Black Humour

by Tenebrae Tenebrae, BSN, RN Member Nurse

Specializes in Mental Health, Gerontology, Palliative. Has 10 years experience.

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Has 37 years experience. 3,413 Posts

Humor when you are under stress can save your life! An author studied real life situations where people were in physical danger. He tried to fathom who survived and who died.

Short version, my take away, was people who could laugh, (relax, take a deep breath, not panic....laugh!) could, would, did, survive.

If black humor relieves the pain, stress, of dealing with dying patients, so you can continue to function, then use it.

la_chica_suerte85, BSN, RN

Specializes in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology. 1,260 Posts

OMG one of our nurses with years of experience called a provider to come and pronounce a comfort care patient. So when she called she said to the provider "the patient in room X expired" I immediately thought to myself "what the hell is he milk" and had to go to the bathroom to explode....for whatever reason I can't use the word "expire" to explain a dead person - they are not food! LOL

I always hear expire and think of coupons.



Specializes in Care Coordination, MDS, med-surg, Peds. Has 22 years experience. 617 Posts

On my med-surg floor one dark and stormy night... Oh wait!! That's a tale for another time!! LOL

However, one night a patientdied. I was NOT her nurse. Well, the nurse that was taking care of her and the CNA were fairly new, did not ask for assist from the rest of us, and when the patient died, they left her in the position she was in until the funeral home could come, 4-5 hours later. I am sorry, but I laughed when the gurney went by... The patient had been sitting up in the bed, and remained so on the gurney!!!!

VivaLasViejas, ASN, RN

Specializes in LTC, assisted living, med-surg, psych. Has 20 years experience. 142 Articles; 9,977 Posts

Okay everybody, I have laughed my way through this entire thread, including videos, and I've been to the bathroom TWICE now for fear of peeing my pants!! I don't know how I missed this thread but I'm making up for lost time. Keep the funny coming, folks!:laugh:

Tenebrae, BSN, RN

Specializes in Mental Health, Gerontology, Palliative. Has 10 years experience. 1 Article; 1,790 Posts

Tenebrae, BSN, RN

Specializes in Mental Health, Gerontology, Palliative. Has 10 years experience. 1 Article; 1,790 Posts



30 Posts

I had a patient that the family had taken off life support a week prior. He had a morphine drip and was on q2h ativan pushes. I had to keep from singing "let it go" when I was pushing the ativan.


Brekka, ADN, RN

Specializes in Geriatrics. Has 6 years experience. 85 Posts

Truthfully, when I was a nursing student, I believed that the black humor I heard from the nurses was simply a burnt out nurse who needed to find a new career. I swore I'd never be like that, I insisted that since I genuinely cared about my patients, I would never do something like that. Black humor is definitely not something most students are prepared for, and they certainly don't address it in nursing school.

Fast forward 3 years later, and I have a severe case of black humor. Luckily my co-workers do as well, so it fits. I make jokes with coworkers that seem dark and uncaring, I even think a lot of normally inappropriate things with some of my patients, but that does not mean that I don't care about my patients. That does not mean that I am not a good nurse, and cannot provide good care. All it means is that I've found a way to cope with the constant loss (I work in rehab and LTC, and can grow attached to my patients).

Black humor even runs in my family. My mother was a paramedic for over 30 years, and my various other family members, from Air Force career, to school teacher, they all have a strong sense of black humor. A few years ago my grandmother died of a brain aneurysm, combined with coumadin therapy... it was not pretty. Her BP was sky high, 1/4 of her skull was filled with blood, and she was completely unconscious and unresponsive the entire time. We understood her wishes, and had agreed to make her comfortable and let her pass. She was admitted in order to die comfortably, with frequent PRN morphine (one nurse refused to give it because "the patient might die").

Family came in from all over the United States. One got leave from the AF to come, another drove all night to get there. With dozens of us together, we too used black humor to help us through. Black humor comments were common, such as "She was dying to get us all together, but she couldn't make it because she had a headache." This didn't mean that we loved her any less, or that her loss was any less tragic, but it was the way that allowed us to cope with the 4 days it took her to pass.

This is one of the reasons that I will never look down on anyone for using it, so long as it's used correctly. If you can make it through your nursing career without a twinge of black humor, that's great, but that gives you no right to judge or ridicule those that use it. It does not make you a better nurse, or a better person.

No Stars In My Eyes

Specializes in Med nurse in med-surg., float, HH, and PDN. Has 43 years experience. 3,524 Posts

100% agree with ^^^this!

nrsang97, BSN, RN

Specializes in Neuro ICU and Med Surg. Has 21 years experience. 2,602 Posts

I was taking care of a patient who was brain dead and awaiting to have organs placed. Our procurement agency was in the room with me and the nurse replied "I'm feeling brain dead". I stopped what I was doing and we looked at each other and laughed. She was mortified she said that. I needed the stress relief. (That night was busy with swan insertion, bedside bronchoscopy, and other tasks)


bagladyrn, RN

Specializes in OB. 2,286 Posts

There is an owner of a funeral home here in Florida with a marvelous sense of humor. They have billboard along the highway that reads: "Remember that dress you said you wouldn't be caught dead in? Better tell your family!"

I almost drove off the road laughing the first time I saw it.

Tenebrae, BSN, RN

Specializes in Mental Health, Gerontology, Palliative. Has 10 years experience. 1 Article; 1,790 Posts

When I was district nursing, I visited a client who was profoundly deaf. Client lived of a busy road, and we were making small talk when I said "tell me, does the noise from X street bother you?" I realized what I'd said as soon as I'd said it, fortunately the client had a brilliant sense of humour.

The other one was again district nursing I was doing a catheter change for a male tetraplegic at the end of it when I had the catheter in, balloon inflated, I asked him "how does that feel?" He looked at me, I looked at him and we both cracked up with me apologsing for the second most daft statement I'd uttered at that time