Can Nurses Have Fun Without Risking It All?

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.


I’ve previously mentioned that, as health care professionals, we are never really “off the clock.” Some health care professionals have discovered the hard way that being “unprofessional” can have dire consequences.

As a nurse, I’ve become socially gun-shy. Many of my coworkers have asked me on numerous occasions to join them in an array of social activities ranging from drinks at the local “watering hole” to attending parties or important events. I’ve continually declined their kind offers simply out of a fear of having too much fun.

Does that make any sense at all?!

The public has not been kind to many professionals who “let their hair down” and had a good time. Somehow the public equates our clinical skills and decision-making abilities with whether or not we act accordingly. A professional would never partake in loud or obnoxious behavior, nor would they consume alcohol of any kind. To do so would tarnish their reputation as a professional, right?

No one ever mentions that they are grown adults celebrating and enjoying the company of their family, friends and/or coworkers in a safe, non-threatening, non-violent and non-disruptive manner.

I’m willing to bet a few rotten apples have spoiled the bushel. Some extreme cases of carelessness, recklessness and juvenile behavior have raised the public’s concern.

In the end, I have spent a lot of time, effort and money to attain my professional position and degree. Am I wanting to go out and act like a fool? Or break the law? No.

Unfortunately, I’m still a tad bit defensive about interpretation. An innocent misinterpretation can be a very sharp sword. The mere presence of questioning one’s professional abilities simply because of what someone “thought” they saw is enough to damage a career.

Whether accurate or not, perception is reality. And with enough influence it can change other people’s perceptions.

I guess I’m not willing to risk all my hard work over a misinterpretation.

Am I being extreme? Or am I being conscientious? Anyone else brave enough to admit to sharing my fears?

Maybe I’m just getting old? (Insert sarcastic grin.)

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

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.



  1. Life is too short. I’m not afraid to go out for a cocktail with coworkers. Don’t over drink- and be careful of what goes out on social media. I’ve worked with a lot of different staff in different parts of the USA, and I’ve enjoyed socializing and getting to know them.

  2. Add in Administrator and it is even more pressure. I feel, because I have been here 19 years, with my office in one of the cities we are in so not too many of us, I represent the company as well as the profession. Now having said that, I do have fun, I do leave my house to do other things besides work, but I always want to be seen as what I profess my beliefs to be, work related or not. I want my family to be well represented. I want my church to be well represented. I want my program and my employer to be well represented. And I want my profession to be well represented. So I try……….
    I swear (I work in a nutrition program) if I put broccoli and lean chicken in my grocery cart….I see zero patients that know me……but let me put a giant bag of Cheetos and a bottle of wine in there and bingo….they come out of the wordwork and all look in my cart! I usually smile and say, hey I am not perfect, all things in moderation! They need to know we are human too! If we put ourselves too high on a pedestal no patient will ever really develop that trust relationship we need them to in order to really take our advice.
    Now I will add, I would not do things that are illegal. I value my license and my reputation.
    And if ever I hear someone’s take on a person they saw out having too much fun, I always say….did you just observe this, or did you talk to them, or confirm what you saw was what it was…. More than once I have had fun and someone said something about my getting crazy or tipsy and I had been drinking diet coke all night or water. I always just laugh but hope that others who saw it will do me the courtesy of confirming their observation or withholding judgment.

  3. I am the same way. I want to build friendship with my coworkers but at the same time I’m scared to let my freak flag fly so to speak due to their perception of me being taken to the extremes of unprofessional.

  4. Are you being extreme or are you being conscientious? Obviously that is something only you can decide for yourself. As a professional health care provider, I’m looking for evidence-based information to your perceptions! Have you known people who were “celebrating and enjoying the company of their family, friends and/or coworkers in a safe, non-threatening, non-violent and non-disruptive manner” and lost their jobs because of it? What I hear is you saying you’re afraid of “having too much fun”, which to me implies you don’t feel you have control over your behavior if you are declining invitations to parties, important events, and joining colleagues at the local watering hole! Socializing is important for our mental health, but no one is going to force you to drink at all, or be loud, obnoxious or break the law. Trust me, it is possible to be social, have fun, and still be a respected health care professional! I also disagree about being “on the clock” 24/7. I give 200% when I’m on the job, but when I’m not, I have a life to live. Cheers!

  5. I don’t feel restricted in that way at all!! I go out and drink wine…usually with several RN friends! I am respectful and remain in control but I enjoy life and all it has to offer in moderation! There is a huge difference between what I described and being out of control intoxicated! There are also the legal aspects to consider as well. The important factor is moderation and never reporting to duty under the influence of anything more than caffeine!!

  6. I am right there with you. The idea of being thought of as less than professional because I was seen in a local bar or restaurant enjoying a glass of wine or dancing with friends always makes me pause. I would rather stay at home & not deal with the stress. I think it is more difficult for nurses because we are perceived as always being on the clock.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here