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Ya Gotta Be A Little Nuts
To Work The Nightshift

All limericks, poems and stories
by Betty Ann Cassano, RN, BSN

Up-dated September 1, 2003

Limericks: Doctor's Handwriting

Safety First

Nurses at Work (posted 5-19-97)

Poems: The Night Before Christmas on Mercy 1st Main

Stories: Ya Gotta Be a Little Nuts to Work the Night Shift

Bathroom Language (posted 10-12-96)

"The Day We Autoclaved the Pigs" (posted 1-12-97)

"Miss Nina" (posted 6-26-97)

"The Babysitters" (posted 6-20-2003)

"How Did You Know I Had a Headache?" (posted 6-20-2003)

"Great Escapes, Hospital Style" (posted 6-20-2003)

"The Midnight Stroll" (posted 6-20-2003)

"San Francisco General Hospital" (posted 9-1-2003)

"Adventure on the High Seas" (posted 9-1-2003)

Links to Some of My Other Stuff

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Nursing and Medical Limericks

Doctor's Handwriting

Doctor's orders, concise and specific,
Written clearly, not one hieroglyphic,
Could be read with great ease.
All the nurses were pleased.
They all thought he was terrific ! !

But . . . .

When a doctor writes orders and notes
And you can't figure out what he wrote,
Just be very firm.
Confront the big worm
And shove each worthless page down his throat ! !

Written in 1981

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Safety First

In 1980, the hospital where I worked held a "Hospital Safety" contest open to all the employees. The kicker was that all the entries had to be in limerick form. Well, that was right up my alley. I had been introduced to the joy of limericks in the 7th grade by my teacher, Miss Batson. I think it was the one about the lady riding on the back of a tiger that did it for me. I was hooked from then on. So when the hospital contest was announced, I was off and rhyming. I had a lot of fun and ended up penning quite a few.

But when it came time to turn my entries in, I eliminated all but five or six. I held back some of my more humorous limericks because of the subject matter involved. And since I really needed my job, I'm glad I did.

Take my word for it, nurses find themselves in some pretty unusual situations in the course of their nursing careers. And some of it is pretty funny. At least to other nurses. But, of course, nurses are known for their warped senses of humor. I think it's a kind of protective mechanism that develops over time.

Anyway, I feared that "normal" people might find my limericks a little too earthy and graphic. So I put them aside and over the years they got lost. Looking back, I'm sure their getting lost was for the best.

Only my "vanilla" limericks are left and they are included below. And, remember, the subject was "Hospital Safety". Can't get into too much trouble with a tame subject like that.

The first limerick, which is based on a funny situation that happened to me when I first started my nursing career in 1961, won first prize. Thank goodness for ID bands! And the moral of the story is never, ever assume anything!!!!!

Before giving meds or IVs,
Be sure to check patient IDs.
For the patient ahead
May be in the wrong bed
While the right one is absentee.

Here are my other entries:

When giving your patients an assist,
Save your back. Avoid doing the twist.
Beg, plead or yelp
But round up some help.
Keep your name off the casualty list.

Give unusual orders a check.
Confirm them; make sure they're correct.
It's O.K. to give rein
And make use of your brain.
Remember, it's YOUR license and neck.

When you move beds with your chums,
Be kind to your knuckles and thumbs.
Tuck them safely inside
'cause the doors aren't too wide
And smashed hands are quite cumbersome.

When a "sundowner's" tucked in for the night
Be sure that his posey's tied tight.
Or he'll wander around
Till he finally falls down
And an incident report you must write.

A booze-impaired patient named Ted
Refused to be posey'd in bed.
The nurse said, in part,
"The belt, you old fart,
Prevents falling and hitting your head!


One of my patients, a very nice Viet Nam vet, knew there would be times when we would have to awaken him for meds. Because his war experiences continued to haunt him, he was very concerned that he might harm one of his nurses, mistaking us in the night for "the enemy". He had a history of "coming up fighting" when someone touched him or stood too close while he was waking up. In order to protect us, he gave us the following advice:

If you waken a patient at night,
Please be gentle, don't give him a fright.
And stand back from the bed.
If he's out of his head,
He might try to punch out both your lights.

It worked. Our Viet Nam vet friend didn't have to worry about accidentally hurting us and we didn't get hurt. But, in addition, my fellow nurses and I learned a valuable life lesson from him. We got a hint of the real awfulness of war and of the lasting effects that do not "just go away" when the conflict is "over".


Water or ice on the floor
Are things you should never ignore.
The words you recite
May not be polite
When you land on your posterior.

Writing orders, a doctor from Flaster
Made his pen scribble faster and faster.
He developed a scrawl
That was unreadable.
Left his patients at risk for disaster!

Reviewing the charts is a pain.
Poor handwriting gives me eyestrain.
By the end of the shift
What I need is a lift,
Not further assault on my brain.

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Nurses at Work

The first limerick is based on a real happening. Old Joe was in our CCU mainly because of his lung problems. His heart wasn't in good shape either but we didn't expect him to crump on us. The nightshift was just about over and we were all finishing up our charting when our charge nurse, who was watching the monitors, hollered out, "V-tach in 482. I'm not kidding, people."

We rushed in to find the patient sitting up in bed. And being a very pleasant, out-going fellow, he smiled at us and asked what all of us were doing in his room. Just as he finished his question, his eyes rolled back in his head and he was out. Sure enough, the monitor in his room confirmed that it was indeed V-tach. And it was obvious that his heart wasn't pumping oxygenated blood to his brain.

One of the nurses reached out and gave Joe a precordial thump while another nurse ran for the crash cart. The thump worked.The rhythm converted back to sinus like a miracle and in 2 or 3 seconds the patient opened his eyes, looked at us with a scowl and demanded to know, "How come you hit me?"

When he heard what had happened, his old cheerful self came right back. He thanked us for doing what we had to do, even though his chest felt a little sore. His doctor ordered medication for his heart and he did fine after that.

When the monitor showed runs of V-tach,
The nurse gave Joe's sternum a whack.
With a look of surprise,
Old Joe opened his eyes.
Then he said, "My, it's good to be back!"

The next limerick is also about something that really happened. The names have been changed to protect the clumsy.

Fred's catheter tubing hung down,
Off the bed, barely clearing the ground.
Then his nurse, Cindy-Lou,
Hooked the tube with her shoe.
Fred's yell was heard all over town!

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The Night Before Christmas on Mercy 1st Main

One of the sad things about holidays is that hospitals are never able to close down. I've often wished that I could wave a magic wand and make everyone well so they could all spend the holidays at home with their families. And, of course, the nurses and other hospital employees could also spend the day with their own families.

But this is not a perfect world and I've never found a magic wand. So hospital doors never close and the people who provide care to the sick remain at or near the bedside. Even on Christmas Eve.

A nursing student who was a year ahead of me wrote a version of the traditional Night Before Christmas poem when she was in nursing school. Many years later, I decided to see if I could adapt her idea to my own situation. The following is the result.

The Night Before Christmas on Mercy 1st Main

Twas the night before Christmas
On Mercy First Main.
It was peaceful and quiet,
Something hard to explain.

The night nurse had just checked
Each patient with care
And found them all sleeping
And comfortable there.

The Ivacs were quiet
As they flashed in the night.
The call bells were silent.
Everything seemed all right.

The twelve o'clock meds
Had been given and charted.
A doctor peeked in
And then quickly departed.

When out in the hall
There arose such a clatter
The nurse went at once
To see what was the matter.

As she strode down the hall
To locate the noise,
She met a fat man
With a sack full of toys.

He had a bushy white beard,
(no doubt loaded with staph)
And was covered with soot
And in need of a bath.

He wore a grimy red suit
And his boots were a mess!
How he'd slipped through Security
Was anyone's guess.

He not only looked odd
But appeared to be daft
As he smiled a big smile
And laughed a big laugh.

His jolly "Ho, Ho, Ho's"
Echoed down the long hall
As they bounded and rebounded
Off of each wall.

The night nurse was furious
And glared as she hissed,
"You can't come in here
And disturb things like this!"

He lowered his sack
To the floor with a grunt,
Then chuckled and winked,
Quite pleased with his stunt.

He pulled out his pipe
And lit up with a puff.
But the night nurse was outraged!
She'd had quite enough!

"Can't you read?" she cried out,
"You ignorant clown?
There's oxygen going!
You'll burn the place down!"

He muttered some nonsense
About a sled and some deer,
But the nurse cut him short with
"You're NOT allowed here!!!"

The nurse knew just how
To handle this fellow;
She picked up the phone
And called a Code Yellow.

The EMT's came quickly
And put the guy in restraints
As they listened to the nurse
List her many complaints.

While the nurse dialed the number
Of the psychiatrist on-call,
The strange midnight visitor
Was firmly steered down the hall.

But she heard him exclaim
As he vanished from sight,
"Merry Christmas to all
Of you fine people in white!"

Written in 1980 by Betty Ann Cassano, RN, BSN

1980 ? Yes, I remember those days very well. That was back in the time when nurses wore white uniforms and caps and the surgery patients weren't wheeled out the front door of the hospital to go home before the anesthesia wore off.

How times have changed!

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Ya Gotta Be a Little Nuts to Work the Night Shift

Written October 31, 1995

Several years ago, my friend Jan and I had a strange experience while working the night shift at a local medical center. We are both RNs and were working in the cardiac care unit at the time.

It was around 2 o'clock in the morning and our patients were stable and sleeping peacefully. Our charge nurse told us to take our "lunch" break while everything was calm. So Jan and I took the elevator to the basement and spent our half hour in the cafeteria.

We talked almost nonstop, catching up on our personal news. When we looked at our watches, we had only 5 minutes left to get back up to our floor so we took off at a quick pace toward the elevator.

I could see the elevator door standing open in the distance and thought to myself, "What a lucky break." Jan and I were walking side by side with our heads turned toward each other, still talking, as we continued down the basement hallway.

And then, out of the corner of my eye, I caught sight of someone crossing the hall and going into the elevator. Then the elevator door began to close.

By this time Jan and I were about 20 or 30 feet from the elevator and we both started running so we could press the "Up" button in time to make the door open again. We had both used that particular elevator enough times over the years to know that there was a slight delay before it actually started moving. And if you pushed the "Up" button quickly enough, the door would open again and you could get in. It was a sort of silly but friendly game we played on our co-workers who had gotten there first and were already inside. We had done it lots of times.

I reached the elevator first and hit the button. By then we were both laughing because, at that time of night, we were pretty sure that the mysterious passenger would be someone we knew. We were expecting to see a familiar, somewhat irritated, face looking back at us.

As the elevator door slid open, we couldn't see anyone inside. We stopped laughing immediately. Something didn't seem right. So we both carefully craned our necks around to see if someone was crowded up against the wall near the front where the control panel was located. If some crazy guy was lurking in there, we sure weren't planning on getting in with him!

But the elevator was absolutely empty.

Neither one of us had seen more than just a glimpse out of the corner of our eyes but we agreed that someone or something had definitely passed in front of us and got into that elevator. We both had assumed it was a person.

But when we tried to describe the details of what we had seen, we couldn't. The only description I could come up with was that it looked like a gray, see-through cloud such as a cartoonist might draw to indicate someone moving fast.

But where had it come from? The only logical answer was from the short hall that led to the hospital morgue.

It may seem strange but neither one of us was frightened. We were puzzled and intrigued by the mystery but we didn't feel we were in any danger. It takes more than an apparition to push a nurse off kilter.

Finally, we got into the elevator and returned to the CCU.

We were in a state of nervous excitement as we told our co-workers about our experience. They listened politely but I could tell that they thought we were either crazy or trying to play a joke on them. It didn't take long to realize that we weren't making believers of anyone so we finally just let the whole thing drop. But Jan and I both knew that we had seen something extraordinary that night.

Was it a ghost? A newly released spirit? A trick of the eye caused by poor lighting? A figment of the imagination experienced by two people at exactly the same instant? I'll never know for sure. Thank goodness Jan was with me and saw it, too.

The way I figure it, if you're going to have a weird experience, it's better to have a pal along.

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Bathroom Language

There are two characteristics that almost all nurses seem to have: a slightly off-kilter sense of humor and a whole lot of creativity. And when you put them together you come up with some very odd combinations. For instance, names for the common bathroom items most normal people refer to as "paper toilet seat covers."

You've all seen them in public restrooms, those flimsy, see-through pieces of tissue that cautious people place over the toilet seat before sharing the appliance with the rest of the world. And our hospital, always being on the cutting edge of good health ideas, made sure that the employee restroom on our unit always had a box of the items near at hand for our use. But, through some breakdown in communication, a wall dispenser was never installed. So the slim cardboard container was usually found propped up on top of the toilet paper holder. Actually, it wasn't such a bad thing. At least the toilet seat covers were at a level where short people could reach them easily.

Anyway, the cardboard container was mostly white which left a lot of unused space. Anyone who is familiar with nursing knows that when a nurse isn't doing some sort of nursing/patient related activity, he or she is usually writing it all down. It's called charting, and believe me, there's a lot of it! And that means that nurses always have at least one pen in their pockets.

Well, apparently unblemished paper is too much for creative, good-humored nurses to resist. I began noticing that small bits of writing were showing up on the box. It turned out that someone had made up a new and more descriptive name for the toilet seat covers and had jotted it on the box. This stimulated the creative juices of the next occupant and another descriptive name was added. All unsigned, of course, but all in different writing styles so I'm sure a lot of nurses were involved.

The creativity made me smile and it got so I really looked forward to restroom visits. (Let me tell all you non-nurses a little secret. Nurses ALWAYS look forward to getting a chance to use the facilities. The old joke around most of the units I worked on was that every nurse ought to come to work with an indwelling catheter and a leg bag because you never knew if you'd get a chance to take a bathroom break. But hey, I digress.....)

Each day I knew I would find a new descriptive addition on the box. But as the box began to look close to empty I got worried that all this fun would soon be taken away to the hospital incinerator and would be gone forever. So one morning after work, I wrote all the names down and brought them home with me. And here they are:

Paper Toilet Seat Covers
Other names given to them by my nurse-friends at Mercy CCU

Tush Tissues
Cheap Seats
Gluteal Gaskets for Full Figures
Butt Bonnets
Rump Ribbons
Moon Shiners
Bun Warmers
Can Covers
Seat Sheets
Gas Guards
Under "O" Rings
Bottom Batting
Rectal Wreaths
Toidy Toppers
and finally,
Fenestrated Accessible Rump Tarps

Non-nurses, please remember, when you're a nurse, you learn to get pleasure out of the little things in life. Our patients teach us this. So we learn how to recognize the good stuff in life and have fun with it. Even if it seems a little odd. :)

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Links To My Stuff

Tiny R - The Adventures of our Mini-Lop House Rabbit

Dogs, House Rabbits & Cats - Limericks, Poems, Rhymes and Stories About Our Pets and Wild Critters We Have Known

E-mail address: bettyann@cassano.com

Page posted August 6, 1996
Up-dated September 1, 2003

Copyright 1996-2003 - Betty Ann Cassano
All Rights Reserved

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