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When Nurses Dream...and Have Nightmares!

Nurses Article   (1,285 Views 19 Replies 981 Words)
by Nurse Beth Nurse Beth, MSN (Advice Column) Writer Innovator Expert

Nurse Beth has 30 years experience as a MSN and specializes in Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho.

15 Followers; 95 Articles; 230,415 Profile Views; 1,912 Posts

When Nurses Dream...and Have Nightmares!

Recurring dreams and nightmares can be telling us about situations at work and in our lives. Here's my recurring dreams.

When Nurses Dream...and Have Nightmares!

There’s this dream I have where I’m working in an unfamiliar hospital or on a different floor. I can’t find the charts or the computers, and the rooms are not well numbered. I can’t be sure which rooms are my rooms and which patients are my patients. I go to try and find the assignment sheet. It’s the end of the shift, and I haven’t given any meds or charted any assessments. The oncoming nurse will be here any minute. It’s an awful dream.

Then there’s the one where an IV pump is beeping and I repeatedly try to silence the alarm, but it won’t go off. I keep trying. It keeps beeping. This usually ends in me waking to my alarm clock.

What Do Dreams Mean?

Dreams can represent work stress, and when I've shared my dreams with other nurses, I’m amazed to hear we have some of the same dreams.

Some recurring dreams have nothing to do with work- at least outwardly.

There’s one where the brakes on my car or bike aren’t working and I’m speeding down a windy mountain road at a high speed, about to crash. Or the car is out of control. Over time, I've realized that’s when...guess what? I am feeling out of control, often due to work stress.

When I wake up and can still recall my dreams, I also try to recall how I felt during the dream and then review what’s happening in my life at the time.

Loose tooth dreams are distressing. It’s always a  front tooth, and it’s very loose, about to fall out with one push of the tongue. I don’t know what that dream means, but perhaps a loss? Loss of confidence, fear of aging? Loss of control? I’m not sure yet.

There’s the naked in public dream, or naked in a crowd. Sometimes it’s not being naked, it’s being underdressed, but always in public. When I have that dream, I look back to see where I felt vulnerable the day before. Maybe I revealed more of myself than I’m comfortable with, or to someone with whom I’m not entirely comfortable. Or it could be an impostor-syndrome dream, with me being a poser.

I have a dream of being in junior high school and I can’t find my locker. It’s the Not-Prepared dream. The hallways are empty, because I’m late to class, and I don’t know which is my first period class. Or it’s the end of the semester, I’ve cut class too many times, and hope to quickly make up all the work. Actually, the last time I had that dream, I did complete all of the make up work and actually graduated, so maybe it’s over. We’ll see.

Older Dreams

I have some retired dreams, meaning previously recurring dreams that I haven't had for years and even decades. One is where I’m being chased, or cornered by some kind of scary, big, wild animals, and I’m in a small one-room cabin. I try to scream but have no voice. I don’t miss that one, it’s a nightmare! Whatever it represented, I think it’s resolved.

There are dreams with vast bodies of water. Being underwater, swimming leisurely. Peaceful and quiet. I’ve learned dreams with bodies of water can symbolize the subconscious mind, and of issues rising from our subconscious to our conscious mind. 

I love my flying dreams. I think it, then I levitate.  I float over treetops and sometimes fly as high as the clouds.  Sometimes I can fly for only short distances, and sometimes I soar over miles of land.

When I fly, I know it’s a special power I have. Sometimes I try to show others, but usually, I fly in private because others won’t understand. It’s exhilarating. I’m powerful, weightless, and free. I can go anywhere I want. I'm not sure what the flying dreams mean, but it maybe when I’ve accomplished some big challenge or resolved something significant in my life.

Sometimes I dream about babies or small children. These are very busy dreams, in which I'm caring for many children, feeding, dressing, comforting, keeping track of several of them. There are always responsibilities involved and I'm trying to do my best, but it's challenging. Usually, I’m thrust into the childcare situation without warning or explanation. 

Some dreams make no sense at all to me and are just busy dreams. Other dreams are clearly when I really am thinking about work or school, and I do homework or work on a project in my sleep. I call it the Working-All-Night dreams and wish I could bill my employer for them.

What about My Husband's Dreams?

Compared to me, my husband is far more practical about the meaning (or lack thereof) of dreams.  He says, “When you dream you have to pee, then you have to pee. Get up and go!” 

On the other hand, sometimes when he describes a dream I ask him “But what were you feeling?” He’ll identify a feeling, and he’ll have an Aha moment when we can tie it to something going on in our lives. Are we moving? Worried about one of the children? Is he changing jobs?

Some people dismiss all dreams as meaningless, and some people, myself included, look for meaning. I believe my mind is processing and resolving issues in my life while I’m asleep. 

Do you pay attention to your dreams? What do you believe? Do your dreams have meaning or are they just random brain activity?  I'd love to hear.

Best wishes,

Nurse Beth
Author, "Your Last Nursing Class: How to Land Your First Nursing Job"...and your next!

Hi! Nice to meet you! I love helping new nurses in all my various roles. I work in a hospital in Staff Development, am a blogger at http://nursecode.com, and a published Author.

15 Followers; 95 Articles; 230,415 Profile Views; 1,912 Posts

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CharleeFoxtrot has 7 years experience as a ADN, RN.

483 Posts; 6,269 Profile Views

I think we all have have a version of the 'I didn't get med pass done and never checked on the transfer patient' anxiety dream. Amazing how that anxiety is almost universal. IEven after years off the floor  still have them. They replaced my "animal caretaker" dreams I'd had from childhood.

I used to have dreams of being responsible for the care and feeding of a group of animals (or tropical fish as that is one of my hobbies) and everywhere I looked there was a cage filled to the top with wiggling puppies or horses in stalls knee deep in manure, or tanks so full of fish they couldn't swim. I learned over the years this meant I was overwhelmed and needed to regroup.  

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Snatchedwig has 11 years experience as a ADN, CNA, LPN, RN and specializes in Medsurg.

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I have the I forgot to address that high potassium levels dream or I hear the friggin call lights in my sleep. 

Edited by Snatchedwig

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Orion81RN has 7 years experience.

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Love the article! I've read on here before how common the dream is where there is a patient we haven't laid eyes on the entire shift. 

My biggest issue with my current job is my my chronic lack of sleep. Often I fall asleep 1-3 hours before I have to be up. My most hated recurring dream is a version of this: I'm required to be somewhere like school (high school) or church early in the morning. I get there and have this realization that I don't have to be there. That it's ok to skip a day and that I drove my car that day instead of taking the bus, so I can leave. I get this HUGE sigh of relief as I'm about to go home to go back to bed. Then I wake up after this huge feeling of relief and realize that I cannot in fact just skip a day. 

 

Even in the dream though, part of me must know it isn't real, because I cannot find my car in the lot to go home.

 

I want this dream to go away and never ever return. I often let out a cry when I wake up and realize I have to go to work, being SO tired. 

Edited by Orion81RN
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spotangel is a MSN, RN and specializes in ED,Tele,Med surg, ADN,outpatient,homecare,LTC,Peds.

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Lol! The med pass Dream is so me! My version is at the end of my shift I still have not given Morning meds and am freaking out! It is also a recurring dream!

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jrbl77 has 41 years experience as a RN and specializes in Med Surg, Parish Nurse, Hospice.

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I’ve had these dreams for years. I’m now retired and I still gave them. 

My work dreams always take place at the hospital I worked at the longest. None of the other places make it. The dreams are always how I have forgotten a patient etc.Usually I’m totally inept. 

Ive talked to other retired nurses that have similar dreams. 

Apparently nurses are not alone. I’ve heard teachers have similar dreams related to teaching.

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pr0dr0me is a BSN, RN and specializes in Med/Surg.

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I jumped out of bed at noon once (I was sleeping 9a-5p for nights) and ran to the closet to put my jacket on so I could go... into the living room, I guess? To put a pt's oxygen back on. My boyfriend was really confused. 

I have a lot of missed care nightmares.

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Davey Do has 35 years experience and specializes in Psych, CD, HH, Admin, LTC, OR, ER, Med Surge.

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A strange doctor recently invaded my dream and dealt with pain not through writing a script for an analgesic, but by writing down the directions to his office so he could charge for an office visit!

And under his lab coat, he was the one who was naked!

 

We are the best interpreters of our dreams. In dreaming, our subconscious communicates with our conscious by means of symbols. How ever we feel or what we believe about a symbolic object is the meaning of that object. 

Known individuals in our dreams are representations of certain aspects of our own personality. When we tell someone "I had a dream about you!", we are actually saying, "We share a personality trait in common which my subconscious represented as you!" 

I could interpret my above dream as my subconscious telling me that I believe my place of work (doctor) is an outwardly professional (lab coat/stethoscope), inappropriate (naked), money-seeking institution (written directions to office in order to charge for a visit).

However, my subconscious could also be telling me that I am the one who is professional, sometimes inappropriate, and really just doing it for the money.

Or, my subconscious could be telling me both of these things.

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I have had the flying (levitating) dream since I was a little girl (mid 50's now).  I have tried to explain it to people and they never understand.

I love that dream and miss it, as I haven't had it in a few years.

But, I too, have had the dream of getting to the end of a shift and discovering that I never laid eyes on room xxx.  I panic and try to get a fast assessment in, and all the charting done. UGH!

Stress definitely has a lot to do with that one, I am sure.

I am glad that I have very vivid dreams and can recall them.  I know so many folks who don't.

Thank you for the interesting take/article.

 

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no.intervention.required has 5 years experience as a ADN, RN and specializes in stroke and cardiac nursing.

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Stress.

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prmenrs has 42 years experience as a RN and specializes in NICU, Infection Control.

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I had repetitve nightmares for years. Most involved blank charts @1830. I retired in 2002; as of 2015, I was still having them. Certain staff members featured in them, some positive, more not positive. 

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OUxPhys has 4 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in Cardiology.

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Plenty of dreams (or nightmares I guess) where I didn't pass a single med or didn't check on the patient once in a 12 hour shift. Those are the worst. 

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