25 More Secrets Your Nurse Won’t Tell You

Nurses Secrets© Ablestock.com/Thinkstock

1. “You might think that all the doctors who see you talk to each other, but they often don’t. That’s a problem because physicians sometimes disagree. The more you can keep track of different doctors’ opinions—and communicate them—the better off you’ll be.” –A nurse in Pennsylvania

2. “Don’t show up for a scheduled hospital admission at 12:30 p.m. and expect lunch. We’re not a hotel with room service and we can’t always turn around requests that quickly. Eat before you come, unless the doctor tells you not to.” –Theresa Brown, RN, an oncology nurse and the author of Critical Care: A New Nurse Faces Death, Life and Everything in Between
 
3. “To get a faster diagnosis, know your symptoms and what makes them worse. If you’re having chest pains, is it worse when you take a deep breath? What about when you press on your chest?” –Nancy Beck, RN, a nurse at a Missouri hospital
 
4. “If you’re diabetic and need to check your glucose frequently, don’t buy a glucometer—the gadget that measures your blood sugar. Some manufacturers will give you one for free if you know to ask, because they make more money on the test strips than they do on the machines. Just make sure your insurance plan covers the test strips for the glucometer you choose. If you’re paying out of pocket, check the price of the strips, not just the device.” –Theresa Tomeo, RN, a nurse at the Beth Abraham Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Queens, New York

5. “For some reason, when I ask ‘Are you having pain?’ a lot of patients say no, even if they are. But I’ve found that if I say, ‘Are you uncomfortable?’ people are much more likely to say yes. Please tell us if you’re in pain. We have all sorts of medications we can use to help you.”–Mary Pat Aust, RN, clinical practice specialist at American Association of Critical-Care Nurses in Aliso Viejo, California

6. “When someone you love is dying, you can never say ‘I love you’ too much.” –Barbara Dehn, RN, a women’s health nurse practitioner in Silicon Valley who blogs at nursebarb.com.

7. “I once had a patient who had been in ICU for six months. He was totally withdrawn—wouldn’t look at us, talk to us, or even open his eyes. One day, the doctor said, ‘Why don’t you take him outside?’ We were thinking, ‘Man, that’s a lot of work,’ but of course we said okay. We rolled his bed out the door, thinking what a waste of time it was. Well, the wind was on his face, he could hear the birds, and suddenly he opened his eyes and talked to his wife for the first time in months. That was an incredible day.” Gina Rybolt, RN, an intensive care nurse in California who blogs at codeblog.com
 
8. “One of the things people hate most about having a colonoscopy is drinking the solution that triggers diarrhea to clean you out. But if you mix the prep the day before and place it in the fridge, it will be a lot easier to get down.” –Theresa Tomeo, RN, a nurse at the Beth Abraham Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Queens, New York

9. “We know you hate being woken up, but we have to check your vital signs every four hours. It’s not the Hilton, it’s a hospital. And that’s hospital policy.” –A nurse in St. Petersburg, Florida

10. “You might think you’re taking all of your pills, but a lot of you are missing one or two or all of your pills on a given day. Use a weekly pill planner.” –Theresa Tomeo, RN, a nurse at the Beth Abraham Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Queens, New York

11. “Some doctors tell people not to smoke, then sneak a cigarette outside.” –Karon White Gibson, RN, producer-host of Outspoken with Karon, a Chicago cable TV show.

12. “When someone you care about is in the hospital and you call in for information, sometimes it’s not a good time for me to have a 10-minute conversation. Ask me first if I can call you back. That way, I can talk to you after I’ve collected my thoughts—and when I’m not thinking about another patient who’s throwing up.” –Theresa Brown, RN, an oncology nurse and the author of Critical Care: A New Nurse Faces Death, Life and Everything in Between.

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18 thoughts on “25 More Secrets Your Nurse Won’t Tell You

  1. This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever read. I think I got dumber while reading it.

  2. There are a lot of comments here bashing nurses. How ’bout you guys walk a shift (12 hours) in my clogs and see how it goes? *IF* nurse-to-patient ratios were safe and *IF* patient satisfaction scores didn’t mean that we have to treat pts as if they are in a top-notch hotel, we might actually be able to CARE for pts the way we all want to. Instead of spending time fully educating my newly diagnosed diabetes patient, I have to give them the basics then run off and get the (healthy) complainer his 5th ice cream and fluff the pillows again. YES, patients do this. ALL THE TIME. So if you think you aren’t getting good care, think about the other patients I am caring for and their demands on my time. I have only taken THREE lunch breaks in the last 8 months and rarely sit. But please, feel free to complain about what a crap job I and my colleagues are doing. What I WANT to tell you but CAN’T and WON’T is that this is NOT a hotel, we are trying to keep you alive and healthy, and we are going to be doing things that aren’t fun. I can’t ensure that you are going to be happy 100% of the time, but I am trying my best to keep you pain-free while I help cure you. And I get peed on, spit on, almost strangled, etc., by pts.

    Despite this, I smile, treat you kindly so you have no idea how hard my job is, and still love my job.

    1. Honestly, it doesn’t sound like you do. And all the things you listed above are part of your job so if you are put off by it then you are in the wrong field. After all the patient is the one in pain and really having to deal with everything not the nurse who is just supposed to do her job, which DOES including getting spit on and vomitted on. And requesting a pillow to be more comfortable doesn’t imply you think your at the Hilton. Last time I checked a pillow wasn’t a luxury.

      1. Think about it this way. While the nurse is getting the 5th ice cream and fluffing Mr Healthy Patient’s pillow (whose arms are fine and can flip it himself) – you or your loved one stopped breathing, had a seizure, fell trying to go to the bathroom, on and on and on, get the picture? Every non-medical issue you involve your nurse in takes her/him away from her main job – keeping you healthy and safe. Often there are simply too many things your nurse is juggling at one time and they are all important and can’t wait.

  3. the number one thing I have told patients is to ask questions. If they do not understand the answer, I tell them, to say that they do not understand. I can always rephrase my answer to make them understand. The stupidest question in the world, is the one that is not asked.

    1. The crazy thing is I ask questions of the nurses for my dad, I recognize that I am not a doctor or nurse so I need to know why things are being given or happening, and 90% of the nurses my father had wouldn’t even acknowledge my questions muchless give me a straight answer. Its very scary. I am also, by the way, always polite and gracious so I know its not in the asking that is the problem.

  4. You should TRY to speak to the nurse, but don’t be surprized by them ignoring you or claiming to be too busy. Occasionally they are, but unless you are in ICU, frequent emergencies that call the nurse away when you want a bath, an extra pillow or blanket, need to be cleaned after urinating, vomitting, or defecating on yourself, etc. are excuses by lazy nurses that could not care any less about you or your sick loved one. There are very good Rn’s out there, unfortunately, they are becoming very few and far between. Too many RN’s today come from outside the U.S. They are being hired for less than the standard RN pay scale in an effort to save money by the hospital. They are under trained, have poor communication skills, and come from cultures that do not emphisize patient care or customer service. They tend to be concentrated on the off shifts, particularly at night (11pm – 7am) and on weekends. You will see the better nurses during the weekday shifts. This is when administrative and managerial personel are around regularly and want to see the more profesional and caring nurses. Weekends, nights, holidays, managers are at home and don’t care about the patients until they get a phone call or page about a problem they won’t actually address until the next regular business day. If you get a good nurse, consider yourself lucky. Give them a nice, written, compliment or evaluation and send it to their supervisor. They will appreciate it! If you get a poor RN, try to write that up as well, but don’t expect anything to be done about them, they are there to fill a spot and save a buck!!

  5.  Number 19 (above) is an attitude we encounter frequently among ICU nurses: “Too much effort and money put into these critically ill old folks.” The nurse’s attitude suggests she should get a job in a different area of the hospital more suited to her philosophy of care. Perhaps the morgue? Or at least a non-clinical, non-teaching research post.

    Vital, active older folks come to the hospital to get well; not to be talked into death. When you meet them, they don’t have their teeth in, their glasses on, their hair washed, nor are they wearing their favorite figure-flattering outfit — so you see an old geezer who should quit: you don’t see them in their true life context. You don’t acknowledge that your patient’s quality of life definition might be very different from yours. Sometimes a family is truly honoring the wishes and lifelong beliefs of their loved one. It is difficult, but it is really not up to jaded ICU nurses to look down on family members in the agony of trying to honor their parents and loved ones known wishes.

    ICU nurses can seem more intent on getting DNRs signed than helping patients survive the trauma of hospital-acquired infections, medical restraint via over-medication with painkillers, and the indignity of being denied a bedpan long after catheters have ceased to be necessary, and care tainted by the preconceived notions of their nurses and doctors.

  6.  Number 19 (above) is an attitude we encounter frequently among ICU nurses: “Too much effort and money put into these critically ill old folks.” The nurse’s attitude suggests she should get a job in a different area of the hospital more suited to her philosophy of care. Perhaps the morgue? Or at least a non-clinical, non-teaching research post.

    Vital, active older folks come to the hospital to get well; not to be talked into death. When you meet them, they don’t have their teeth in, their glasses on, their hair washed, nor are they wearing their favorite figure-flattering outfit — so you see an old geezer who should quit: you don’t see them in their true life context. You don’t acknowledge that your patient’s quality of life definition might be very different from yours. Sometimes a family is truly honoring the wishes and lifelong beliefs of their loved one. It is difficult, but it is really not up to jaded ICU nurses to look down on family members in the agony of trying to honor their parents and loved ones known wishes.

    ICU nurses can seem more intent on getting DNRs signed than helping patients survive the trauma of hospital-acquired infections, medical restraint via over-medication with painkillers, and the indignity of being denied a bedpan long after catheters have ceased to be necessary, and care tainted by the preconceived notions of their nurses and doctors.

  7. Please give me a nurse without a inferiority complex in regards to doctors.  One third of these comments seem to belittle doctors or bestow self praise at the expense of the doctors.  Not saying it isn’t true in many cases…it just comes off as unprofessional to moan about it.

  8. Please give me a nurse without a inferiority complex in regards to doctors.  One third of these comments seem to belittle doctors or bestow self praise at the expense of the doctors.  Not saying it isn’t true in many cases…it just comes off as unprofessional to moan about it.

  9. Iam a nurse also for thirty years. I can honestly stand up and say that I also have always been a patient advocate. Always treating them as I wanted them to treat my parents my brothers my kids or anyone.
    I have sat down and talked to them about happy things and sad things. Death and living.  Spirituality if they wanted to hear it and other times I just took the time and just kept quiet and listen to what they had to say.
    I have worked in Mental Health, Hiv Terminal Stage, and the last 12 years have been with Veterans Spinal Cord, and MHBS. I have loved all 30 years of it and don’t look foward to retirement.
    Sara Rosado RN.MSN. (nasutoya4@msn.com

  10. Why is this titled “25 secrets your nurse won’t tell you” ?  Why in the world do you think nurses won’t tell you these things.  Seriously, they are not going to tell you to tell your dying mother that you love her?  I can’t see it now – nurses conspiratorially trying to make a dying person’s death even more miserable.  Why wouldn’t they give you those hints about blood glucose meters?  Why wouldn’t they try to make your colonoscopy experience better?  Does the author of this article think nurses are just plain mean, or what?

  11. I read the article in the Nov 2011 Reader’s Digest magazine and was disappointed that it does not give more exposure and time to caring professionals who deliver high quality nursing 24 hours 7 days a week.  Photos of TV and movie nurses in the article help focus on the fiction of nursing, rather than the reality.  EVERY nursing area has some immature people, some with loud mouths and some who shouldn’t be a nurse.  Where are the photos and stories of the nurses in the military?  Where are the stories of the Trauma team at Univ of Arizona that responded to the mass shooting of Gabrielle Giffords and others on Jan 8, 2011?  The nurses who responded to care needs on 9-11?  The nurses who teach patients to manage asthma, diabetes, etc? 

    I’m disappointed in this article by Michelle Crouch.

  12. I am a nurse, and have been in practice for almost 40 years.  “50 Secrets nurses won’t tell you.” is misleading.   I do not avoid discussing truths with my patients, and occassionally have jeopardized my position by being a patient advocate.  But that is what I am and that is the core of professional nursing practice.  More often than not, patients do not want to go against the doctor’s advice and do not want to know what I think.  I could tell them what doctors to avoid and the options available to them. 

  13. i really enjoy the bigoted “i’ll double or triple what you claim”  such as the “what you drink, smoke and pop”    i had nurses like that who almost killed me because they didn’t trust what i told them, honestly.  took 10 yrs to finally find professionals who took their jobs seriously and save my life..  i’m a malignant hypertensive sufferer..  that’ll be the last time i trust a nurse..   back in the 90s when i tried to explain to them that i didn’t smoke, drink or take drugs.. they laughed and refused to treat me because they thought i was lying…  wow, thanks for the heart attack and many years of painful injury to my body due to my inherited disease…

    no,   i’m sorry, i can’t take those who contributed to this article seriously, they did the most damage to not only myself but who knows how many thousands of others, especially those who didn’t live to tell the tale.

    :(  very sad that ‘professionals’ can get away with this garbage.

    1. Sorry, man- you sound pretty bitter. However, I’m sure you did come across great nurses and other health professionals too :)

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