I have a question about humor etiquette


Hi all! This is my 1st real post besides my intro.

So, I have a question.

I am in nursing school now and have a bit more to go.

I have a wicked twisted sense of humor.

I am really really worried about laughing at the wrong time when dealing with a patient.

It is like, my biggest fear! I know if I do it I will feel SO bad (even though my sense of humor is warped, I *do* have feelings, LOL).

So, is this a common concern? Does this happen much?




2 Articles; 2,806 Posts

I'm the same way and so are most the nurses I work with. I don't remember having any problems with patients, just with some management types who can't take a joke!

Trauma Columnist

traumaRUs, MSN, APRN

153 Articles; 21,232 Posts

Specializes in Nephrology, Cardiology, ER, ICU. Has 31 years experience.

Sarcasm is my middle name - sometimes you just gotta laugh to get through the day.

llg, PhD, RN

13,469 Posts

Specializes in Nursing Professional Development. Has 46 years experience.

Maybe it would ease your fears if you "worked through" how you would handle such a situation.

I have found that most patients respond very well to sincerity. If you have first estabished a good relationship with them ... and then you "slip up" and say something that might have offended or hurt them ... a sincere apololgy will usually be accepted.

If you always remember that you are there to serve the patients and act in their interest, you will minimize your chances of making an unfortunate blunder. But if you do ... you'll have a good foundation established upon which to repair any damage.

It's good that you are thinking about such issues. That way, you can prepare yourself to avoid mistakes and you can make a plan for dealing with them -- and you will probably make a few: we all do. But I wouldn't agonize over them. Focus on demonstrating a sincere concern for the patients and you'll do just fine.



342 Posts

You sound just like me....twisted, warped, uncommon. However, don't worry too much about it. Common sense will prevail 90% of the time. You will make the occasional blunder. We are human and as such, are prone to making some mistakes. All I can ever really do when I make that kind of a blunder to a patient or family member is apologize. Make sure that they know that no disrespect was intended. Now as far as "offending" a boss. Now I never really worry about that much. My bosses know the kind of person I am. I even send emails to my director on occasion that are slightly twisted. My bottom line, I would much rather make a boo-boo than to admit myself to a psych ward because the stress got to me!! I need to take of me first and foremost (well, within reason).


1,164 Posts

I think that when you are done with nursing school, you should head right over to the ER...I think there, you need a warped sense of humor to get you through.

good luck and welcome!


Katnip, RN

2,904 Posts

I have to agree...I think a twisted sense of humor is a requirement for emergency. I fit right in. Though I'm real careful around the patients.

Trauma Columnist

traumaRUs, MSN, APRN

153 Articles; 21,232 Posts

Specializes in Nephrology, Cardiology, ER, ICU. Has 31 years experience.

Maybe I should prefaced my comments with the fact that I'm an ER nurse! Oops...

Specializes in Education, Acute, Med/Surg, Tele, etc. Has 13 years experience.

I had the very same concerns! I was a nursing student, but hung around paramedics and fire fighters all the time so I could gain some experience that I wanted (acute emergency). Oh boy my sense of humor is right on the ball with theirs...and I have to stiffle it when I am in my nursing role!

But alas...I have worked in my facility now over 2 years (assisted living), and they have assumed my sense of humor! LOL! But it is also great to have known these individuals for a while so I know whom I can joke with..at what level..and ones that DON'T joke at all (if they did their heads would cave in causing a black hole event that would suck the life out of the universe...we don't want that! LOL!).

Be a good judge of character when it comes to humor. I always test out some mellow humor when meeting a patient and judge by that.

I agree with the ER though! Have to have that sense of humor to make it! LOL!

Funny story. So I was on my first day at working for a hospital and a gent died of cancer and we needed to clean up the body for the family. It was me and two nurses I didn't really know but they were joking around so I played too! I had to remove a urinary catheter and so I did, deflating the balloon and all.

Well one of the nurses looked at me and said "hey newbie, you better have deflated the balloon first!" (I was concerned a bit because she sounded seirous, but yet I was unsure). "YOU DID deflate the balloon did you?!?!?". My responce "why? Did he complain???"

OH man...that was humor gone wrong. They labled me as a smart butt and that name stuck with me. But then a few months later I noticed their humor level jumped to my level...hmm wonder why if they were so shocked by mine at first..LOL! Pretty soon we had little humorous codes we used like 'we need Doc Plumber because we have someone circling the drain" and the like... Yep, I tainted many a cool headed nurse during that job! LOL!!!!!!!


16 Posts

Thank you all so much!


I really appreciate the input!

Long Term Care Columnist / Guide

VivaLasViejas, ASN, RN

142 Articles; 9,982 Posts

Specializes in LTC, assisted living, med-surg, psych. Has 26 years experience.

My perspective on humor in the healthcare business has always been this: If you don't laugh, you'll cry, and if you don't cry, you'll go insane. Neither of the latter two are attractive options, so I'll go with laughter every time. You HAVE to have a warped sense of humor to be able to deal with all the human tragedy and the ugliness and the death we see.......it's just a matter of keeping it under wraps in the patient's presence, and giving vent to it only when we're with other people who understand. (This usually does NOT include our family members.)


prmenrs, RN

4,565 Posts

Specializes in NICU, Infection Control. Has 42 years experience.

Whenever you're about to make a smart alecky remark, STOP, think twice, take a deep breath, make sure it's appropriate in the setting you're in @ that moment!!! It might be hysterically funny, but nothing's worse than getting a horrified look from [esp] family of the pt., or your boss. And, believe me, I have been there and done that, slinking off into the sunset, my tail between my legs. Or getting reprimanded by my supervisor because the family complained.

Some families will laugh with you, others will assume you are less than sympathetic towards their plight. Get to know them before you say something you'll regret.

I wish you Good Luck--I've had my foot in my mouth more than I care to think about. But those co-workers that know me enjoy my dry sense of humor, and nothing makes my day better than making someone else laugh. That's the up side.

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