The 5 Nursing Nightmares I Have When I Sleep

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.

To sleep, perchance to dream…have you had any of these five nightmares when you get the chance to sleep?

What do nurses dream about when they get the chance to sleep?

As a nurse who regularly works a three- or four-day run, I tend to dream about the minutiae of work. And those dreams, well, they’re unremarkable.

But sometimes — just sometimes — I wake up in a cold sweat. And it’s usually thanks to one of these five Nursing Nightmares:

1. Schrödinger’s Patient: There’s a patient you haven’t seen all shift. When you open the door to their room, they’ll either be alive and happy (“Whassup?”) or dead.

2. Patients on Various Floors: How many times have you dreamed an assignment that involves not only different hallways, but different floors? And the elevators are always out of order, too.

3. Trying to Get to Work: A variation of the Misty Luggage dream, this one involves insane obstacles between you and the time clock, including, but not limited to, seas of banana pudding through which you have to wade, winding highways and cars that suddenly turn into laundry baskets.

4. Schrödinger’s Doctor: In this dream, you need an order. You get one, but it changes every time you look at it. And for some reason, all the orders are written in impossible handwriting, using a faulty fountain pen, on antique clipboards that disappear just as you’re about to lay hands on them.

5. Not All Bleeding Stops Eventually: This is the nightmare that’s guaranteed to wake you up in a cold sweat. It doesn’t matter what crisis it is; whatever it is won’t stop. The code goes on and on, your patient keeps having explosive diarrhea or the cafeteria keeps running out of egg noodles. Your brain wakes you up from this one, panting and panicky, 10 minutes before your alarm is set to go off.

It’s a wonder that we, as a profession, ever sleep at all.

What dreams do you dream? What dreams do you wish you could dream?

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.


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Susan Burns

I dream that I am sleeping in the hospital and still answer call bells when they buzz even though I have not worked in a hospital since 1984.

Sue Nyman

My dream is that it is almost shift change and I haven’t seen all my patients and or I haven’t done any charting!


Dreaming the phone is ringing and waking up to answer it….

Toni Mullarkey

Sounds like a common theme about missed meds! I graduated 50 years ago and have’t worked in a clinical setting for 30 years. I often had nightmare that forgot to pass meds…and had to do hundreds of “incident reports”. Another variation was that I had the meds all set up in the little paper cups we used to use, and would stumble and drop the huge tray. Then in order to get the meds out on time, I would give meds to patients, knowing that they wouldn’t be getting their correct meds. After all these years, I still occasionally have… Read more »

Tammy green

I have actually dreamt I gave my medications in my sleep shirt and house shoes!

Teresa Mauldin

That is my nightmare. My shift is 3/4 complete and I realize I have not given any meds at all. I too awake in a panic and am soooo relieved to realize it is a dream.

Judy stocker registered nurse

I always dream of a med pass that never ends and have been known to call a code blue in my sleep I think they make it then I wake up

Sondra L. Moylan, MS, RN

I have left clinical nursing for nearly 20 years, and I still have a recurrent dream. I forget to give the medications at the correct time, or don’t give them at all. I am always in a panic because I don’t know what to do.