THE BLOG

10 Secrets That Nurses Keep From Their Patients

12/31/2015 09:12 am ET | Updated Jan 21, 2016
  • Brie Gowen Brie is a part-time nurse and full-time mom. When she's not chasing children, doting on her husband, or trying to catch up on laundry she enjoys writing.
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I've heard it said that nurses are a secretive bunch, that they keep certain things under wraps from their patient and patient's families. My first thought of a nurse not disclosing information to those he/she cared for seemed ludicrous. But then I thought, Well, perhaps that's true.

After all, everyone has secrets, and even your nurse might be keeping something from you. The fact is that there are some things you don't need to know, some truths you can't handle, or some things that we would just never tell you if given the option.

I guess nurses are a secretive bunch. But if it's right what they say, that the truth will set you free, then here are 10 secrets your nurse has been keeping from you.

1. That we're exhausted!
Your nurse will never tell you how tired, fatigued or absolutely beat they are. You may say, "you look tired," and we'll answer honestly enough, but we'll mostly make our exhaustion seem like less than it is.

You'll never know just how much the stress can drain us, or how years of rotating shifts have made us just plain worn out. Cause we'll never let on. You won't know our feet are aching, and our brain is aching even more. When you ask surprised, "are you still here?!" we'll just smile and nod, adding, "I still have four more hours."

2. That giving your medicine is a big, frustrating deal.
Okay, I know, giving pills is what nurses do. Some patients may think that's all we do. But what you will never know, what your nurse will never fully explain, is how really time-consuming and challenging our morning med pass may be.

We don't just go grab a pile, put them in a cup, and saunter satisfied to your bedside. It's so much more than that, even if it only takes you a second to swallow them.

Your nurse looks at every medication you have ordered, then makes certain she knows what each med is for. She will check for contraindications, possible side effects, and/or interactions with other meds you are on. She'll make the decision if you need certain meds given or held until a later date.

There will possibly be phone calls to the physician to clarify an order, and if your nurse seems to be taking a bit to return, it might be because she had to run to the pharmacy for a medication of yours that wasn't available.

Next your nurse is just hoping all the barcodes will scan!

Giving medications is no where near as easy as it looks, but your nurse will make it seem like a breeze.

3. That we "bend" the rules.
Usually if you ask your nurse for something the legitimate answer may be no, but your nurse will respond, "let me check on that."

I'm not saying your nurse disregards doctor's orders, but I am saying your nurse weighs the pros and cons of the directives set in place for your care. He/she usually knows just how far to push the envelope while maintaining safety, but ensuring patient satisfaction. It's a fine balance to make certain you're happy, or as happy as you can be in the hospital.

4. When we're sick.
You might pick-up on when your nurse doesn't feel well, but the majority of the time your nurse won't disclose to you their own health. While naturally your nurse will stay home if battling a contagious disease, for most other illnesses your nurse will still show up to care for you.

You won't know the chronic pain your nurse endures, or about the slipped disc in their back. They might involuntarily wince when they lift without thinking, but if you ask they'll say, "I'm fine."

Everyone knows nurses make the worst patients. So while we excel at caring for you, we might neglect ourselves, and we'll seldom let on how bad we feel.

5. That our other patient just died.
In my critical care unit I'm usually right outside your door, if not right by your side. If you don't see me for a while that may indicate things are not doing so well in another room.

When I return, perhaps visually flustered, I will apologize profusely for ignoring you. Bless your heart for being so understanding most of the time.

I'll never be able to tell you why I was unavailable for a time, but occasionally it's because my other patient has died. It won't change how I care for you, except to make me work harder to get you well.

6. That our family is sick.
Working as a nurse usually doesn't afford you the ability to leave at a moment's notice when your child falls ill. Nurses will continue to care for their sick patients even when sickness is waiting for them at home.

Your nurse will never let on about their role as a caretaker for an aging parent, or how exhausting it may be to give the attention needed to a chronically sick child at home. They will instead give you 100% while at your bedside, because that's their job.

We feel that while you're here getting better that things should be about you. So we'll probably keep our dealings with sickness away from work a private matter.

7. A striking family resemblance.
Here's what I mean by that. It's possible, highly likely in fact, that your nurse has been on the receiving end of the situation in which you find yourself. They have been that grieving, confused family member fighting for dad to pull through. Naturally, when they see you that striking resemblance to their own family member might be at the forefront of their mind.

For me it's my mom. I see many patients whose case mimics my mother's. I think of her each time, but I rarely say a word. She fought the good fight, but eventually went to her forever home. I'm pulling for you, so I usually keep that secret to myself.

8. How often we go to bat.
For you. Although a part of me would love to brag about it, in the end I do not. At least not to my specific patient.

Everywhere around the world nurses step away from the bedside, and they fight for the best interests of their patients. They go to bat for you always. They go head-to-head with physicians or other health care professionals, and present their case for what they desire for you. You will likely never know it, but we do. That's our job, so we just keep the particulars to ourself.

9. How scared we were when we almost lost you.
Many of my peers might not use the word fear, or say that an acute situation scared them, but most will agree that when a patient crashes and things go bad that their body reacts.

Hearts race, stomachs clinch, and despite the liquid efficiency of the team, there's a measure, albeit small, of worry. We want you to come back, and it honestly scares us that you might not.

But you will never know this. Not fully. We'll tell you what happened, and honestly describe the events, but that moment of fear will have faded in the face of victory, and it will be purposely forgotten in favor of mutual rejoicing.

10. How we think about you off the clock.
I'm not sure if you know this or not, but when your nurse leaves your bedside they take a piece of you with them. They will wonder how you're feeling, and will likely call the other shift on duty to see how you're doing.

I often times tell a patient, "I'll be praying for you," but I wonder if they realize that I really do. Maybe that's my little secret.

Maybe your nurse does keep secrets, but some things are just hard to put into words. Some incidents are indescribable, and other times it's just best left unsaid.

I don't want you to worry though. I promise we'll tell you most everything else.

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