50 Secrets Your Nurse Won’t Tell You

What really happens in the bedrooms and halls of our hospitals? Find out from the experts. Here, nurses shed light on the secrets only a nurse would know.

By Michelle Crouch from Reader's Digest, | November 2011
  • Loading

    Dirty Little Secrets

    1. "We're not going to tell you your doctor is incompetent, but if I say, 'You have the right to a second opinion,' that can be code for 'I don't like your doctor' or 'I don't trust your doctor.'" — Linda Bell, RN, clinical practice specialist at the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses in Aliso Viejo, California 2. "When a patient is terminally ill, sometimes the doctor won't order enough pain medication. If the patient is suffering, we'll sometimes give more than what the doctor said and ask him later to change the order. People will probably howl now that I've said it out loud, but you have to take care of your patient." — A longtime nurse in Texas 

    3. "Feel free to tell us about your personal life, but know that we're here for 12 hours with nothing to talk about. So the stuff you tell us will probably get repeated." — A nurse in St. Petersburg, Florida 4. "A lot of my patients are incontinent, and I'm supposed to just use a wet washcloth to clean them. But if it's a patient who's been really nice and appreciative, I'll go all the way to intensive care to get some of the heated wet wipes, which are a lot more gentle. Somebody who's constantly yelling at me? I just use the washcloth." — A nurse in St. Petersburg, Florida

    What We're Really Thinking

    5. "I've had people blow out arteries in front of me, where I know the patient could bleed to death within minutes. I've had people with brains literally coming out of their head. No matter how worried I am, I'll say calmly, 'Hmmm, let me give the doctor a call and have him come look at that.'" — A longtime nurse in Texas 6. "I'd never tell a patient that he's a moron for waiting a week for his stroke symptoms to improve before coming to the hospital. Although I'd like to. Especially if his wife then complains that we're not doing anything for the guy." — A longtime nurse who blogs at head-nurse.blogspot.com

    7. "If you're happily texting and laughing with your friends until the second you spot me walking into your room, I'm not going to believe that your pain is a ten out of ten." — A nurse in New York City

    8. "When you tell me how much you drink or smoke
    or how often you do drugs, I automatically double or triple it." — A longtime nurse in Texas

    9. "Your life is in our hands — literally. We question physicians' orders more often than you might think. Some of the mistakes I've headed off: a physician who forgot to order a medication that the patient was taking at home, a doctor who ordered the incorrect diet for a diabetic, and one who tried to perform a treatment on the wrong patient." — A nurse from Pennsylvania

    10. "These days, you can't get admitted unless you're really sick,
    and you'll probably get sent home before you're really ready. So we don't get any easy ones anymore." — Kathy Stephens Williams, RN, staff development educator for critical care at St. Anthony's Medical Center in St. Louis, Missouri

    11. "People have no idea of the amount of red tape and charting we have to deal with every day. We spend hours at the computer just clicking boxes. They tell us, 'If it wasn't charted, it didn't happen.' So I always chart with a jury in the back of my mind." — An intensive-care nurse in California
    12. "Despite nurses' best efforts, hospitals are still filthy and full of drug-resistant germs.
    I don't even bring my shoes into the house when I get home." — Gina, a nurse who blogs at codeblog.com

    13. "The No. 1 thing you should never say to me: 'You're too smart to be a nurse.' I went to nursing school because I wanted to be a nurse, not because I wanted to be a doctor and didn't make it." — A longtime nurse in Texas
    14. "Grey's Anatomy? We watch it and laugh. Ninety percent of the things doctors do on the show are things that nurses do in real life. Plus, there's no time to sit in patients' rooms like that." — Kathy Stephens Williams, RN

    15. "The sicker you are, the less you complain. I'll have a dying patient with horrible chest pain who says nothing, because he doesn't want to bother me. But the guy with the infected toe — he can't leave me alone." — An intensive-care nurse in California 16. "No matter how many times you use your call light, even if it's every ten minutes, I will come into your room with a smile. However, if you don't really need help, I will go back to the nurses' station and complain, and this may affect how the nurses on the next shift take care of you." — A cardiac nurse in San Jose, California 17. "When your provider asks for a list of the medications you're taking, make sure you include over-the-counter drugs and herbals. People think that if an herb is 'all natural' and 'organic,' it's not a medication. But that's not true. Herbals can interact with other medications and can cause serious complications." — Kristin Baird, RN, a health-care consultant in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin

    18. "This is a hospital, not a hotel. I'm sorry the food isn't the best, and no, your boyfriend can't sleep in the bed with you." — A nurse in New York City 19. "I know you asked for mashed potatoes, but that sound you hear is my other patient’s ventilator going off." — A nurse in New York City

    What We Lie About

    20. "If you ask me if your biopsy results have come back yet, I may say no even if they have, because the doctor is really the best person to tell you. He can answer all your questions." — Gina, a nurse who blogs at codeblog.com 21. "When you ask me, 'Have you ever done this before?' I'll always say yes. Even if I haven’t." — A nurse in New York City

    What Hurts Our Feelings

    22. "In my first nursing job, some of the more senior nurses on the floor refused to help me when I really needed it, and they corrected my inevitable mistakes loudly and in public. It's a very stressful job, so we take it out on each other." — Theresa Brown, RN, an oncology nurse and the author of Critical Care: A New Nurse Faces Death, Life, and Everything in Between 23. "It can be intimidating when you see a physician who is known for being a real ogre make a mistake. Yes, you want to protect your patient, but there's always a worry: Am I asking for a verbal slap in the face?" — Linda Bell, RN 24. "Every nurse has had a doctor blame her in front of a patient for something that is not her fault. They're basically telling the patient, 'You can't trust your nurse.'" —Theresa Brown, RN

    What We Love

    25. "If you have a really great nurse, a note to her nurse manager that says 'So-and-so was exceptional for this reason' will go a long way. Those things come out in her evaluation — it's huge." — Linda Bell, RN

    26. "If you've been a patient in a unit for a long time,
    come back and visit. We'll remember you, and we'd love to see you healthy." — An intensive-care nurse in California


    27. "I once took care of a child who had been in a coma for more than a week. The odds that he would wake up were declining, but I had read that the sense of smell was the last thing to go. So I told his mom, 'Put your perfume on a diaper and hold it up by his nose to see if it will trigger something.' The child woke up three hours later. It was probably a coincidence, but it was one of my best moments as a nurse." — Barbara Dehn, RN, a nurse-practitioner in Silicon Valley who blogs at nursebarb.com

    How to Get Great Care

    28. "Now that medical records are computerized, a lot of nurses or doctors read the screen while you're trying to talk to them. If you feel like you're not being heard, say, 'I need your undivided attention for a moment.'" — Kristin Baird, RN 29. "Never talk to a nurse while she's getting your medications ready. The more conversation there is, the more potential there is for error." — Linda Bell, RN 30. "Some jobs are physically demanding. Some are mentally demanding. Some are emotionally demanding. Nursing is all three. If you have a problem with a nurse or with your care, ask to speak to the charge nurse (the one who oversees the shift). If it isn't resolved at that level, ask for the hospital supervisor." — Nancy Brown, RN, a longtime nurse in Seattle

    31. "If the person drawing your blood misses your vein the first time, ask for someone else. I've seen one person stick someone three times. They need to practice, but it shouldn't be on you!" — Karon White Gibson, RN, producer-host of Outspoken with Karon, a Chicago cable TV show 32. "Never let your pain get out of control. Using a scale of zero to ten, with ten being the worst pain you can imagine, start asking for medication when your pain gets to a four. If you let it get really bad, it's more difficult to get it under control." — Nancy Beck, RN, a nurse at a Missouri hospital 33. "Ask the nurse to wet your bandage or dressing before removal — it won’t hurt as much." — Karon White Gibson, RN

    34. "If you're going to get blood drawn, drink two or three glasses of water beforehand. If you're dehydrated, it's a lot harder for us to find a vein, which means more poking with the needle." 
    35. "Don't hold your breath when you know we're about to do something painful, like remove a tube or take the staples out of an incision. Doing that will just make it worse. Take a few deep breaths instead." — Mary Pat Aust, RN, clinical practice specialist at American Association of Critical-Care Nurses in Aliso Viejo, California

    The Truth About Doctors

    36. "If you have a choice, don't go into the hospital in July. That's when the new crop of residents starts, and they're pretty clueless." — A nurse supervisor at a New Jersey hospital 37. "Doctors don't always tell you everything. They'll be in the hallway saying, 'She has a very poor prognosis. There's nothing we can do.' Then they don't say that in the room. Sometimes I try to persuade them to be more up-front, but I don't always succeed." — Theresa Brown, RN

    38. "There are a few doctors at every hospital who just don't think that they need to wash their hands between seeing patients. Others get distracted and forget. So always ask anyone who comes into your room, 'Have you washed your hands?'" — Kathy Stephens Williams, RN 39. "Many doctors seem to have a lack of concern about pain. I've seen physicians perform very painful treatments without giving sedatives or pain medicine in advance, so the patient wakes up in agony. When they do order pain medicine, they're so concerned about overdosing, they often end up underdosing." — A nurse supervisor at a New Jersey hospital

    40. "When you're with someone who is dying, try to get in bed and snuggle with them. Often they feel very alone and just want to be touched. Many times my patients will tell me, 'I'm living with cancer but dying from lack of affection.'" — Barbara Dehn, RN, NP 41. "It's the little things that make a difference for people who are sick. One of the best things you can do is wrap them in a warm blanket or towel. Throw the towel in the dryer before they are bathed. If they're in a hospital, find out where the blanket warmer is." — Barbara Dehn, RN, NP 42. "I'll never tell you to change your code status to Do Not Resuscitate, even though I might cringe at the thought of having to break your ribs during CPR. With certain patients, however, I may talk to family members to clarify their goals for the patient's care. This sometimes leads to an elderly person being placed on comfort care rather than being continually tortured by us with procedures that aren't going to help." — A cardiac nurse in San Jose, California

    More Things We Want You to Know

    43. "Husbands, listen to your wives if they tell you to go to the hospital. Today a man kept fainting but wouldn't go to the hospital until his wife forced him. He needed not one, not two, but three units of blood — he was bleeding internally. He could have had a cardiac arrest. Another man complained to his wife that he didn't feel 'right.' His wife finally called me to come over to their house. His pulse was 40. He got a pacemaker that evening." — Barbara Dehn, RN, NP 44. "The doctors don't save you; we do. We're the ones keeping an eye on your electrolytes, your fluids, whether you're running a fever. We're often the ones who decide whether you need a feeding tube or a central line for your IV. And we're the ones who yell and screech when something goes wrong." — A longtime nurse in Texas

    45. "If you do not understand what the doctor is telling you, say so! I once heard a doctor telling his patient that the tumor was benign, and the patient thought that benign meant that he had cancer. That patient was my dad. It was one of the things that inspired me to become a nurse." — Theresa Tomeo, RN, a nurse at the Beth Abraham Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Queens, New York 46. "At the end of an appointment, ask yourself: Do I know what's happening next? If you had blood drawn, find out who's calling who with the results, and when. People assume that if they haven't heard from anyone, nothing is wrong. But I've heard horror stories. One positive biopsy sat under a pile of papers for three weeks." — Kristin Baird, RN

    47. "As a nurse, sometimes you do nothing but run numbers and replenish fluids. Sometimes you're also the person who reassures the teenager that 'everybody' gets her period on the day of admission, the person who, though 30 years younger than the patient, tells that patient without blushing or stammering that yes, sex is possible even after neck surgery. You're the person who knows not only the various ways to save somebody else's life but also how to comfort those left behind." — A longtime nurse who blogs at head-nurse.blogspot.com

    How to Be a Great Patient

    48. "I had one patient show up repeatedly to see me after he was discharged. Another little old man tried to pull me into bed with him. (He was stronger than he looked.) The general rule is don't ask us on a date. We're busy. It's unethical. And, really, I already know you better than I want to." — A longtime nurse in Texas 49. "Positive attitude is everything. I have seen many people think themselves well." — Nancy Beck, RN 50. "A simple 'Thank you' can really make my day."A nurse in New York City

    POPULAR RIGHT NOW

    Your Comments

    • Bernadette McKeon Goodwyn

      YUP! I ALWAYS ask for the I.V.Team!

    • kate

      Please help me thank Dr EHOHO for his good work I really believe HIV has no cure I was HIV positive over since 3 year plus before I come across a comment about DREHOHO Dr EHOHO that he have cure to any disease and virus but when I saw it i have it in mind that he can’t cure HIV I just decided to give a try I contact him that night luckily to me he said yes but I don’t believe him I think it was a scam or some thing like that but I still hold on to see the work of Dr EHOHO if he is saying the true, he ask for different thing and some question about me I give him all the details he needed and I waited to see his reply to my problem. After all the things is done he ask me to go for check up I went for hiv test I cant believe i became hiv negative thanks to Dr EHOHO for helping me cure my disease. if you need help of any kind you can contact him now with his Email at DREHOHOSPELLTEMPLE090@GMAIL.COM ……………….. Kate Jolanta from HUNGARY

    • Mark Rebecca

      Hello i am Mark Rebecca am from United Kingdom I am so happy to let the whole word know how this powerful spell caster saved my marriage. Everything was going down the drain as my husband can not stop cheating on me with other women. It became used to always heating on me. I tried to make him stop, but I couldn’t help the situation, the more I tried, the harder it becomes. At times we will fight and go apart for some months and we will come back again just because of our kids. One day a friend told me about this spell caster who helped her too, his name is Dr. ONIHA, she said he uses white magic spells to solve spiritual problems. I decided to give it a try, I contacted him and he told me it will take just 2 to 3 days and I will see great changes in my husband. He actually cast a spell, believe me after 2 to 3 days of the spell, my husband was confessing different names of woman he has slept with. He begged for forgiveness and never to try it again. From that day till now, my mind is at rest. My husband dislike every other women on earth except me. And am so happy to have him for myself alone. The spell caster’s contact is: onihaspiritualtemple@yahoo.com

    • Shakes Spear

      Need a spell caster?then think of Shakes Spear he is real reliable and he does what he promise you.I know all this because he helped with my marriage problem.For security reason i will not live my name here but i can tell you all he did to help me.Me and my family live in the US military base here in America,my wife is a solider and i love it that she is and i support.But being a solider means she is half my wife and fully the U.S army.before her three tour we were so in love and we had a kid son who we both love him.It all changed after her two tour in Iraq and Afghanistan,i noticed the distance her second tour she stopped call at first i thought maybe she was part of an accident but i found out that she was OK in Afghanistan.She explained that she always on patrol.It got ugly on the third. I guess in the last two tours she found herself a new lover and then totally forgetting me and our boy.I can not say i did not notice because she always has to be some where instead of with me,coming up with some silly excuse not to be with me that is ( have sex ) and her entire behavior told me all i needed to know. i did my research and i had a hint that it was her squad lieutenant.I had know evidence so a could not take the matter to any body.It killed me to seeing this happen i was going suicidal.What hurt me the most was she going home knowing that i suspect she infidelity,she kept lying to me over and over again.The power of positive thinking helped me a lot.I thought that maybe i can find in the help on the internet with the people who had being in the same problem with him.I found a lot of ways but nor worked except Shakes Spear spell.At that time five month ago i was so confused that i could do anything to get my wife back so i contacted Shakes Spear with his email address i saw in some comment on the internet at shakesspear23@yahoo.com.I laid down my problem to him and told him the entire story and he even confirmed my hint was right, how he did i do not know but he was right because my wife told me later after the spell was made effective. Shakes Spear cast a spell on them both do not know what he did but it seem he made them both forget they ever crossed path romantically speaking like they never know each other expect there official relationship that is squad leader and solider.I owe my life to John Yi Yi what he did saved my marriage.I can tell you this because i have tried and it worked for me.Your case also have a solution with SHAKES SPEAR contact him with his email shakesspear23@yahoo.com OR shakesspear23@gmail.com

    • Shakes Spear

      My life is back!!! After 8 years of marriage, my husband left me and left me with our three kids. I felt like my life was about to end, and was falling apart. I contacted you and after I explained you my problem. In just 24hours, my husband came back to us and show me and my kids much love and apologize for all the pain he have bring to the family. We solved our issues, and we are even happier than before Shakes Spear you are the best spell caster I really appreciate the love spell you casted for me to get the man back to my life i will keep sharing more testimonies to people about your good work Thank you once again Shakes Spear at shakesspear23@yahoo.com OR shakesspear23@gmail.com incase you are in any problem you can contact this man for help he is always there in his temple to help you solve your problem Contact Email is: shakesspear23@yahoo.com. CONTACT HIM TODAY VIA THIS EMAIL ADDRESS: shakesspear23@yahoo.com OR shakesspear23@gmail.com AS HIS POWERS ARE SO STRONG AND VERY EFFECTIVE AND HAS NO BAD EFFECT INSTEAD IT HAVE A VERY GOOD RESULT AFTER CASTING THE SPELL.

    • Shakes Spear

      Hello I am AKPAMU,I am out here to spreed this good news to the entire world on how I got my ex lover back.I was going crazy when my love left me for another girl last month, But when i meet a friend that introduce me to DR SHAKES SPEAR the great messenger to the oracle that he serve,I narrated my problem to DR SHAKES SPEAR about how my ex love left me and also how i needed to get a job in a very big company.He only said to me that i have come to the right place were i will be getting my heart desire without any side effect.He told me what i need to do,After it has been done,In the next 2 days,My love called me on the phone and was saying sorry for living me before now and also in the next one week after my love called me to be pleading for forgiveness,I was called for interview in my desired company were i needed to work as the managing director..I am so happy and overwhelmed that i have to tell this to the entire world to contact DR shakes Spear at the following email address and get all your problem solve..No problem is too big for him to solve.. Contact him direct on: shakesspear23@yahoo.com OR shakesspear23@gmail.com and get your problems solve like me….. ONCE AGAIN HIS EMAIL ADDRESS IS: shakesspear23@yahoo.com OR shakesspear23@gmail.com

    • Shakes Spear

      Hello I am Angella Ikpoi ,I am out here to spreed this good news to the entire world on how I got my ex love back.I was going crazy when my love left me for another girl last month, But when i meet a friend that introduce me to Prophet SHAKES SPEAR the great messenger to the oracle that he serve,I narrated my problem to Prophet DR SHAKES SPEAR about how my ex love left me and also how i needed to get a job in a very big company.He only said to me that i have come to the right place were i will be getting my heart desire without any side effect.He told me what i need to do,After it was been done,In the next 2 days,My love called me on the phone and was saying sorry for living me before now and also in the next one week after my love called me to be pleading for forgiveness,I was called for interview in my desired company were i needed to work as the managing director..I am so happy and overwhelmed that i have to tell this to the entire world to contact Prophet SHAKES SPEAR at the following email address and get all your problem solve.. No problem is too big for him to solve.. Contact him direct on: shakesspear23@yahoo.com OR shakesspear23@gmail.com . and get your problems solve like me….. ONCE AGAIN HIS EMAIL ADDRESS IS: shakesspear23@yahoo.com OR shakesspear23@gmail.com

    • Shakes Spear

      My name is Remeo from berjin.This site has pave way for me to meet a man that actually helped me get my ex back. I saw different testimonies of different spell casters on this site, and I decide to choose two out of the many of them to see if their spell is real. I am testifying back now that SHAKES SPEAR SPELL is a powerful spell caster, his spell works for me just within 3days. My ex is back and we are living together happily. Thanks to you shakesspear23@yahoo.com OR shakesspear23@gmail.com. You have really proven to me that these testimonies about you is real.CAN NEVER STOP TALKING ABOUT YOU SIR HIS EMAIL ADDRESS IS: shakesspear23@yahoo.com OR shakesspear23@gmail.com CONTACT HIM NOW FOR SOLUTION TO ALL YOUR PROBLEMS

    • yammie

      wow.. very well said.like this