Should nurses believe in ghosts?

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How many night nurses have you met who swear they have, at one time or another, seen or heard something during their shifts that can’t quite be explained?

According to a CBS News article in 2005, 22 percent of Americans believe they have seen or felt a ghost and 48 percent said they believe in ghosts.

As healthcare professionals who deal with life and death on a regular basis, nurses would naturally contemplate questions regarding the human soul—where does it go after the patient has departed?

Can souls of the deceased linger and touch the living?

Whether or not you believe in ghosts, you’ll surely hear many nurse ghost stories during your years of practice. Here’s one of them—my own.

I was working the night shift (11:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m.) in a nine-bed residential palliative care facility. The building was fairly new and had been open for several years.

One night, I was sitting in the nursing station. Around 3 a.m., my colleague left to take a break, leaving me alone. All the patients were sleeping, and there were no overnight visitors.

All of a sudden, I heard a noise that I couldn’t place. I popped my head out of the office door and looked down the hall toward the patient rooms. I had thought perhaps someone was up. I saw there was nothing and turned in the other direction, toward the reception area. There, I saw something strange. In an empty room, the office chair moved from side to side as if someone had just quickly gotten up out of it. The place was silent—just the slight noise of the chair as it moved from side to side. I stood and watched the chair move slower and slower until it finally stopped. Then, I felt it. The air around me had been disturbed and I could feel it on my skin.

I could hear no sound coming from the patient rooms, nor from where my colleague was resting. There were no windows open or fans that were on. I even checked to see if anything had fallen off a shelf that may have hit the chair to make it move. I couldn’t find anything. Was it an earthquake? A tremor? A truck passing by? I looked around at all the other chairs that had stood still, the wall hangings that hadn’t budged.

I’ll admit I was spooked. There was nothing that could have caused the chair to move the way it did.

When I think back to that night, I still feel funny. I’m left wondering if someone who had passed away in that facility had come back to check on us. In palliative and hospice care, we know our patients will die. It is our job to help them pass through the stage of dying with as little pain and discomfort as possible. Death doesn’t intimidate us nor does it scare us. Death is a part of life. But what are ghosts?

Do you have a ghost story?

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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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28 Responses to Should nurses believe in ghosts?

  1. Larissa

    I work in an Aged Care facility and we had a lady who would ring the call bell everyday at 1430hrs for staff to make her a cup of tea. When she passed the bell in that room continued to ring at that same time everyday. When a new Resident moved in to occupy the unit, the call bell stopped ringing. When that Resident moved on and the room was vacated amazingly enough the call bell began ringing again at 2:30pm everyday until again the room was filled. This still goes on to this day, everytime the room is empty!

    • Linda Stidham

      Yes I am too a nurse and have had some tales to tell also, nothing to explain them just you know you heard or seen things and people don’t believe you , but I know what i had seen. Read yours it was great

    • Nurseborn

      That is so weird

  2. samantha s

    I believe! I have had too many experiences working nights at an assisted living and a psych unit at a hospital!

  3. ihsan

    i think, ghost n human in the diferent place… so! ghost please dont disturb me…

  4. I used to be a paranormal investigator… I have always been very spiritual… After realizing a truth about it all, I stopped being involved in what i was doing… Its definatly a grey area, but one thing is certain, those who go out and LOOK for or “hunt” for ghosts are idiots for multiple reasons… period.

    • PastorMurse

      Care to qualify your assertion that those people are idiots? I know clergy members, and other professionals, who are also investigators and have never thought of them as idiots.

      • ghostnurse

        I’m with you, Pastor Nurse. Those who seek the truth are idiots? I think not. Not all of them.
        (However there are many that exploit it and should know better.)

  5. Vickie

    I most definitely believe! Working in long term care as a night nurse, there’s just been too many unexplained things happen…chairs sitting in the middle of halls that no one put there, that feeling that someone is behind you but no one is, and the room that not one but four patients absolutely refused to stay in due to a “man in the bathroom”. Yep, I believe!

  6. Mattie

    At one time I worked as a hospice nurse and attended many deaths. One thing I came to deeply believe in was angels. And, no, it was not the narcotics. Even patients who were not on pain meds would tell me about the angels in the room. I could not see them but there definitely was a ‘feel’ to the room that was different: happy and peaceful. I learned that when the angels came it was time to call in the family and usually as soon as they got there, the spirit of the patient departed.

  7. teresa

    call light ringing when no pt’s in room,fam. members staying over and saying they felt n heard weird voices….

  8. We had a resd. Who would blow his whistle when he needed help , he passed away and every once in a while we hear a whistle or we gad lady that passed away and at night you can hear her crying

  9. roscoe530

    I have never experienced a ghost on the unit; but after my mom passed I saw her in the wee hours of the morning in the face of my alarm clock,she was smiling.

  10. NenaMataHari CNA

    This is a big reason why I’m a bit hesitant to work third shifts! I will work them, but that will always be in the back of my mind.

  11. Granny RN RN

    In one of the ICUs in a large urban Catholic hospital for YEARS patients from time to time would report the presence of a ‘little girl standing by the bed’ at night. The descriptions were sporadic but always consistent. The patients all had different neurological or medical/surgical problems.
    When the unit was moved to other rooms for renovations the ‘little girl’ went with us. The patients reported the exact same ‘encounters’ with her and she followed us back to the ‘new’ unit when it opened.
    No one on staff could recall any event or patient with which to associate our little ‘spirit’. But she seemed to provide some comfort to the patients and was never actually seen by any member of the staff.
    We took pride in being the only nursing unit to claim a resident benevolent ‘ghost’!

  12. HolyPeas RN

    Is this a serious question? As people who are supposed to be scientifically literate people this is really embarrassing that my fellow nurses couldn’t think more critically than this.

    • ORNurseOnDuty

      there are things that science cannot explain.

    • AshyWow11

      Lol, apparently you have never had the luxury of working in an old building on Noc shift… Its a definite eye opener, that’s for sure. Some things just can’t be explained.

    • snowtn3

      As A Scientifically Literate Nurse I Find It More Embarrassing For You Not To Have Any Compassion Life And Death Goes Beyond Science

    • nursejamie1

      Wow, that’s a really ignorant thing to say. I’ve experienced many, many things while on the job and elsewhere. Yes, some things can absolutely be explained with a concrete answer, however there are so many things that we can’t. I’ve seen too much to believe that we simply disappear and that physical death is game over. We are so much more then that, and to criticise something that perhaps you haven’t personally experienced but a lot of us have is rude and dismissive of the things we’ve seen. Maybe one day you will have something happen and I hope that for your sake, whoever you share it with doesn’t try to dismiss it or make you feel stupid.

  13. Nurse Rene RN

    To: HolyPeas

    Who is to say that science and spirituality cannot ‘overlap’? There is nothing wrong with thinking ‘outside of the box’. For some phenomena there IS no nice neatly wrapped little answer. I rather like what the Director of the Human Genome project said: ‘God can be worshiped in the lab AND in the Church.’
    Who are we to say where all of that energy goes when a person dies? I have several family members, all strict Conservative Southern Baptists, who have described ‘visiting and talking with’ a wife or father who just died. They were not afraid, but very comforted by their ‘encounter’, whatever it was!

  14. ORNurseOnDuty

    I’ve experienced some pretty scary stuff inside the OR. One time at around two in the morning while I was circulating a stat surgery, the anesthesiologist asked me to get the forms that he needed to sign. I went to the supply room and tried to reach for a paper that was over my head. While reaching, I felt heaviness on both of my arms as if kids were pulling my arms down. To make things worse, I felt a cold hand running down my back!! I couldn’t move a muscle for a about a minute until someone called my name.

    Another story happened when I went to the male’s quarters to get something. The room felt the usual. Not until I was about to reach my bag when I heard a child’s voice crying “daddy, dadddyyy!” I tried to ignore it for a couple of seconds. I had goosebumps all over my body! When I thought and was certain that we didn’t have a child patient at that moment, I run out of room shaking!!

  15. cheryl1966

    When I was working in an area of LTC that at one time was a unit of the hospital that held the pediatric unit, strange happenings would occur at the SAME time each night. Around 2100, the elevator from the 1st floor would come up to where we were on the 3rd floor, open up, and close as if someone got off there. Then, like clockwork, at 2115, the elevator on the 3rd floor would open up again, and back down to the 1st floor it would go. I will never forget those evenings, and I wonder sometimes if it is still happening there.

  16. onlyme

    Nurses – especially on night duty – are sometimes referred to as ‘urban angels’; and often patients will pass away in the middle of the night. So it’s maybe natural that at times of intense stress and isolation the senses will be bombarded with highly realistic impressions which seem to go beyond the natural. A definition of an angel is a ministering spirit; and maybe for someone night duty might be a case of doing one’s job, while for the patient it might be like the intervention of a ministering spirit or angel? It’s sometimes hard to define what is meant by a ghost, but I know I can’t explain rationally what might be going through other people’s senses and awareness in the context of their life history.