So, Take Your Medicine

Posted by on Aug 15, 2018 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts | 2 comments

So, Take Your Medicine

In all of the cleaning out we did this past week, I found an old yellow note pad. The top few pages were a hand-written scene from my first book! Next on the pad was this. Since I have been a nurse now for 33 years it is obvious this was written around 15 years ago. But, I have to say, with all the changes in nursing, this has not changed. I hope you enjoy this humorous piece of nursing life.

So, Take Your Medicine

In eighteen years of nursing I have given a lot of pills. In fact, if I had a dollar for every pill I’ve given, well, that would be a lot of dollars! I have seen many changes in health care, not the least of which is the medications. For instance, the antacid thing. Was Tagamet before or after Pepcid? Wasn’t Pepcid the first “pretty purple pill” or was that Prilosec?


Anyway, in thinking back over all of those pills I can’t help but remember the pill takers, AKA patients.

Since I personally observed all of these pills being swallowed—we are supposed to stand there and watch until the pill actually goes down—I have seen it all, and believe me, there are as many different ways to take pills as there are generations of penicillin.


First, of course, and every busy nurses favorite is the chug them all down at once method. You throw the entire cup of pills into your mouth at once, and swallow them down with a huge swig of your favorite liquid. This was my dad’s preferred method until one became lodged sideways in his esophagus providing him with a painfully memorable trip to the emergency room. Now he has joined the camp of the one by one crowd as well as the cut anything bigger than an aspirin in half fans.


Another area of difference is what goes in the mouth first, the pills of the water. Some can’t stand the taste of pills, or the pills stick to their tongue, so they take a drink first, then tip their head back and dump the pill/pills in. I’ve tried this but always ended up either choking or losing all the liquid the minute I opened my mouth. I guess some coordination is required here. The opposite of course is the pill first, then the water to flush it down. This doesn’t work for people with a dry mouth.


Two other variations are particularly interesting, (and if I’m stressed, entertaining.) The first is that group of people who manually “help” the pill on down. Some use their index finger to push the pill to the back of their mouth before trying to swallow. Last week, I had a patient who appeared to assist the pill right on down to her stomach! Amazing to watch. It reminded me of a stork or some other bird. Isn’t there a story in Aesop’s Fables about a stork and a narrow necked jar? But I digress.

The hardest for me to watch is the I can’t swallow them so I just chew them up crowd. It makes me shudder to think of the taste of all of those blood pressure, anti-plaque, antacid, thyroid, and “gotta go, gotta go, gotta go right now” pills mixed together. Most people who can’t swallow pills have them crushed and mixed with applesauce or ice cream, but not these brave souls. You would imagine these to be tough young men. Nope, not a chance. It is usually some sweet grandma.


Now at the opposite end of the life span we have babies. Babies don’t do pills. Most babies, if given a choice don’t do liquid meds either, although the flavors do help. Unfortunately—and I don’t know why—the vitamins continue to taste horrid, no good flavors can quite mask that iron. The trick is to squirt the liquid in the corner of the screaming child’s mouth, then gently hold the cheeks together until they swallow. The holding the cheeks together is a very important step if you don’t want the medication spit all over your face. Some children are very clever and manage to swallow without actually getting the medicine down, leaving a mouthful to spit as soon as you think you are safe. One trick I like is putting the med in a nipple and giving it to the baby. However, smart ones then refuse their bottle.


So, there you have it. I’m sure it’s a less than exhaustive chronicle of a not-so-important topic, but maybe somewhere in there you see yourself. So, take your medicine and the next time you swallow a pill, however you do it, remind yourself, “I am an individual”!


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  1. Sandy Carlson

    I remember hearing this before. It was written to topic (a hard pill to swallow) for the Black Hills Writers Group. You must realize that your words are powerful, for I have remembered this “essay” off and on throughout all these years. Still sticks me…as to the differences in people. Keep writingnn