September 20, 2005, 2:37 pm

Would You Like Fries With Your IV?

One of the most difficult skills I had to perfect in nursing school was Pepsi Pouring 101. As new students, we began with non-carbonated beverages, namely Kool-Aid. As our skills developed past the novice level, we moved onto Ovaltine (cold). Those students showing a particular aptitude were allowed to serve their Ovaltine hot. This was before microwaves, so it was quite labor intensive. I’ll never forget the pride I felt the first time I was able to pour Pepsi for the waiting patients. A nurse’s cap and an ice, cold Pepsi…doesn’t get any better than that!

What happens when that kid on the couch who was just triaged for abdominal pain has to go for his appendectomy with a gut full of Pepsi? I guess if he aspirates it, the carbonation will keep his lungs inflated…..

I’ve discovered many stereotypes of nursing during my travels through the internet. I’ve discovered nurses as waitresses, nurses as whores (good heavens, be careful what you put in the search engine!),
and nurses as angels. My favorite is the “nurse as waitress” genre. I get teased about this at work. We have boxed lunches available for our hypoglycemia patients and the turkey sandwiches come with lettuce, tomato and condiments separate. I usually cover the table with a white towel and put the lunch together for the patient. This gets me untold good-humored grief from those who see me do this. Hey, the patients appreciate it; who wants to fumble with a bunch of packets when they’re sick? No one’s left me a tip, though.

I believe this image of nurses as waitresses are actually the result of old advertisements and the fact that in the old days, the nurses actually put the patient trays together. That was way before my time, but check out this Coke ad. These types of ads probably had a lot to do with it.

Of course, sometimes it can feel like you are a waitress as patients request that you address various needs. Every patient will ask for:

  • A warm blanket. Even the ones in for ankle sprains. ERs are cold! Give everyone a blanket, even the ones who aren’t cold. They will be.
  • The bathroom. Show the ambulatory ones where it is. Give a urinal to the men. Get a bedpan ready for the women – every woman will have to pee within 5 minutes of getting settled in the gurney.
  • Water. If they can have it, give them a cup. If they don’t want it, they will.
  • The call bell. They won’t ask for it, but make sure they have it and tell them to use it if they need anything. Just having it available tends to make them more secure and less “needy”. They also won’t be wandering the halls looking for you.

I make sure everyone is set up in the room at the time I room them. It makes the patients more comfortable from the beginning and saves a lot of running around for me.

Oh, and by the way I was a waitress at one time. There are two traits waitressing and nursing have in common. The ability to juggle many clients at once and the ability to prioritize. It was a fun job. But it just didn’t have that cap…….


  • Lesser_Lumpkin

    September 20, 2005 at 4:46 pm

    Heh. I wish the nurses that I had durring my hospital stays were a little more like you. The small touches like setting up the patients tray is often time the very thing that makes a person going through a very bad time feel a little better about what is going on. I’m sure it is appreciated more than you ever hear about so three cheers for you.

    The Lumpy

  • Leann

    September 21, 2005 at 8:38 am

    Sounds like you are very caring and thoughtful. There are some nurses who could take lessons. Thank goodness I’ve only had a few bad experiences. Overall they are coming up in the world 🙂

  • Julie

    September 21, 2005 at 9:54 am

    I have had very little experience of the nurse as handmaiden thing, after all in England most healthcare is free and the nurses are not really there to serve coke with your sandwich. However I used to work in a private ward (in the early 80’s after I qualified). The patients had on their trays at each meal, a little bottle of salad dressing. This was made up by the ward orderly from aracas oil and vinegar. This was probably good for the bowels, as you can make an enema from this kind of oil!

  • kenju

    September 21, 2005 at 2:19 pm

    You must be a very good and caring nurse, Kim.

    Did you know some waitresses did wear caps? They were small bands of fabric to match their uniforms (yes, waitresses used to wear uniforms too), which usually had a peak in the center. They were pinned into the hair across the top of the head and above the ears. Jeeze, I am older than dirt if I remember that, huh?

  • Gypsybobocowgirl

    September 21, 2005 at 8:27 pm

    I often tell people that the most important skill in being a compassionate nurse is being a good waitress. A patient whose life I saved, literally, as in coded, rememberd only that I brought warm lotion and washed his back and rubbed lotion on his feet every night–and that I was his favorite nurse. I learned a lesson from him that I have never forgotten–they remember kindness, not codes.
    Frustrated nurse recruiter that I am, any time I have a really good waitress, I talk to them about going the nursing school.

  • I needed that, Kim. I survived my first day of nursing school today, though I _am_ the oldest in my class…argh.

    However, I came home to find out that I had screwed up big time (in one of my four jobs) by responding to all on an e-mail I was supposed to be getting BCC’d you know? ARGH!

    I needed a chuckle and a reminder not to take things so hard…and I think I’ll go have a Pepsi.


  • Heather

    September 22, 2005 at 7:19 pm

    We teased one of our nurses at a community event today because she grabbed the tea pitcher and served everyone tea. While she was in the bathroom, we all pitched in and left her a tip!

    Gypsybobocowgirl threatened my job if I don’t read your blog ;-)She told me I had to sing the lyrics from your last post at the next ER staff meeting. . .

  • Kim

    September 22, 2005 at 7:36 pm

    Welcome, Heather! LOL! I hope you have a better singing voice than I do!

About Me

My name is Kim, and I'm a nurse in the San Francisco Bay area. I've been a nurse for 33 years; I graduated in 1978 with my ADN. My experience is predominately Emergency and Critical Care, and I have also worked in Psychiatry and Pediatrics. I made the decision to be a nurse back in 1966 at the age of nine...

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