NurseTales, or, How To Ruin A Perfectly Good Dinner Table Conversation

No matter where we work, every nurse has a treasure trove of "war stories" involving the grislier details of surgeries, NG tube insertions, bowel preps and the like. We also tend to lack the filter that holds 'normal' people back from discussing the more gruesome realities of life at inappropriate times. Here are a few ways to ruin a good meal for just about everyone. Nurses Announcements Archive Article

NurseTales, or, How To Ruin A Perfectly Good Dinner Table Conversation

I have a friend who once made her teenage daughter throw up at the dinner table by telling a story about an accidental shooting.

It was quite a night to remember. My family and I were having supper at her house, and over the lasagna she began to tell me about the man who'd been brought into her ER that morning after looking down the barrel of his nail gun to try to find out why it had jammed. You can guess the rest......suffice it to say that he'd had two eyes when he began his day.

It was during the telling of this gruesome but highly entertaining tale that her daughter started looking a little green around the gills, but as the offspring of a nurse, she was undoubtedly used to hearing these things, so we went on with our conversation like nobody else was in the room. Finally, Gwen could take it no more, and with as much politeness as a sixteen-year-old can manage, she said: "Oh, Mother, really.....YUUUURK!!"

I'm just as forgetful about audience-appropriate topics, however, and I gave my own kids plenty of reason to experience the rare and wonderful world of nausea over the years they lived at home. In fact, I could out-gross them any day of the week, and they knew it. How could a story about a kid at school who wiped his nasal effluent on his desk match those I brought home from my job at the hospital, like the one about the confused elderly patient who 'fingerpainted' while sitting up in a geri-chair for lunch?

It got to the point where I actually took pride in grossing out my family. My sister, who lives with us, is a lightweight---she can't even handle broken bones, let alone bodily fluids, as a topic of conversation. My husband, on the other hand, is almost as tough as I am......but even the mere mention of anything related to mucus sends him around the bend.

Then there's my youngest son, who's never gotten used to poop in the four years he's worked as a CNA. Whenever he has to deal with it, he makes this odd, retching noise that can perhaps only be described as what a seal with a hairball would sound like. He doesn't actually vomit, but he comes awfully close sometimes.......and needless to say, this has provided many hours of entertainment for those of us with stronger stomachs.

One night awhile back when we worked on the LTC unit of a mid-sized nursing facility, the resident he was wheeling down to the shower room happened to drop a rather large offering to the poop gods, right smack in the middle of the carpeted hallway. Ben didn't have the foggiest idea of what to do; he couldn't leave the mess in the hall, but he also had a resident in a bath sheet perched on an uncomfortable shower chair who was known to be impulsive, and fell on a regular basis. I told him I'd stay with her while he cleaned up, knowing his vulnerability but wanting to harden him up a little bit so he'd get used to dealing with unpleasant sights and smells.

To his credit, he agreed, and manfully attempted to pick up the soft BM with gloved hands and a biohazard bag nearby. The second he touched it, however, that strange barking, gagging sound began to issue from his mouth: "YAWK! YAWK! YAAAAWK!"

At this point, the other CNAs and I were laughing so hard we could barely stand up; my son continued to try to scrape the offending mess off the carpet, retching; and the resident forgot all about her shower and sat there, clueless as to what was so amusing, but grinning at everyone and yelling "Whatsamatter, boy?!" at my crimson-faced son, over and over again. Finally, I stopped laughing long enough to catch my breath, and told Ben to go take her to the shower and I'd finish "the job"; after all, I'd wiped up plenty of the stuff in my time. (I was tempted to remind him that that included his, but thought better of it. He was already embarrassed enough!)

So when we told this story at dinnertime the following night, we both got a kick out of the expressions of disgust on the faces of our other family members, whose appetites were suddenly diminished. Which meant there was more chicken pesto for US......and thus is the method to our madness. ;)

Long Term Care Columnist / Guide

I'm a Registered Nurse and writer who, in better times, has enjoyed a busy and varied career which includes stints as a Med/Surg floor nurse, a director of nursing, a nurse consultant, and an assistant administrator. And when I'm not working as a nurse, I'm writing about nursing right here at and putting together the chapters for a future book about---what else?---nursing.

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Both of my parents were nurses. Somehow, these types of discussions always seemed to happen when we were having spaghetti.

Specializes in Gerontology.

I spent an evening with my Father's new lady friend (both in their 80s) and her son, age about 50, close to mine

. Anyway, he was telling me some type of story during supper, trying to gross me out. At some point, I just looked at him, told him I'd been a nurse for 27 years and there was nothing he could say that would gross me out.

Not only that, I could top his tales without even blinking an eye and even those stories would be tame compared to other stories.

Specializes in Oncology, Medical.

"Large offering to the poop gods."

Oh, that's a gem! xD LOL

I always have to remember to keep a lid on it when I sit down with non-nursing family/friends, but when I'm around other nurses...oh, how the gross-out stories flow! I pity those who sit around us.

There was a rare time, though, when a few of us were chatting during a relatively quiet night shift, regaling each other of the things that gross us out most, and I actually lost my appetite. At the top of our collective list was excessive mucous and C.diff diarrhea (how cliche, but it's true!) Although I started the conversation with the creeping sensation of hunger, I had lost all will to eat by the end of it...

Specializes in LTC, assisted living, med-surg, psych.

I have to admit, there've been more than a couple of times I've almost blown my groceries while dealing with a particularly heinous mess at the time I went into a room and found my confused elderly patient "washing" her dentures in a full bedpan. I tell you, I ran out of there clutching my throat and feeling like my stomach was stuck in there trying to claw its way out. :barf01:OTOH, I can suction a trach full of pseudomonas and never turn a hair, so it's whatever the individual nurse finds utterly revolting that makes the world (or tummy) go 'round. :lol2:

Specializes in NICU, Infection Control.

3 of my classmates and I went to a restaurant for dinner one night--and ruined dinner for a very nice older couple! I've always felt bad about that.

Specializes in ICU, telemetry, LTAC.

I am amazed at how people get squigged out over dinner when I'm there, because I don't mention the stuff that makes ME retch. The LTAC I worked at, had a bit of insanity before I left there and got rid of all the bath basins because they wanted us to use lavender scented, silver impregnated dry wipey things instead. OK. And of course not one of the management people knew what to say when I asked, so what do we do when we admit a werewolf??

Well the thing about bath basins is, they make wonderful puke buckets. Somehow handing a patient a graduated cylinder or the tiny little emesis basin just won't cut it. The cylinder isn't wide enough, the actual emesis basin is just tiny. So one night this dude managed to hemhorrage up a lung. It took a little while, but the mess was unbelievable. There was a lot of going in and out of the room for various things, and one time when I went to enter the room, I noticed some bright person had handed the patient a bedpan to puke in. Which, if it were clean, would have not been too bad. Except that the patient, in his delerious near-death state, LICKED the blood off the bedpan's edge. This nurse could not go in the room for another five minutes or so. I had to look at my shoes for a bit, then run away and let someone else remove the bedpan.

What? I would never tell THAT story over spaghetti.

I grew up with a father who was an anesthesiologist and a mother who had been an OR nurse (they met at work). Dad would come home from work, read the paper, etc., while Mom was finishing fixing dinner, and all of us sitting down to dinner together was the first chance they had to really talk about the day. So, Mom would say, "So, how were things in the OR today, dear?" And Dad would proceed to tell her about it, in graphic detail ("... and then it ruptured, and the pus went everywhere ..." "So we're all knee-deep in blood at this point ...") I was grown up and out on my own in the world before I found out that many people feel there are some things you don't discuss at the dinner table ... I still have to make an effort to remember not to inadvertently gross "regular" people out, at the dinner table or in other situations. :lol2:

Specializes in Nephrology.

My sister has the squeamiest tummy - not sure how she ever changed her kids' diapers. My niece, when she was a kid (around 10 or 12 I suppose) used to love to hear antyhing I could tell her. She's usually yell "Gross!" but then in a few minutes wanted details of how that actually happened (that was the story of the pt with necrotic fingers who refused to have them amputated, and two of them broke off during a turn one night). Yet this same kid will pass out if she goes for bloodwork. Guess it is a good thing she is going to be a teacher. I get a chuckle out of my pts now - I work in a outpatient clinic - and they will come in and say they have had "bowel trouble" for a week or so and they don't want to "gross you out" by giving you the details. At which point I remind them that if talking about loose stools is the worst part of my day I am laughing. :p

I never tell stories to intentionally gross anyone out. Sometimes I do forget what my wife considers gross though and just talk without thinking. My wife will just look at me and go "EATING HERE!!" as a gentle reminder. I then change topics (or sometimes just don't talk at all anymore because I know what's good for me).

Specializes in Emergency/Cath Lab.

We would do this all the time at school. My cadaver lab partners and I would always go to the quad to get lunch after spending 4 hours with "texas" our cadaver. The smell alone could have cleared the building but we were never satisfied with that. We would talk about the things we did that day or how we removed certain organs. Ruined many a lunches that semester ha.

Specializes in ER, progressive care.

:lol2: I try to not tell gross stories around my family/non-nursing friends but sometimes I can't help for my nursing friends, they get the complete unedited version, with blood, vomit, and poop, oh my!

Nothing seems to phase me. Last night I scarfed down my food and then came back and saw that my Fleets enema that I ordered at 0030 was finally verified at I gave that and the patient had a NICE BM :D