Nurses Say the Darnedest Things!

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    One of the many zillions of trivialities that spark my hyperactive imagination late at night when I can't sleep:

    Have you ever thought about what we must sound like to the average layperson when we use 'medicalese'? It's a language that flows as easily as our mother tongue after a few years in the business, but as I was lying in bed last night, wide awake long after sending a resident in flash pulmonary edema to the hospital, I got to thinking about the expressions we use in health care that must sound absolutely ridiculous to anyone who doesn't know the lingo.

    Imagine, if you will, being an innocent bystander on a Med/Surg unit and hearing the following report on a new admit from an ER nurse: "Hey, I threw in a 20-gauge for ya and dropped an NG while Dr. McDreamy was writing orders. She's already put out 500 mils of dark brownish material, but at least she's stopped horking. Sats are 94% on 2 liters. You're gonna wanna watch her pressure, and she's pretty tachy......."

    Get the picture?

    How about some of these absurdities:

    ICU nurse: "Look out, he's dropped his pressure!" Dropped it and broke it in a million pieces, no less! And we make it sound like it's all the patient's fault, too: "He dropped his pressure". Bad patient! bad! bad! (sound of wrist being slapped)

    Report from charge nurse on new mom who hasn't voided since delivery nine hours ago: "I threw a catheter in and got 1200out right away......" If I didn't know better, I'd think throwing a rubber tube into an orifice that was designed to be an exit, not an entry, would be a mite painful for the, patient.

    Call to the floor nurse from CCU: "You better check your tele patient in 215, he's tachy........" Excuse me? He may not have a lot of couth, but that's no reason to insult him.

    Using the term "for me" in report, as in "Bill didn't poop for me today, but Ed had a nice extra-large BM for me after lunch." Like Ed evacuated his bowels especially to please the nurse. Bill, on the other hand, is a naughty boy who evidently refuses to perform on cue like a circus animal. MOM, coming right up!

    LTC nurse to resident: "Bob, your dinner's coming, here's your clothing protector." Bob: "It's a bib." Nurse: "Well, we call it a clothing protector because it's a dignity issue." Bob: "Well, I call it a bib, cuz it keeps MY dignity offa my shirt!!"

    Nurse, starting IV: "Okay, here we go, you're going to feel a little poke......." which, translated, means "I'm gonna drive a nail up your arm." Well, that's how it REALLY feels, so why do we lie to patients like this?

    PACU nurse to M/S nurse on post-op TKR: "He hasn't started making urine yet." My mind's eye runs wild with this one as I envision the patient standing at a kitchen counter, emptying a packet of yellow powder into a pitcher and stirring.........

    Nurse to family member: "Mr. Smith crashed and had to be put on life support." Again with the mental pictures, this one involving a fall from considerable height and the patient as a cartoon figure all crumpled up like an accordion.

    Personally, I find the euphemisms we use for the expulsion of various bodily substances to be some of the silliest terms of all. Witness:

    "Have you been able to pass any flatus today?" Pass what??? 'Flatus' sounds like something you do to a balloon.
    Come to think of it, though, when you CAN'T pass flatus, it's like being full of hot air.........which indeed you are.

    "Have you voided yet?" Voided what?? The check that I wrote to this hospital for the privilege of being poked and prodded and given drugs that made me forget who I was BEFORE they took out my gallbladder?

    "Here's an emesis basin for you in case you feel nauseated." Gosh, I didn't feel that way before you handed me this pink, kidney-shaped plastic thingie, but now that you mention it....dang, it sure doesn't hold much, does it?

    And the ever-popular "bleeding out." Well, where else is the bleeding supposed to go? Back IN?

    I rest my case.
    shei128, frenchfroggyRN, joanna73, and 65 others like this.

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    About VivaLasViejas, ASN, RN

    VivaLasViejas has '17' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'LTC, assisted living, geriatrics, psych'. From 'The Great Northwest'; 56 Years Old; Joined Sep '02; Posts: 25,315; Likes: 37,010.

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  3. 24
    Oh, yeah, the written report is so much better:
    Today I got : 83 y/o HM s/p lap choley, w/hx CHF,DMII, COPD, O2 dep, old CVA w/r-sided hemi. ESRD w/HD m-W-F. Orders for PT/OT/ST (BSE?) inc B &B, foley, PICC for Vanco q 12 RUE, drsg CDI, STII coccyx. A &O x1 (person) MMSE=13, SDAT, FC (that's right, full code!) Rehab potential-fair.
    joanna73, jnrsmommy, LPN0207, and 21 others like this.
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  5. 4
    You really should be writing for 'Nursing Jocularity" and if there isn't one, you should start one. You are hilarious. My funny bone was broken, til I read your writings. Thanks.
  6. 1
    I am in Nursing school and I was lmao. I haven't been around hospitals that long to hear the lingo, but it is hilarious!!
    VivaLasViejas likes this.
  7. 2
    Thanks for the belly laugh! When my friends from LPN school & I get together for coffee & we start talking about work, I've noticed some strange looks from people at other tables. Guess I know why now, lol!
    Lupan and VivaLasViejas like this.
  8. 6
    my wife's first experience of my co-workers and i talking "shop" was over dinner. the conversion topic? placing caths into the guy vs into a gal, first experiences, then went onto iv placement issues. she could not finish dinner nor will she have a meal with us again.
  9. 8
    My husband tells me I speak a totally different language. My friends have no idea what I am talking about when I talk about work. I often get reminded by my husband to watch what I am talking about when others are eating.
  10. 16
    People do get offended when referred to as SOB. Two of the cutest patient word mixups I've heard were "I take Digoxin and Latex" and "I had to have a barbarian enema".

    As for amusing charting, I can still remember a LPN charting "Patient puked. Emesis had odor of rotten fish heads." I've never personally smelled a rotten fish head and I really don't want to. An RN I worked with eons ago used to write every detail and a lot of direct quotes. "Patient ate 12 peas,5 pieces of carrot, 3 lima beans." " Patient expelled flatus and said "Hear ye! Hear ye!"

    Have you ever read those real charting quotes, like "Vaginal packing out. Dr. Jones in." There are tons of them.
  11. 4
    Oh Marla ... this was just the medicine (laugh) I needed this morning! THANK YOU!

    We often used to laugh at the language used - (no, not foul!) - amongst ourselves during the meal breaks at work. There we were, eating our meal, and discussing bodily fluids, wounds, etc, as if it were the latest book we were reading or recent film we'd seen. Only nurses could do this I'm sure!

    Thanks for the laugh and the memories.
    Guess I'll have to add those discussions to the list of the things I miss in retirement! LOL
    Orca, Lupan, Spidey's mom, and 1 other like this.

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