The 5 stages of a nurse’s hunger


Thinkstock | Wavebreakmedia Ltd

Thinkstock | Wavebreakmedia Ltd

Kübler-Ross has nothing on those of us who have unpredictable eating and sleeping hours. Have you ever missed lunch, or called breakfast “lunch,” or gone all shift without eating a thing? Read on…

1. Denial
The first stage of hunger is familiar to all of us. “I’ll just wait until after I do this discharge,” we say, or “As soon as my patient leaves for hydrotherapy, then I can eat.” Hunger pangs are no more than vaguely peckish feelings at this point.

2. Anger
Once lunch (or brunch, or semi-dinner) has been delayed a couple of times, anger sets in. This is partly a function of low blood sugar and partly a function of simply not having had a break for six or seven hours. “Hangry” is the layman’s term for wanting to snap the heads off of the nearest people, then serve them up with a nice béchamel.

3. Bargaining
Sometimes this works. Sometimes it doesn’t. “If you’ll cover my call bells for 20 minutes, I’ll do your dressing change” is a common offer. The thing with bargaining is this: If everybody’s having to beg for a lunch break, ain’t nobody gonna have time to eat.

4. Depression
As blood sugar continues to fall, dark thoughts set in. “If only I’d listened to Dad and studied accounting,” you say to yourself. “Normal people get a whole hour for lunch. Sometimes they can even run errands,” you muse. In the depths of depression, even that SoyJoy bar left over from three Nurses Weeks ago starts to look pretty good.

5. Acceptance
In the Kübler-Ross model, not everyone reaches acceptance. In the Hunger model, the same holds true. Those with a good store of glycogen in their livers or a little extra body fat can start manufacturing glucose or using ketones for fuel. The fit, trim, active ones will fall by the wayside, like so many wounded ibexes on the Serengeti. Reaching the Acceptance stage of hunger is in no way incompatible with eating a quadruple-patty triple-cheeseburger and a SuperDeDuper order of fries 10 minutes after your shift ends.

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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