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Rat Rods and Nurses Have This In Common


Keep reading and you will be surprised to learn that the two actually share several positive traits.

Specializes in Clinical Leadership, Staff Development, Education. Has 28 years experience.

What do nurses and rusty rat rod jalopies have in common?

Rat Rods and Nurses Have This In Common

I know what you may be thinking as you gaze upon the “hunk-of-junk” pictured above. Most likely, you are wondering “what could nurses possibly have in common with a rat rod” and “should you be insulted?” My husband recently finished building the rat rod pictured (yes, it is finished). It took him 5 months to build the truck and somewhere along the way...I discovered rat rods and nursing actually have a lot in common. I wanted to share the interesting similarities between a rusted up truck and the most trusted profession in America.

Both Require Skill and Expertise

A rat rod is built from parts and metal that are “just lying around collecting dust”. Basically, they are made from anything the builder has access to. My husband had collected a pile of leftover parts, motors and car frames from previous projects that were hanging out in a back pasture. It takes someone with great skill to take pieces of junk and build a running vehicle. Essentially, the builder must be able to wear several different hats- mechanic, electrician and welder.

Nursing also requires different hats- healer, comforter, advocate, teacher and many more. As nurses, we’re highly skilled in using all kinds of available resources for patient care. We all know resources are often hard to come by, so nurses scrounge for what is needed. And, what about making it all run? We do just that! Nurses are experts at putting all the pieces together and coordinating patient care.

Both Look at Things Differently

Our rat recently participated in a large regional care show. As people gazed upon the rusty jalopy, I heard several say “it takes a warped mind to build that!” I’m not sure I agree with the “warped” description, but it does take a special person. For someone to build a true rat, they have to be creative and think outside of the box. Before he ever started on the rat, my husband scouted out flea markets, yard sales and thrift stores. He looked for what others might call “junk” that he could “re-purpose” into a rat treasure. Now that the rat is finished, each part and treasure has a story behind it.

Nurses are gifted in listening to the patient’s story and taking time to learn what their patients treasure. We do this by looking beyond a diagnosis and connecting with the person. Even though we may not always agree or understand the individual, we respect what is important to them.

Both Are Misunderstood

The workmanship that goes into building a rat rod is often misunderstood and underestimated. Nursing as a profession is also misunderstood. Although voted the most trustworthy profession in 2019, nursing continues to face negative public perceptions. It doesn’t help that the media often represents nurses as subservient and fails to reflect our current practice. Here are just a few other issues facing the nursing profession:

  • Financial constraints in terms of both pay compensation and within financial institutions
  • Lack of professional gratification- not on equal footing as other professions, high workloads
  • Heavy workloads with higher patient acuity
  • Stressful work conditions- safety issues, bullying and incivility, and increased patient expectations
  • Lack of support from administration- upper managers often nonclinical

Both Require a Sense of Humor

My husband loves using humor when building a rat and it is rewarding when it brings smiles to faces. Nurses also use humor to build patient relationships. Making fun of absurdities and laughing with patients is a way we can create a sense of togetherness.

What do you think? Any similarities I have missed?



J. Adderton MSN has over 20 years experience in clinical leadership, staff development, project management and nursing education.

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1 Comment(s)

Davey Do

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

VERY cool, J.Adderton!


My own Blue Funk, a '51 Chevy pickup which was totaled in 2011, taken apart and resurrected by 2014. I wanted it to look like it had just been driven out of a barn after sitting for years:


The Blue Funk's logo I painted on its door:


Its aftermarket turn signal and facade radio:


I even had dreams of the Blue Funk winning the 2016 Rat Rod Build Off!