‘Wash your stinkin’ hands’: Florida nurse’s flu horror stories go viral (w/ video)

"I watched them all walk in last night and not one of them touched the hand sanitizer, not once!" says Northwest Florida ER nurse Katherine Lockler about a softball team that walked into the ER to visit a fellow player. [Facebook image]
"I watched them all walk in last night and not one of them touched the hand sanitizer, not once!" says Northwest Florida ER nurse Katherine Lockler about a softball team that walked into the ER to visit a fellow player. [Facebook image]
Published February 2
Updated February 2

A Florida hospital nurse is mad as heck and sheís not going to take it anymore.

So what has gotten Escambia County nurse Katherine Lockler so frustrated?

Parents or coaches who bring their healthy kids to the ER when they really donít belong there. Donít you know that the otherwise well-intentioned adults are bringing their toddlers and softball teams into "a cesspool of funky flu at the ER" right now?

If you didnít know that, Lockler will tell you. Oh, how sheíll tell you.

Lockler lives in Milton and works in several emergency rooms in Northwest Florida, where the flu is running high in numbers not seen since the 2009-10 flu season. She sat down in her car after a 12-hour shift Saturday morning and did a video in which she recounts hospital horror stories.

"Iíll change the names to protect the not-so-innocent," Lockler warns in her video, titled "After Work Thoughts," before sharing some flu-related tales.

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In one story, in a tone of voice usually reserved for talking to misbehaving small children, the mom of four tells of a softball coach who brought an entire team into the ER to visit one player.

"If a team member of a softball team is sick or injured, you do not bring the entire softball team in to check on them because guess what? You just got maybe 15 new vectors, or carriers of the flu, by them just walking in. Because I watched them all walk in last night and not one of them touched the hand sanitizer, not once! Because the flu is a cesspool of funky flu at the ER right now. So please donít bring your team in. Please donít bring your healthy children in ó especially your newborn babies! And if you donít have what I call a true emergency, this would not be a time to come to the emergency room."

Since she posted the video to her Facebook page nearly a week ago, Lockler has become a viral video star. The five-minute clip, which includes tips for avoiding the flu and a public service plea on behalf of stressed ER nurses and doctors, has been viewed more than 5 million times and has been shared more than 95,000 times.

In the video, she offers tips on how to avoid the flu or treat it yourself. Tamiflu, she said, wonít cure the flu but will limit the time youíll have it. Better yet, before treating the ER as a first option, get yourself some over-the-counter Tylenol or ibuprofen and take dosages big enough ó 400 to 600 milligrams for men or women or 800 for "a big dude" ó to wipe out the fever. Drink plenty of fluids like Gatorade, water or Powerade to stay hydrated.

"And wash your stinking hands so you donít make your babies sick!"

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Above all, if you arenít truly sick, stay home. She notes how 25 to 30 patients are sitting in the ER for hours. "Some (are) walking in with the flu and so guess what? Five flus walk in, 15 flus walk out! And they donít even know they have it. But theyíll be back!"

The clip has been polarizing, owing to Locklerís sarcastic inflection and animated facial expressions. She pops her eyes for emphasis, and gives some grand gestures.

"Watch this, Iím gonna teach yíall a magic trick, itís amazing!" Lockler says in the clip as she demonstrates how to sneeze into the crook of your arm rather than hand to limit the spreading of germs.

"Let me show you again in slow motion!" she says, before doing it one more time. In dramatic slow motion.

"Not taking advice (which I already know) from someone that is talking to the general public like we are all 5 years old," someone commented on her Facebook thread, leading to its own retort from another viewer: "The general public acts like theyíre 5. Tie your shoes."

Yet many others on Facebook are grateful.

"OH MY GOD SHE IS MY HERO. I wish this could be played on repeat in the waiting room," read one comment on Locklerís page, which was reflective of many.

The mediaís come calling, too, on the frustrated, but endearingly motherly Lockler.

In an interview with TCPalm, Lockler gave another example to expose some of the foolish business sheís seen this flu season in the ER.

"I saw a dad with a toddler crawling on the floor in the emergency room and I approached him and I said, ĎHey dad, I do not feel that thatís a wise decision, your child is being exposed to some really nasty germs on this emergency room floor,í" Lockler said. "And instead of the dad receiving what a nurse of 10 years is sharing with him, he said, ĎEh, itís no big deal, itíll build his immune system.í So thereís a lack of understanding and a lack of interest in knowing what to do to protect themselves sometimes."

In the interview, she concedes her tone could come across as sarcastic or condescending but says she didnít mean it that way.

"I think thereís a little bit of sarcasm in my voice because the instructions were given so many times and they were not received well," Lockler told TCPalm. "I tend to be sarcastic in all my speaking, but if itís taken wrong, I would definitely apologize to that group that misheard my message because of my tone. The message is still right on the money, but if the tone was offensive, that was not the intention."

At the end of the clip, after sharing tales of how ER nurses and doctors are cussed at by impatient patients, she asks ER visitors to "please thank an ER nurse and nurses and doctors who are taking care of sick people right now. Weíre putting ourselves in the thick of some nasty germs to help."

Contact Howard Cohen at [email protected]