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Are Nurses Superstitious?

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There is something very powerful about superstitions.  Some nurses are superstitious, some aren't, and some just don't want to tempt fate.

by Nurse Beth Nurse Beth, MSN (Columnist)

Specializes in Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho. Has 30 years experience.

Are you superstitious?

Are Nurses Superstitious?

Suspend Your Disbelief

Some of us have cognitive dissonance around superstition. Meaning we both believe and don’t believe. How can that be? It’s knowing a superstition is irrational and performing the action anyway. On some level, we know that knocking on wood is not going to keep the status quo such as “no one coded so far”. 

So why then do we look around for some wood and then rap on it if we know that it cannot possibly prevent a code from happening on our shift? 

Can we actually prevent bad events by what we say or do? 

It seems the hotel and high-rise building industries think so. Most builders wouldn’t think about having a 13th floor in a high rise or hotel. In superstitious hotel math, if a hotel boasts 16 floors, there’s really only 15.

There are no 13th floors because we all know that the number 13 is unlucky. If a guest had a heart attack on the 13th floor, it would be because of the unlucky number 13, unlike having a heart attack on the 13th floor that was misnamed as the 14th floor.

Control

Maybe we need to feel in control because it’s difficult to comprehend that we have little, if any, control. We can’t control earthquakes and losses and heartbreak and disappointments in life, for the most part. But we can avoid walking under a ladder and opening an umbrella indoors. It’s a false sense of control bought with a wish, but hey, we’ll take it.

Fear

Many of us wouldn’t necessarily say we’re superstitious people, but when faced with the opportunity to prevent bad luck, why tempt fate? Rock the boat? Jinx good luck? Who wants to tempt fate by saying the Q word at work? No one I know. 

Who wants to “Step on a crack and break your mother’s back or step on a line and break your mother’s spine?”

Far be it from most of us to taunt the universe. There’s some sense of relief in doing everything you can to ward off bad things, just in case they work.

Tradition

Sometimes superstitions are borne of tradition, such as blowing out birthday candles on a cake and making a wish. It’s almost impossible not to say “Bless you!” when someone sneezes. "Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue" is a tradition that brings good luck to a marriage and has the extra benefit of rhyming.

Other Countries and Cultures

Sometimes when we hear about others’ superstitions we dismiss them as ignorant or false conceptions. Who in the western world possibly believes that the number 4 brings bad luck? That’s clearly just as silly as believing that the number 8 and the color red are lucky.

We do, however, believe that a rabbit’s foot can bring good luck while wondering how others believe evil eye jewelry can protect one from negative energy.

Americans agree that Friday the 13th is unlucky but sticking chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice can’t cause misfortune, right? Come to find out, chopsticks should not be stuck upright into food, especially rice. Chopsticks are only stuck upright into rice in the bowl on the altar at a funeral or when paying respects to the deceased.

Nursing Superstitions and Beliefs

Baseball players and other athletes are known to be superstitious. Many nurses are as well.  Are you superstitious? Here are a few nursing superstitions or if not superstitions, illogical beliefs:

  • The Q word. Most of us will never say “It’s quiet” because we all know it will cause an influx of patients. 
  • Power of 3’s. Many nurses will tell you “Deaths (and codes) come in 3’s”
  • Delaying charting is bad luck. If it’s a slow day, and you wait to chart, then all heck will break loose. 
  • More codes happen at change of shift (I’m convinced of this one).
  • Full moon and babies. If there’s a full moon, the floors will be crazy and we’ll have lots of babies

Superstitions are pretty harmless and can relieve anxiety while bonding with colleagues. How about you, are you superstitious? If so, what superstitions do you believe in?

Best wishes,

Nurse Beth

Hi! Nice to meet you! I love helping new nurses in all my various roles. I work in a hospital in Staff Development, and am a blogger and author.

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23 Comment(s)

I'm not super stitious, but I am a little stitious.

If it is close to shift change and your coworker says we are almost out of here "Bring it on " premature twins will deliver in a triage room and you will be running to NICU with 2 babies and stay late admitting them . I still give my coworker the side eye reminding her to never do that again.  It is funny now but not at the time . Our triage rooms are so tiny to accommodate all that craziness 🤣🤪

macawake, MSN

Has 13 years experience.

6 hours ago, Nurse Beth said:
Are Nurses Superstitious?

 

 


 

 

 

Nursing Superstitions and Beliefs

Baseball players and other athletes are known to be superstitious. Many nurses are as well.  Are you superstitious? Here are a few nursing superstitions or if not superstitions, illogical beliefs:

  • The Q word. Most of us will never say “It’s quiet” because we all know it will cause an influx of patients. 
  • Power of 3’s. Many nurses will tell you “Deaths (and codes) come in 3’s”
  • Delaying charting is bad luck. If it’s a slow day, and you wait to chart, then all heck will break loose. 
  • More codes happen at change of shift (I’m convinced of this one).
  • Full moon and babies. If there’s a full moon, the floors will be crazy and we’ll have lots of babies

Superstitions are pretty harmless and can relieve anxiety while bonding with colleagues. How about you, are you superstitious? If so, what superstitions do you believe in?

Best wishes,

Nurse Beth

 

 

I think it’s safe to say that I’m 100% non-superstitious 😀

I’ve said on plenty a night shift that it’s a quiet night.. Sometimes we’ll be notified that a major trauma is on the way shortly after I say that, but most times the quiet shift just keeps on being quiet. I don’t have super powers. My words have zero impact on the universe 🙂

Human beings look for patterns. If they think that their words have a certain effect they will likely notice and remember the times their expectation comes true, but disregard all those times that saying some forbidden word or phrase, or doing something had absolutely no effect whatsoever or a different one than the dreaded one. 

I haven’t researched if more codes happen during shift change, but I guess it could be true. It’s a time when staff might be a bit distracted, attempting to wrap up their shift, give report etc. so the first small clues and signs that a patient is deteriorating might be missed. But as I said, it’s not something I’ve looked into so I’m just speculating. 

I actually often try to schedule my weekend trips that requires me getting on an airplane on Friday the 13th if the month happens to include one of those. Completely anecdotal, but I’ve found that I usually get more space on the flight since they don’t seem to be fully booked. That’s how unsuperstitious I am 😂

I just noticed that it says in the OP you’re not supposed to open your ️  indoors. How on earth are you supposed to dry it after you’ve been out in a torrential downpour if that’s not allowed..?! I must say that not being superstitious makes your life easier 😀

JBMmom, MSN

Specializes in Long term care; med-surg; critical care. Has 9 years experience.

I don't think more people become unresponsive or die during shift change, I think more codes are called during shift change because that might be the first time a nurse or tech has been in a patient's room in a little while. Another time is the 5am med pass when patients that have been "sleeping quietly" all night are really determined to be pulseless. 

I do believe that the full moon influences the feel of a shift, so many people want to throw themselves on the floor. 

I have found that after someone says it's quiet, sometimes all hell breaks loose, but as @macawake said, sometimes it continues to be quiet. But I still won't say it myself. So I guess I'm a little superstitious.

Leonardo Del Toro, RN

Specializes in "Wound care - geriatric care. Has 11 years experience.

Yes, go ahead and say the shift is nice and easy today and see what happens...

23 hours ago, Nurse Beth said:

The Q word. Most of us will never say “It’s quiet” because we all know it will cause an influx of patients. 

Not too superstitious here. It does annoy me when people comment on it being quiet because of the number of shifts when it is anything but quiet. Everyone else is already aware when there is a short break from the goat rodeo; they just want to enjoy it in peace.

It's on the order of the kid who starts talking about being bored the instant s/he isn't being entertained. Well....go clean your room/mow the lawn then.

The nurse who is preoccupied with how quiet it is should go clean something or watch some "education" videos or something.

Davey Do

Specializes in around 25 years psych, 15years medical. Has 42 years experience.

 

macawake, MSN

Has 13 years experience.

6 hours ago, JKL33 said:

Not too superstitious here. It does annoy me when people comment on it being quiet because of the number of shifts when it is anything but quiet. Everyone else is already aware when there is a short break from the goat rodeo; they just want to enjoy it in peace.

It's on the order of the kid who starts talking about being bored the instant s/he isn't being entertained. Well....go clean your room/mow the lawn then.

The nurse who is preoccupied with how quiet it is should go clean something or watch some "education" videos or something.

Gee JKL, I never realized that it might actually annoy someone to say that it’s quiet. Hmm, normally when I or someone else at work says that it’s meant to convey that it’s really nice that it’s quiet for a change and someone will usually reply along the lines of ”yeah it’s grrreat, isn’t it 🥳”. It’s more like we’re expressing a shared appreciation of the unexpected lull. Last time it happened, a bunch of us were on-call and there was really nothing at all happening so we decided to congregate in one of the staff kitchens and make waffles 🧇 🍯 🫐 

I don’t know if it’s at all relevant, but before I joined AN I wasn’t even aware that saying the Q word was frowned upon by some. It might be a cultural thing, I don’t know. I’m Scandinavian and we are quite skilled at stating the obvious 😂 Saying that it’s quiet when it’s quite obvious that it is…. is just one of those things we do. We are also often heard stating that the weather is really nice or really crummy, despite everyone being perfectly capable of seeing with their own eyes exactly what’s happening on the meteorological front.. But we still say it 😀

macawake, MSN

Has 13 years experience.

12 hours ago, Leonardo Del Toro said:

Yes, go ahead and say the shift is nice and easy today and see what happens...

But that’s the thing…. A lot of the time absolutely nothing happens 😉

Nurse Beth, MSN

Specializes in Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho. Has 30 years experience.

1 hour ago, macawake said:

Gee JKL, I never realized that it might actually annoy someone to say that it’s quiet. Hmm, normally when I or someone else at work says that it’s meant to convey that it’s really nice that it’s quiet for a change and someone will usually reply along the lines of ”yeah it’s grrreat, isn’t it 🥳”. It’s more like we’re expressing a shared appreciation of the unexpected lull. Last time it happened, a bunch of us were on-call and there was really nothing at all happening so we decided to congregate in one of the staff kitchens and make waffles 🧇 🍯 🫐 

I don’t know if it’s at all relevant, but before I joined AN I wasn’t even aware that saying the Q word was frowned upon by some. It might be a cultural thing, I don’t know. I’m Scandinavian and we are quite skilled at stating the obvious 😂 Saying that it’s quiet when it’s quite obvious that it is…. is just one of those things we do. We are also often heard stating that the weather is really nice or really crummy, despite everyone being perfectly capable of seeing with their own eyes exactly what’s happening on the meteorological front.. But we still say it 😀

Waffles with whipped cream?

macawake, MSN

Has 13 years experience.

On 6/17/2021 at 8:41 PM, Nurse Beth said:

Waffles with whipped cream?

Unfortunately not 😀 We had all the ingredients necessary to whip up the waffle batter and a waffle iron. We also had a tonne of blueberries since one of the nurses had spent the afternoon roaming the woods hunting for berries.. and we rummaged through the cupboards in the kitchen and found a huge bottle of maple syrup with one of the anesthesiologists name on it… So we took some of that and sent him about $2.50 on a mobile payment app and an accompanying text informing him that we’d helped ourselves to some of his syrup 😋 We’re an easy-going close-knit group and there was plenty of syrup left. He didn’t mind. But sadly… No whipped cream. 

Nurse Beth, MSN

Specializes in Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho. Has 30 years experience.

1 hour ago, macawake said:

Unfortunately not 😀 We had all the ingredients necessary to whip up the waffle batter and a waffle iron. We also had a tonne of blueberries since one of the nurses had spent the afternoon roaming the woods hunting for berries.. and we rummaged through the cupboards in the kitchen and found a huge bottle of maple syrup with one of the anesthesiologists name on it… So we took some of that and sent him about $2.50 on a mobile payment app and an accompanying text informing him that we’d helped ourselves to some of his syrup 😋 We’re an easy-going close-nit group and there was plenty of syrup left. He didn’t mind. But sadly… No whipped cream. 

That sounds like so much fun 🙂 

Pepper The Cat, BSN, RN

Specializes in Gerontology. Has 35 years experience.

I live in an area with a very high Asian population. Lots of new subdivisions being built. When creating the addresses, number 4 is skipped. 4 to the Asians is like 13. They were finding #4 houses were either not selling or selling for less.

a few people in older areas actually petitioned to change their address for the same reason.

Curious1997, BSN

Specializes in Psych, Medical. Has 13 years experience.

When you consider that 80%+ of the world is religious, I think that you can say that probably a lot of nurses are superstitious. 

I'm not! Science all the way! 

It's a real drag watching horror movies anymore because I haven't been scared by them since about 12. 

It's very curious though that quite a few nurses and Drs are superstitious given that our profession is so hard core science driven? 

21 hours ago, macawake said:

Gee JKL, I never realized that it might actually annoy someone to say that it’s quiet.

Maybe it is superstition, I don't know. I have noticed that (in my workplaces) it's never a long-time employee who makes the quiet statement, it's always someone newer. So I'm guessing the reaction could be a combination of superstition + "just you wait" + "uh, this is an anomaly" + "we don't need you commenting about how easy you think this gig is...."

I don't really know. Just guessing. It's probably a bit of superstition plus people just being beaten down.

 

 

nursel56

Specializes in Peds/outpatient FP,derm,allergy/private duty. Has 45 years experience.

On 6/16/2021 at 5:12 AM, Nurse Beth said:
 

 

Nursing Superstitions and Beliefs

Baseball players and other athletes are known to be superstitious. Many nurses are as well.  Are you superstitious? Here are a few nursing superstitions or if not superstitions, illogical beliefs:

  • The Q word. Most of us will never say “It’s quiet” because we all know it will cause an influx of patients. 
  • Power of 3’s. Many nurses will tell you “Deaths (and codes) come in 3’s”
  • Delaying charting is bad luck. If it’s a slow day, and you wait to chart, then all heck will break loose. 
  • More codes happen at change of shift (I’m convinced of this one).
  • Full moon and babies. If there’s a full moon, the floors will be crazy and we’ll have lots of babies

Superstitions are pretty harmless and can relieve anxiety while bonding with colleagues. How about you, are you superstitious? If so, what superstitions do you believe in?

One of my former colleagues adamantly believed "Tuesday is kook day".

We worked in a busy walk-in clinic at the time, but I suppose you could extrapolate that to other environments in which people decide for themselves a routine appointment booked several weeks in advance will not meet their needs at that time.

I hadn't noticed the pattern myself, but do  wonder what might cause such a phenomenon, if it had even a grain of truth.

SmilingBluEyes

Specializes in Specializes in L/D, newborn, GYN, LTC, Dialysis. Has 24 years experience.

Sailors and nurses, the most superstitious of people!