The nurse’s survival guide to autumn


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Professionally, you know what’s coming after Labor Day. The severe sunburns and waterskiing accidents decline, replaced by hunting accidents, combine harvester accidents and kids showing up for last-minute vaccinations. You know what to do in those situations.

What about your personal life, though? It’s likely you could use some advice for surviving until the first frost.

1. Set up a clandestine IV drip of Benadryl now, before it’s too late.
Hay fever is no laughing matter…especially when you’re working 12-hour shifts. You can cut the diphenhydramine with caffeine if you really need to; just titrate the drip until you don’t care what new species of pollen or fungus is blowing through the air.

2. Cut down all–and I mean all–of your trees.
Actually, scratch that. Cut down all the trees within a half-mile of your house. Raking leaves is time-consuming and leads to blisters on your hands, which is really not an aggravator any nurse needs on the job. If you really want to jump in a leaf pile, drive across town and do it in somebody else’s yard.

3. Winterize your car before the weather gets bad.
In addition to new tires, topping up your fluids and replacing your wiper blades, make sure you have a basic emergency kit in your car. This should include a phone charger, a couple of warm blankets, a working flashlight and one gallon of good bourbon for every traveller. A box of cheese puffs, chocolate cupcakes and coupons for fast food is a nice extra if you get stuck in the snow (a constant danger for every working nurse). And don’t forget a first aid kit…you never know when you might need to jump into action on the road!

4. Make sure you have enough blankets, toilet paper and soup.
There is absolutely no reason to venture outside when it’s cold. (You’re cold enough at work already, right?) So why go outside once it gets nippy? It’s just more of the same. The wisest among us will have three Snuggies to rotate among, and enough toilet tissue to last until at least May.

5. Rent or rescue some small, furry animals.
I don’t measure seasons by the calendar. It’s autumn when the cats curl up on my feet in bed and spring when they leave. I strongly recommend having a selection of furry animals for the fall and winter; their value as footwarmers and professional nurse de-stressers can’t be overstated.

6. Save your sick days.
Do not–I repeat, do not–use your precious sick time to go surfing or picnicking during the last nice weekend of the summer. You’ll be amazed later at how a raw, sore throat coincides with the first sleet-storm of the fall. Keep plugging on, and save those sick days for when you really need them: that day when the sky is blazing blue, you need a sweater until noon and the smell of woodsmoke is in the air. You’ll thank me then.

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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