8 True Definitions For “RN”

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.

I always enjoy hearing other nurses talk about our profession. Everyone has their own opinion, be it positive or negative in nature. One of the greatest opinions on the matter came from a coworker of mine who posted the “true meanings of RN” on her Facebook page which started a tremendous chatter in response. I thought I would comment on each of these meanings and provide my own insight into the truth behind ‘RN.’

“The true meanings behind RN: Reluctantly Nice, Real Nurturer, Registered Nutcase, Rather Nerdy, Rockstar Nanny, Regretfully Naive, Rebelliously Naughty, Rescue Ninja…”

Reluctantly Nice : We all have bad days, we all have the patient that you just don’t get along with, we all can’t be “on” 100% of the time… but aren’t we expected to be? Nurses are viewed as the nice, gentle caretakers who always put a smile on people’s faces (or at least that’s what I strive for). So even in our darkest hour, when stresses from home are dragging us down and we haven’t slept because our own kid was up half the night coughing, we throw back our hair, slap a smile on our face, grit through our teeth and say, “Good morning, Mrs. Johnson, I’m going to be your nurse today, is there anything you need?” Although some days reluctant, we always strive to be nice.

Real Nurturer : Sure, doctors may do the prescribing, and they may even do the surgeries. But RNs are the nurturing force at the bedside. In a pediatric hospital when the parents can’t stay the night, it’s the nurse that is holding and feeding the baby. When bad news that the cancer has spread blindsides the family, it’s the nurse that lends a listening ear and holds the patient’s hand during chemo. When the miraculous recovery leaves the patient walking out of the hospital on their own, it’s the nursing staff that has spent countless hours at the bedside lining up to hug the patient when they walk by. That’s a nurturer.

Registered Nutcase : We work crazy hours, deal with crazy patients, and have to see what some people would call crazy things the human body does. So we are allowed to be a little nutty at times. At Thanksgiving dinner we get deemed the nutcase when talk of bodily fluids doesn’t gross us out. Some would even call working all night a cause for nuttiness. But if we don’t care for patient at all hours of the day and night, who else will? I’ll claim this title proudly.

Rather Nerdy : Granted, we work alongside those in white lab coats (and thank goodness for them) who carry around medical textbooks and dictate orders. For this example, let’s call the doctors the brains of the operation. So that makes nurses the senses for the brain. We are the doctor’s eyes and ears, and we are responsible for picking up on small changes at the bedside that may be missed without an astute assessment. For that reason, and for the knowledge that we must use to make a thorough assessment, one could deem us nerds. The human body is a complicated masterpiece, and nurses are expected to know many more details than the average person. Have you ever been that “go-to” friend that people call when their child is sick? “Oh, I have a friend who is a nurse, she knows everything, let’s call her…”

Rockstar Nanny : This could be explained in various scenarios, but who wouldn’t want a nurse as their nanny? The parents would never have to worry about an emergency, would they? I’ve had parents of perfectly healthy children tell me that they would pay me more to babysit their children just because I’m a nurse. Also, in the hospital setting, when parents have to go back to work because of financial constraints, it’s the nurses that step in as the faux mom, or nanny, during the hospitalization.

Regrettably Naive : I know when I first started I wanted all of my patients to be cured, to return home healthy and in better shape than when they came to the hospital. How naive. I know after some patients have passed away, I have troubled myself for weeks over what we could have done different to save this patient’s life, even though it was just their time to go. How naive. Amidst the naivete, something that nurses can count as a sure thing is that they are impacting somebody’s life each time they go to work. That makes up for being naive.

Rebelliously Naughty: This I will chalk up to jest but when Halloween comes around every year, what is consistently the most popular “naughty” costume found in stores? Although the stigma stays, a stigma that also presides on television and in the media, I would hope to say that in the real world RNs stray from this stigma since we are all professionals.

Rescue Ninja: Because of our exposure to emergency situations in the hospital setting, nurses are expected to maintain a sense of cool, calm and collectedness whenever an emergency arises. In the hospital, at a restaurant, at the party, etc. Thank goodness there was a nurse there that day!

Whatever people may deem alternative acronyms to Registered Nurse, I know it encompasses a working group of talented, empathetic, nurturing, important professionals that make a difference in people’s lives. For those of you who are a nurse, strive to be the best that you can be. For those of you who have experienced a nurse, lucky you.

Got any ‘true meanings’ for CNAs? LPN/LVNs? How about NPs? Share in the comments section below.

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.


  1. When I started out RN stood for “really nervous”, now after decades of nursing it stands for “radical nurse” to advocate for patient care and safety

  2. I once had this discussion after I graduated with my RN….many things we came up with, such as “refreshments & narcotics”, although My mother (who is an LPN) told me that RN stood for Retarded Nurse…I couldn’t help but laugh

  3. I’m a senior (over 80 yrsold!) & just getting around to retiring. When Iwas in a major car accident( NOT my fault) in 2000 I️ started a medical advocacy business .. most people would have retired then .
    I’m so grateful to have had the privilege of taking care of the many families under my care over these past 17 yrs.
    AliceD. RN, CRNA(ret.)

  4. I have been an R.N. for many year. I have to say i work alongside some of the best nurses ever. L.P.N.s…..for me they are a PRACTICAL necessity…..

  5. lpns are some of the finest nurses I have
    Known. No one should underestamate them
    Or disparage them ever. I am a bsn and have
    Learned so much from them. Thanks to all
    Of them for their wisdom and hard work
    I Lyles RN BSN

  6. I’ve been an LPN for close to 20 years and when I was in school NYS had a ad that stated ” ask for a real nurse, ask for a RN “, still irks me. I’ve been called many things such Low Paid Nurse, but my granddaughter came up with one I hadn’t heard … she called me a License Plate Nurse ?

  7. I am an LPN and one of my not so sweet patients once asked “are you a real nurse?” When I said yes, and explained I was an LPN, he replied, ” oh, you are not a REAL NURSE, you are a LET”S PRETEND NURSE.” Thanks….


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