Ridiculous nursing tips that really work

Image: Devon Yu + Keith Bell | Veer

That trick never works! (Wait. Maybe it will….)

When the fine folks here at Scrubs asked me to do a short series of posts on nursing, one of their suggested subjects was “Ridiculous Tips from Nurses.” I should probably call it “Ridiculous Tips from Other Nurses” because, as you, my astute readership, already knows, Agatha Lellis is a number of things (fabulous, graceful, lightly scented and lovely), but never, ever is she redonk.

However, I have plenty of (cough) coworkers (cough) who are.

Ridiculous Tip Number One: Unclogging a G-tube

We’ve all seen this: a PEG tube that refuses, despite our entreaties and exhortations, to become unclogged. We’ve all tried Coca-Cola, meat tenderizer and prayer, and we’ve all failed.

My best redonk tip for clearing a clogged G-tube came from a rehabilitation physician, so I’m not sure it even fits here, but here goes:

Mix papain (meat tenderizer) with very hot water from the coffee machine and massage it down the tube.

Swear to frogs, people, that works every time. It might take more than one application and a little effort, but I’ve unclogged tubes that were the equivalent of Tut’s tomb with that technique.

Why you should carry a tape measure –>

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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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37 Responses to Ridiculous nursing tips that really work

  1. Ellen Algava

    Here’s one from back in the day. Milk of Magnesia for bed sores. Worked every time. Prevention works better. This one sounds weird, but take up a craft. You can learn a one handed tie from knitting yarn, or know the gauge of wire on sight if you take up jewelry making.

  2. Yeah I tried that in bed sore even aluminum hydroxide suspension can cure the bed sore instantly.

  3. jean

    We did use Milk of Magnesia for bed sores and meat tenderizer to unplug G-tubes We use to give Black and White when ordered [MOM and cascara}, heat lamp and patients even smoked in their beds and we at the nurses station TImes have changed Still working full time on active hospital unit and it is always exciting and rewarding

  4. jean

    Interesting I posted a previous reply but do not see it so will redo it. I have used meat tenderizer to unclog G-tubes We actually had to get a prescription for it and take it to the pharmacy Black and White was a common order “MOM and CASCARA” also patients smoked in bed and nurses and md at station So glad times have changed

    • nursejude62

      loved that stuff. it always worked. I don’t know why they stopped using it.

  5. Karen

    We also used Milk of Mag, It works wonders on yeast infections. I’ve seen yeast infection on a diabetic pt. go for months without response, to any treatments. Three days of MOM topical and it’s gone like magic.

  6. I have never used the milk of mag for yeast, nor meat tenderizer for clogged g-tubes. We did use enemas with 1 cup milk, 1 cup molasses and 1 cup of coffee on cancer patients. mixed it up until it was nice and warm. It ALWAYS worked. Our doctors called and ordered it as “HHH” meaning Hot, High and a Helluva lot. No kidding.

  7. Kerri

    Vick’s vapor rub on boggy heels twice a day for a week reduces the boggyness and I’ve seen it get rid of completely! Also put it on toenail fungus BID for two weeks and beautiful toenails appear.

  8. Dianna

    Tea bags for sore nipples takes the sting out and toughings them up..for breastfeeding moms..
    Wet them with warm water first then leave them on for 20 minutes…my new moms love this. Only use if nipples are not cracked…must wait atlest an hour after breastfeeding.

  9. Sherry

    Sugar and iodine for smelly, oozing wounds.Dries it up and debrieds dead tissue.

  10. link955 LPN

    I’ve never had to deal with a clogged G-tube, maybe because I’ve always irrigated them regularly like we’re all supposed to, and flushed with free water after every feeding. Seems pretty simple to me. The facility I work for specifically prohibits the use of foreign materials to unclog tubes. Meat tenderizer? Makes me shudder.

    • kidapa

      You must be a newer LPN? Trust me, despite “what you are supposed to do”, tubes still get clogged. No harm in what is suggested as the body would normally absorb it anyways. These nurses are voices of years of experience and when you get there, you too will have tricks of the trade!

    • Baik

      I certainly hope your smug and condescending attitude is knocked out of you before any working relationships suffer. No matter how often you flush the g tube, there will occasionally be backup from the stomach. We were ALL taught to flush before and after a bolus, but things happen. I hope you are not too stupid to think every situation you will come across in your daily work will always be textbook. Good luck to you and your naivety.

    • Sl8rgirl

      Well good for you, may you never make a mistake, or go out on a limb, to try to solve a problem.

    • MrsGRN

      Meat tenderizer is an enzyme dear. For the sake of your career I would strongly suggest that you employ a larger modicum of humility when you speak to others. You’re in the presence of those who’ve been practicing nursing much, much, much longer than you who could teach you a thing or 50. The reason tubes get clogged isn’t always because others aren’t perfect like you. Learn the gastric system or train yourself not to talk down about and to other nurses because in this moment you look to be the non-contributing coworker nobody wants to deal with. Food for thought.

    • InimitableRN2019

      I have 4 pegs I deal with daily. 3 only for certain hours with flushes through the day, and they never seen to clog. My 4th is continuous with automatic flushes, and even flushing before and after meds will still clog at the port. Everyone is different, and good luck only taking care of text book perfect patients.

  11. karing55

    My favorite from many years ago was for men having difficulty urinating. We had a bottle of spirits of peppermint in the med room…a few drops in the urinal would work wonders. I remember being told it worked as a muscle relaxant.

    • dezprincesscc

      I have heard the same recommendation for laboring women!

  12. Rustyfnp

    Tips for placing a foley cath when the patient’s legs are so clamped together that you could break walnuts with them….Get in position, get ready…tell patient to take a deep breath and blow out as hard as they can-and zoom insert! (Try it yourself- take that deep breath and blow and see if you can keep your pelvic muscles tightened…nope!

    • beebell2

      You can also insert a Foley from the back. Roll patient on her side & have someone hold back the upper buttock cheek. This works also for very obese patients with lots of huge folds.

      • nursejude62

        it does. I once used a hoyer lift to lift the leg when the patient was on her side and it worked great.

  13. roswilliams

    NEVER be afraid if a situation is not the clinical situation that you have been taught in nursing school or home health aide training school. These tips prove it. Each situation is different from what we’ve been taught. This is where these tips come in. Clinical school solutions don’t ALWAYS work in certain real life situations.

    • nursegurl_29

      Very true! That’s part of what makes us nurses. We have to able to critically think to achieve outcomes. Hardly any situation I’ve encountered is black and white, nor textbook written. As long as no harm comes to the patient, using unconventional methods is perfectly acceptable.

      • kidapa

        So true! First do no harm… But nurses have shared experiences and when reading tips we all have went “yes!”, and remember doing that.

  14. Christine Nickel

    I have always been told to use coke cola to unclog a gtube.

  15. beebell2

    Milk & molasses works. We used it at a hospital we worked at in the deep South – for cancer patients on opiates mostly. The formula was 1 cup of molasses to 4 cups milk & it came up on a dumb waiter from the kitchen in a cardboard carton – nice & warm.
    Another good one: for smelly wounds you crush up a Flagyl tab & sprinkle it in the wound with your dressing change…..good for Hospice patients with no healing happening. Kills the odor. Kills any fungus in there.

  16. fireweed

    Please be aware that meat tenderizer is also high in sodium, and risks tissue damage if the tube breaks or the meat tenderizer contacts tissues that aren’t used to a lot of active, protein-eating enzymes.


    Pancreatic enzymes (often used as well) can also cause tissue damage if they touch non-enteral or duodenal tissues. But that’s why they work! Use these safely!

    • Batya

      Papain is routinely used in wound care for debridement, and is not dangerous when it comes in contact with the healthy skin. As a WOCN, I order this all the time. Our pharmacy compounds it for us.

  17. frankie3919

    I’m not “old school” like some of your amazing nurses are, but I’ve heard of a couple of these. My trick is maalox topically for cold sores or canker sores. Works Piru good.

  18. nursesharib

    I like to use a keo feed tube – pull out the wire and fold it in half, make a small loop at the tip, and feed it into the g-tube. It’s soft enough to not ruin the g-tube – and works every time!

  19. Kelli Santoni Davis

    Massage Vicks Vaporub Rub into the FEETof a patient who is congested….it works quickly and effectively!

  20. ronni1014

    I am not a nurse yet. But I see the nurses at my hospita for constipation warm up prune juice and put miralax in it. I dont remember what they call it but it works in less then 30 minutes.

  21. Amilcar Frye

    having troubles with keeping Uridomes in place try using super glue ……………………no lol try using Cavilon barrier film before rolling it on,it will keep in place no matter well the patient retracts.

  22. Tribalrose13

    As for ridiculous tips, this one almost always works for a stopped up peg tube or even wax ears. Liquid Colace, take 10 to 15 cc and pour in. Wait 30 minutes and try to flush. I found I can get it to work every time if I pull use a blunt needle and actually inject it into the clog. As for ears, turn head pour in 1 cc and wait, 5 minutes, then remove with cotton. Repeat prn.

  23. Nrselabor

    Great advice thanks yeah all.Keep up the great work.

  24. suzannefordrobbins RN

    Got a nurse hack for opening vials and never getting cut. Use the cover that comes over the iv cathlon. Fits perfectly. Never have to touch broken glass again.

  25. AB_RN-ED

    One of many things that I learned working with my toasty trauma nurses involved caked and dried blood on trauma patients. They told me to slather the patients wound, after irrigating with saline the best I could, with KY jelly. Let it sit for a min, then you can wipe away the dried blood and gook caked to them using gauze. Sometimes you’ve gotta go over it twice but it works every time. So lube them up!