Is it just me or all nurses??

Nurses General Nursing


Specializes in Gen Surg, Peds, family med, geriatrics.

I really want to know if this is just me going into what I've dubbed "stupid mode" or if all nurses do this.

When my eldest son was born in distress I should have known, it was obvious, but I was totally oblivious. I didn't have a clue.

Last summer I walked around for a whole week with an appendicitis (had all the classic symptoms too) and didn't even know it. I was shocked when it was finally discovered. My family doctor looked at me when I went to see him after the surgery and said "You're a nurse and you didn't even know you had an appendicitis?" redface.gif Well, hindsight is 20/ was pretty obvious, yet I didn't see it.

And most recently, I've had a cold for three weeks that isn't getting better. Hubby kept pushing me to go to the doctor but I kept telling him it's just a virus. Two days ago I finally went...I have bronchitis...bad. Once again, the doc looked at me and said "You're a nurse and you let this go this long?"

All I could say in my own defense is "Hey, I'm a nurse." rolleyes.gif

Now tell me, is it just me or is this a normal state of affairs for all nurses?


Your doctor is out of line. My friend went to her doctor two times with the diagnosis of the flu , still felt ill and went to the ER, they were going to send her home , and when she started to cry the MD said, "okay, we'll do an ultrasound" they found her appendicitis had been burst for over a week. She need abdominal surgery ( full scale , incision and all) and she almost lost her ovaries, not to mention her life. She should have said " You're a doctor, you should have known." Tell your MD be glad your not a man because they never go to the doctor!


It isn't just you. I walked for 1/2 a mile on a broken leg, because I was sure it was just a sprain, went to work with pneumonia, just to name a few. I used to work ED, so I always wanted to be sure I was actually ill before I took up time at the MD office. Mayeb it isn't all nurses, but it sure does seem to be a few.

Specializes in Med/Surg, ICU, Cardiac ICU.

I think it's that way with all medical professionals! I don't know if it is because we work with patients all the time and don't want to be one or if it is an actual glitch in our assessment systems. We get so good at assessing others and ignoring our own symptoms. Many a time has it been that the only way a medical professional make time and attention for their symptoms is if their coworkers make them pay attention to them. Also, we are the worst and the slowest at going to see the doctor when we have to admit something is wrong. There is that old true saying that nurses and doctors make the worst patients wink.gif! (Because we don't want to be one, not that we're so horrible when we are one.)

On a more serious note, I have noticed from personal experience that even though I am a nurse and have had many years of experience, when I had surgery I didn't automatically think of all the factors that need to go in to recovery. (Thought of a lot of things after the fact but not while I was going through the actual event and immediate recovery time.) I think that if the stress involves us or our loved ones, we start to think less like a nurse and more like a patient. I remember this each time someone tells me that one of the patients I will care for is a nurse. I approach my teaching as I would with someone who is not in the medical field. I would rather have someone tell me they knew the content than miss teaching something they need or need refreshing on. It is really sad and sometimes scary if something is missed on our patients but it seems commonplace on ourselves.

[This message has been edited by ClariceS (edited December 15, 2000).]

Hi Laurasc. You're right to point out that it's not unusual for a number of health and medical professionals to miss problems close to home. On the other hand, you as a medical professional could have very well found yourself in a situation where you knew something was wrong but the physician did not believe that your complaint warranted attention. I hope you are recovering nicely from your illness.

Specializes in CV-ICU.

Do we do this because we are so busy taking care of others that it is second nature for us to put everything else before ourselves? Or do we do this because we are used to being dumped on? I know I've gone to the doctor with my family and been an advocate for them, but when it comes to me, I just want to "get it fixed," whatever the problem may be.

Unfortunately we are in a position that requires us to report to work "come hell or high water". I truly believe I have no blood in my body, but black coffee. I too walk off my symptoms. I spend a majority of my time pushing my mother into a mammogram, my father to watch his diabetes, and teaching my patients. As bad as it is, we spend a lot less time for ourselves.

I think that all the things mentioned in the above posts are valid for why we as nurses miss illnesses/injuries in ourselves. Yes we are nurses and do well with assessing others. But first and foremost we are human beings just like everyone else, and like everyone else denial and rationalization are real for us too. Couple this with our knowledge and it's easy to ascribe our symptoms to something less serious. And of course our co-workers always know before we do. Also we probably tend to ignore symptoms as we carry on with our daily lives taking care of our homes and families and coming to work (wouldn't want to call out sick and deal with the repercussions of that!), and taking care of our sick patients.

And Laura, re: your son, I know exactly what your're talking about. For me it was with my mother. She had severe aortic stenosis and was experiencing a lot of chest pain, fatigue etc. Had a CABG 10 years earlier and needed another one along with AVR. Post-op she wasn't doing well (my first clue should've been when the surgeon told me that he was unable to put in a balloon pump). She was of course vented and on countless number of drips. Anyway, on her second day post-op she needed to go back to the OR to have blood removed from around her rt. ventricle. I spoke with the surgeon (who was filling in for the original surgeon) and he said that he was basically "cleaning house" but he hoped that this would help to improve her condition. Now, I work in critical care and deal with vented pts. all the time. Another clue might have been that my mother was vented, on 100% O2, PEEP of 15 and had a SpO2 of 80 and was blue!! Duh, did I get the picture?? Not to mention that when they did an esophageal echo they suctioned out almost a liter of pink frothy sputum. Give fluids to increase BP and perfuse kidneys, then give Lasix to get it out of her lungs. I knew all this going into the second surgery, and as I have told others, the nurse part of me would peek through and see all this but almost immediately the "daughter" part would kick in and think "Well let's give it a try it may help". Thinking back on it now I realize that if I had been her nurse I would've known and been saying this woman is not going to make it. There would have been no question in my mind. But in this situation the daughter part was the more important one and "she" was the one that was "out". (sounds kind of like multiple personalities!). This is why whenever I'm dealing with a patient or family memeber who is a nurse/doctor etc. I treat them just as I would anyone else and explain things from square one. Because at that point they are not nurse/doctor, they are the patient or family memeber emotionally involved and that's the point of view they will most likely be coming from.

I did realize that my mother wasn't go to make it but the daughter wasn't ready to see that. So when the nurse told me she had died in the OR I wasn't totally shocked. I knew, and knew that I had known all along. So don't beat yourself up over any of these things. There are a lot of mechanisms in play here. That's why EVERYONE needs a nurse.


I had instant flashbacks of 4-5 memories of my getting "white coat syndrome" and I have a shy bladder. #1 memory -I let a student- (they lied to me and said the Dr. watching was the student)-take 45 minutes to circumcise my son-- my throat closed up and tears streamed down my face because I couldn't tell them to stop, I knew it was wrong. (by the way the child did survive intact, somewhat-)

It's a difficult thing for me as medical professional to be the patient.


Here is my take on this.

First we should not be expected to diagnose ourselves, that is what we are paying the doctor for. I don't think it is wise to diagnose ourselves because we cannot truly look at or conditions in an unbiased manner.

I think that we are too close to the situation when we or our loved ones are ill to really see things from a nursing perspective, I think our emotions get in the way.

For example, I have been taking care of a man that has a diabetes, he had cellulitis of his had, from an IV insertion at a differnt hospital. His wife took him to this hospital unresposive and never thought to check him blood sugar, it was in the 30's upon arrival at this ED. He came to our hospital for the cellulitis because she didn't like the care he recieved at the other place. They put him on a 2000 ADA diet, his wife complained that he is getting too much food, and needs to loose weight, so the doctor decreased ot to a 1200 ADA at her request. Then she was very upset because he was not getting the food he ordered on the tray. She had made out his meal request and much of the food she ordered was in excess of the allowed for the diet SHE requested. This wife is a very knowedgeable NP in our area and otherwise is able to think clearly and takes very good care of her patients. I feel that she was just too close to the situation to think in a nursing mode and is not able to think clearly about her husbands care. There are many other things that she had requested and such that were just not reasonable. I do not blame her for this and feel that even though she has a much higher degree thatn I do, I continue to do teaching with her in a kind manner and usually when I do that a little light comes on, like she is thinking "I never thought of that and I should have thought of that". She even said that to me once and I told her that she is not expected to think of all of this because she is so close to the case. She seemed relieved that I did not judge her about it and did not expect her to remember everything.

So I guess I have two points. First, don't expect a nurse to be reasonable about the care they or a loved one is recieving. teach them just as you would teach anyone else.

Second, when you go for care, don't tell anyone you are a nurse. That way you will not be deprived of the teaching you deserve.



When I had breast cancer (11 years ago!)the nurses and docs would say "You know all this; why am I telling you?" I constantly reminded them. I am a patient right now. Tell me everything you would tell anyone else. I remember this when I am nursing medical personnel, including doctors. The only thing that is different is the vocabulary. I also assume they may be even a little more fearful because of their knowledge base, so I try to be especially nurturing. Lord knows we get little enough of that.

Specializes in Gen Surg, Peds, family med, geriatrics.
Originally posted by cargal:

Your doctor is out of line. My friend went to her doctor two times with the diagnosis of the flu , still felt ill and went to the ER, they were going to send her home , and when she started to cry the MD said, "okay, we'll do an ultrasound" they found her appendicitis had been burst for over a week. She need abdominal surgery ( full scale , incision and all) and she almost lost her ovaries, not to mention her life. She should have said " You're a doctor, you should have known." Tell your MD be glad your not a man because they never go to the doctor!

No, you misunderstood. I never went to the doctor the whole week I was feeling ill. My husband actually kept telling me to go and see him, but I didn't...figured it was a stomach flu or something. The doctor said that to me when I went to see him about a week AFTER my surgery.


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