USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘hospital’
Folk Beliefs
general
Protection
Signs

Nursing Superstitions

Background:

My informant is a twenty-one-year-old college student in Boston, Massachusetts. She is studying to be a nurse and has worked in the emergency room at both Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Performance:

“I’m not technically a nurse yet so I’ve only really seen this stuff happen…but you kind of catch on. The biggest one I think is to never say that you’re having a “quiet” day, because that’s when everything like, blows up in your face. I’ve had nurses seriously freak out at each other for saying that. That’s the big one, I think…there are also a few nurses, no one that I know really well, but some people say that if you tie a nurse in a patient’s sheets they’ll live through your shift. They’d only do it to the really sick people — you know like bad accidents, or kids, or something. I don’t know if it works, necessarily, but I will say that when we think we’re keeping our patients alive, we’re working a lot harder and people tend to stay alive just a little bit longer, if that makes sense.”

Thoughts:

The never-say-quiet superstition makes a lot of sense, though I’m not sure if it’s specific to nursing. I remember at my high school job scooping ice cream, we had a similar rule about not saying that the store was “slow” because that would mean a rush was imminent. The superstition about the knot, however, it interesting. It’s like the nurse is trying to create a bond between their patient’s life and the physical world; like they’re trying to keep the patient physically tied to their life. Though a simple gesture, it speaks to how seriously nurses take their work. They’ll do anything to keep their patient’s alive, even if its as simple as a knot in a bed sheet.

general

Pranks in Hospital

My mother and informant, KK, meets up with her friends from high school about once a month.  They call themselves “club.”  I was home when KK hosted “club” and listened to her and her friends, several of whom are nurses, swap stories about their shifts when working in a hospital.

KK and her friends were working the night shift in the hospital on the oncology floor.  It was probably 1993.

KK and her friends decided they wanted to entertain one of their patients.  Their patient was an 18 year old man hospitalized with leukemia.  KK said, “We wanted to make him happy.”   KK explained that the patient was always up late because his friends would come visit him late at night.

In order to cheer him up, KK and her friends stuffed their chests with pillows, barged into his room, and sang Jimmy Soul’s “If You Wanna Be Happy” and Cher’s “The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s in His Kiss).”  They called themselves “The Boobettes.”  “And of course he laughed like crazy.  He loved it,” KK said.

KK and her friend’s prank reveals what nurses do that lies outside of their job description.  Rather than being a rite of passage, her skit demonstrates a kind of compassion that often seems to accompany nurses.

Holidays
Humor

Nurses in Suits on Halloween

My mother and informant, KK, meets up with her friends from high school about once a month.  They call themselves “club.”  I was home when KK hosted “club” and listened to her and her friends, several of whom are nurses, swap stories about their shifts when working in a hospital.

On Halloween my informant, KK and her friend, both nurses, dressed up in suits when working the night shift at the hospital in the early 1990s.  Arthur Anderson Consulting had recently come into the hospital and “told the nurses how they should do their job.” From KK’s tone of voice it was clear that she and her friend thought it absurd that a consulting group could come in and tell the staff how to do their job when they had no medical education.

The patients that KK and her friend visited found their costumes amusing.  The administration and staff of the hospital did not really react because it was not too busy at night.

So it seems as if my informant and her friend were using Halloween as an excuse to mock the consultants and hospital administration for hiring Arthur Anderson.  This is typical with Halloween celebrations.  At Halloween, it is appropriate to act differently than one would in normal life.  KK and her friend became what they are not.  In doing so, they poked fun at the Arthur Anderson employees who, ironically, became someone they are not when they consulted a hospital without medical know-how.

 

Folk speech
Humor

Doctor Slang

I collected these slang terms from a friend who heard it from his older sibling who works at a hospital. These terms are very indicative of the type of humor that medical practitioners have. According to my friend, they receive inordinate amounts of stress. So as to depersonalize the experience or detach themselves from getting too involved, they have to make light of it in almost an offensive way. They came up because we were just talking about unfortunate accidents that happen to people. As I was describing someone getting burned, he called the person a term that is used in hospitals. In asking where that came from, he proceeded to give quite a few terms and their meanings. My friend finds that they are very offensive and doesn’t enjoy that, and even using it for humor makes him feel slightly less human. However, he does believe that in order to maintain their sanity and ensure that they can stay healthy for themselves without being emotionally overwhelmed by anything, doctors do what they have to.

AGA (Acute Gravity Attack) – This term is used when a person falls over.

Beached Whale – This is used to describe an obese patient unable to do much for him/herself except lie there with flailing arms and legs.

Crispy Critter – This describes a patient with severe burns

LMC (Low Marble Count) – This describes a patient with low IQ.

ALS (Absolute Loss of Sanity) – This is used for an insane patient.

Appy – This is a term for a patient who is suspected to have appendicitis

BUNDY – This is an acronym that stands for “But Unfortunately Not Dead Yet.”

Dermaholiday – This is a nickname that is used for the dermatology department, which is supposedly not as busy as the other departments.

Drooler – This is a term for a catatonic patient.

Gorked – This is used to describe a person who is unresponsive and nonverbal either because the patient is sedated or because of a medical condition.

Certainly there are many more terms that are used in the hospital as part of their hospital language. I personally do not find their terms very funny. However, that is part of their job. As they get used to working there and dealing with cases, it probably becomes a part of their culture. It is something that they learn and become accustomed to in order to deal with the pressures of the environment. It also unifies the people in the field together because they speak the same language. People who aren’t inside of that field are not going to understand the terms being spoken because they aren’t acquainted with the culture of the hospital.

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