Tylenol #3 prescriptions for everything (a compound w/ Codeine). It was common in minor surgeries. Of course, now it’s something even more addictive. However, back to my reasoning..people thought it was a miracle that you could get Tylenol over the counter and many abused the amount they took. The Tylenol #3 had plenty of side effects, not the least, wicked nausea from the Codeine. So although nothing is without side effects in our lives, I choose Advil (caution it can be tough on the stomach and cause bleeding if used excessively) and Aleve which works well on arthritic symptoms. One thing we will never do is control what a person does with their OTC meds. I do agree that in today’s world Tylenol might not have been released to OTC.

    One other little thought is re your comment about everyday risks. A number of years ago I was midway thru my Pap smear and said to the doctor that I was a few months late for the yearly exam and was fussing about being neglectful. He said ‘Life is full of risks. Did you drive 60 mph to get to your appointment?’ Point well taken!

    • Serene Johnson

      Its interesting the comments about the tylenol (Panadol/paracetamol here in Australia). We have a similar view of ibuprofen. One thing that Ive noticed is that where we give up to 1g paracetamol as often as q4h, up to 4g/24 hours, you guys over there dont. But we have a whole lot more conservative view of ibuprofen, 400mg 48h and ONLY with food or milk. Its intersting to ser the differences.

  2. Tina Stephens

    Never pass up an opportunity to tell your loved ones you love them

    Skip a nap

    Underestimate the will to live.

  3. Amy Siegfried

    I never eat liver (which my mother could not understand).

  4. MTRN57

    Never will I ride a motorcycle or (commonly called the donor cycle in the operating room)
    Never will I ski again without a helmet

  5. Junebug 75

    I am one of the old nurses. Now retired after 45 years. I wanted to agree with Amy who never eats liver any more. It used to be on our menu when I was young along with blood sausage. After taking training I could always imagine where the ‘germs’ were, and make sure I cleaned that area. Yes, I carry wipes in my purse and also use napkins or Kleenex or my long sleeves to open doors and turn faucets on and off. I make sure I wash my hands right away when I return home from shopping etc. also making sure everyone else does the same. I try not to touch my face–rub my eyes etc. without washing. I guess I could go on and on but once taught good hygiene it sticks with you even when others think you are a bit to picky.

  6. mejerro

    Ibuprofen and other NSAIDS just as harmful except to the kidneys. I have seen people in renal failure and have needed transplants due to their past NSAID use

    • Cheryl R

      The statement of the ibuprofen or other NSAIDs and Tylenol are true, but my husband who had a liver transplant was told he is not allowed to use NSAIDs for his headaches or basic body pains to only use Tylenol as the NSAIDs are hard on his kidneys as is the immuno-suppression medication he is on.

      • Serene Johnson

        That sounds so backwards… ibuprofen is renally metabolised, where paracetamol is hepatically metabolised, so he probably shouldnt have either.

  7. breehat

    Personally, no matter what they say, and even as a nurse, I won’t take NSAIDs because of the extreme gastric pain I experience each time I take it. I rather take Tylenol because it relieves any body pain I have without causing another pain.

  8. supermel

    Walk barefoot anywhere