Mythology And Folklore

Nursing Superstitions



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Nurses, by nature, are a superstitious lot.

Full moons mean crazy nights on the unit. Emergencies, codes and deaths happen in threes. Never use the words "quiet" or "calm" before the shift is over. In fact, never talk about anything you don't want to happen.

And I swear, up and down, that ghosts do haunt the unit at the post-acute care rehab facility at which I work.

In fact, I saw proof of all of the above in the course of three nights.

Night one:

While sitting at the nurses' station around 1:30 a.m., I felt the drawer below me begin to buzz. This drawer contains the pagers that aides carry to alert them to a call light. The pagers buzz and beep when the call lights are rung, as does the board at the station.

As I was saying, the drawer began vibrating, but the board was silent. The drawer began beeping, but the board was silent. I opened the drawer, and began picking up the pagers one by one. All were turned off.

Night two:

I was sitting at the table in the activities room behind the nurses' station finishing some charting. One of the aforementioned pagers was sitting on the table, about six inches from the edge. Suddenly, it clattered to the ground. How the pager fell from the middle of the table off the edge to the ground, I cannot explain. At the time, I turned to one of the other nurses and grinned. "It's our ghost."

Meanwhile, outside, a full moon rose. Inside, two dementia patients became agitated, screaming like banshees. Patients rang call lights all night. I won't go into details, but suffice to say, there was never a dull moment. In fact, there was never a moment to do anything but pass medications and answer calls. It was just - for lack of a better term - crazy.

Night three:

It was a calm night. Medications were passed with time to spare, paperwork was done by 4 a.m., and treatments were already underway. (I always save the majority of my dressing changes for morning so we can wash up the patient at the same time or so that I can do it with morning medications.) Things were running so well.

"I'm on time," I said to one of the aides. "This is different."

Shortly after 5 a.m., as I was preparing medications for a patient, an aide came running. "Kathy needs you. Mr. X had a seizure," she said.

It took me seconds to reach his room, but he was already unconscious and unresponsive. After life-saving measures by the nurse, Kathy, and paramedics, the ambulance took the patient to the emergency room.

This code set off a series of events that I promise you are true.

Things calmed down after the ambulance left. I comforted an aide who had never dealt with a code before, then returned to preparing the medication for the patient to whom I had been previously attending.

I walked into her room. She was a shade of gray only suited for a space alien.

"My back hurts," she said with the most oddly pleasant smile.

I quickly grabbed my cuff and took her blood pressure: 230/118. I checked the other arm, as she had edema in the left arm. Perhaps that's throwing off the reading, I thought.

Right arm: 222/98.

Her O2 was 92 and her pulse was 88.

I ran and yelled for Kathy. "Mrs. Y's blood pressure is 230/118."

She met me in the hall. "I'll double check you. She's going to stroke out."

As the paramedics the same paramedics who had been at our facility not an hour before worked on her, and I talked with one of the medics in the hallway. "Want to go for three?" I said. "These things always happen in threes, you know."

About 6:15, the ambulance left with Mrs. Y en route to the ER.

I went back to morning meds and treatments. Around 6:45, an aide came running.

"Mr. Z is mumbling and drooling. He won't wake up," she said.

I ran in. "Sternal rub is doing nothing," said Kathy.

"He's a blood sugar," I said, indicating his blood sugar was most likely severely low.

There it was: emergency number three, on a "quiet" night, after I had said something about a third emergency. Not one, not two, but three. THREE. Three superstitions in one situation. And don't forget, this followed proof of ghosts and full moon behaviors.

So call it superstitious, but I know what I know and I've seen what I've seen. You've seen my evidence, now judge for yourself.

But if you ever visit my unit on a full moon, don't mention that it's quiet.

(Note: Names of patients were removed to protect their identities.)


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