6 Things Nurses Say Under Their Breath Every Shift

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.

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As nursing professionals, we have to be tactful — with our patients and with each other. There are always things we wish we could say, but we can’t, because it would be rude, inappropriate, or just plain mean. Here are some of the things a lot of nurses wish they could say, but can’t. Sometimes we might even mutter it under our breath.

I know what I’m doing.

Nurses often run into people who doubt our ability to do our job, whether it’s a co-worker, a supervisor, a patient, or a patient’s family member. RN licenses aren’t something they just hand out at random. We go to school for years before entering the working world, and many of us get higher degrees while working as a nurse. There are a lot of fail safes in this process to ensure competency. When someone implies that we don’t know what we’re doing, it’s incredibly insulting. But what are we supposed to say in return? We have to just shrug it off and mumble under our breath.

I wish they’d leave so I could do my damn job.

Many of us work with patients who are very old or very sick, and can’t always do or say much for themselves. Most of those kinds of patients have passionate, well-meaning family members at their side. They’re there for help and support, but sometimes, they just end up underfoot. Sometimes we wish a patient’s child or spouse would leave, so that we could do our jobs more effectively.

I’m not a maid.

We’re highly trained and educated medical professionals, but we’re also caretakers and caregivers. Many of us have changed our share of adult diapers and cleaned out far too many bedpans. We do provide help for people with things like hygiene, so it’s all too common for patients or their families to start viewing us as “the help.”

This stings a lot. We gave up a lot of our free time to party during our 20s so that we could pursue higher degrees and get the training we need to do our jobs. Much like doctors, we spent years in school. Almost all of us have at least a bachelor’s, and many of us have a master’s degree as well. No one gets a master’s degree to be someone’s maid. But honestly, a lot of people don’t quite seem to know any better.

I know you’re stressed right now, but don’t take it out on me.

When someone is severely ill or injured, their family members — who often stay close at their side — are incredibly mentally and emotionally stressed. Many of us have been through that ourselves, so a lot of us understand what that’s like.

But when people are under that much stress, they can snap at us or start getting rude. It’s only human. When you’re in the process of losing a loved one, it’s hard to cope with everything that’s going on.

But please, don’t take it out on us. We’re here to help — it’s our job.

Why the hell didn’t you come in earlier?!

“Well, there’s this hole in my stomach, and I’m pretty sure those are my intestines dragging on the floor, but I thought, “Oh, it’s probably just a cold.”

That’s an exaggeration, of course, but nurses who work in ERs or Urgent Care often see people come in who, frankly, are kind of dumb for not coming in sooner. Whether it’s heart attack symptoms, common signs of a stroke that everyone should know, or trying to “walk it off” when their leg is pretty obviously broken in multiple places, a lot of people are all too hesitant to come in and see a doctor.

Sometimes this isn’t really their fault. Even with insurance, healthcare can quickly become incredibly expensive. Medical bills are one of the leading causes of bankruptcy in older Baby Boomers. So it’s no wonder people are so scared to come and see us. But they need to, sooner rather than later.

You’re not really in that much pain, are you?

Ever have a patient who’s laughing and joking with their friends, but then you walk in, and they suddenly act like they’re in excruciating pain? Pain is subjective, and we don’t have an objective way of measuring any kind of biomarkers to truly verify it. Plus, everyone reacts differently. Some people stub their toe and freak out, while many women grit their teeth every month through menstrual pain that would have most people howling in agony.

But we’ve all seen it. Sometimes, they’re really just attention seekers, the kind of people where you can smell the personality disorders on them a mile away. Others are drug seekers, hoping we’ll feel bad for them and slip them some of that sweet, sweet Oxycodone.

Coping with Daily Frustrations as a Nurse

These are all things that a lot of us wish we could say out loud to people, but alas, we cannot. We have to stay chipper, friendly, and upbeat, even when we want to strangle someone who’s giving us a really hard time. It’s just part of the job.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.


This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.

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