Is this you?
Throughout the years, I have gained many skills as a nurse that have transferred over to the "outside world." I have become really proficient at multitasking, I can put a band-aid on any boo-boo my kids bring to me. And I can tell a good yarn about my days at the bedside...especially when I worked nights.
I wouldn't call it "ruining" a perfectly good conversation, though. It's more like giving a valuable life lesson to my friends. Like, "If you don't stop eating those candy bars, THIS is going to happen to your feet when you get type II diabetes," or "If you don't wash that cut off, you'll get MRSA, and your infections will look and smell like THIS."
Sometimes, I even get requests for stories. I can recall one night eating at a higher end chain restaurant with my at the time boyfriend and his co-workers. As they all worked in sales, they were fascinated by my work experiences. They asked what I had heard to be most unusual item someone had put into a body cavity that didn't belong (hint: it involved Christmas lights!). So I felt like I was enhancing the conversation, not ruining it. Of course, no patient identifiers were given, in case you are concerned.
Then there are those stories we tell that are almost urban legends. I have heard from OB nurses about things people have named their babies and think, "that could not POSSIBLY be real." But it probably was. Or maybe you've heard the one about the pharmacist who called the nursing unit because a patient had brought in a script that read "Mofin, 5 pounds" (apparently someone stole a prescription pad and was hoping to get five POUNDS of morphine from the pharmacy)
Most of the time, though, the people I am having the conversations with are also nurses, so the stories tend to get really colorful. And then maybe it does ruin the dinners of people who are sitting within earshot of our tables when we are enjoying a nurses' night out.
Maybe non-nurses don't understand. They think we shouldn't tell stories about outrageous things our patients (and sometimes their families) have done. But we're not making fun of them. We are just preserving history and illustrating the human condition. And sometimes, if we nurses don't get to laugh, we will cry. And we might not be able to stop.
What's the story you like to tell when people ask you about your job?