50 Secrets Nurses Wish They Could Tell You

Doctors are clueless about what really happens in the beds, rooms, and halls of our hospitals. That's why we went to the experts: nurses.

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This is what I mean when I say to get a second opinion


"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

Before you gossip...


“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

Sometimes we give more medication than we're ordered to


"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

A lot of my patients are incontinent

iStock/Paul Pegler

"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

I always remain calm

iStock/Abel Mitja Varela

"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

Yes, you were stupid not to come in earlier


"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

Don't lie about your pain


"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

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

People have no idea of the amount of red tape 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

Hospitals are full of drug-resistant germs

iStock/Courtney Keating

"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

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