Do you work with a ‘grey nurse’?

Do you work with a grey nurse?
A 'grey nurse' may be helping you by tending to the needs of residents when you are having a busy shift. [Source: iStock]

It’s common for aged care workers to have experiences with the ghosts of former residents of their facilities, but have you ever wondered if unexplained activity is because of a ‘grey nurse’ instead?

A ‘grey nurse’ is believed by many aged care and hospital workers to be behind such helpful activity as call buttons being pressed when the resident in that room is seemingly unable to, or even bedpans being changed without a physical staff member completing the task.

This friendly ghost is well known in a number of different nursing homes – but seemingly not all facilities – and is always reported doing caring tasks.

This is also a worldwide phenomenon, not specific to Australia.

Lead Guide at Adelaide Haunted Horizons, Kag Allwood, researched and ran tours on the grey nurse which lived in the former Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH).

She said it was common for aged care workers to tell her their workplace was also haunted.

“We have had no end of people on our tours who work in aged care say that their building is haunted,” she said.

“They say there’s somebody around, they sense something, or a certain building is renowned for having a [ghostly] figure.

To some people, the grey nurse appears to wear an old-style nursing uniform, sometimes also with a veil, while to others she appears in a more modern uniform.

Ms Allwood said this might mean the ghost can change its appearance to suit what a patient or worker might expect a nurse to look like.

As it seems the grey nurse may also be able to physically perform tasks on behalf of other nurses, Ms Allwood said the spectre is an “intelligent haunting”.

“There’s poltergeists, which make all the noises, residual hauntings, which are going about their everyday thing – for example, a nurse might walk up and down a ward, but we’re talking intelligent ghosts,” she explained.

“For example, a nurse from the Victorian era, how would they know how to do the drips or change catheters or whatever the modern tasks might be?”

It is common, Ms Allwood said, for people to have stories of the grey nurse doing tasks that fit in with a variety of different time periods, such as a story from one emergency room nurse who went to a store room to get what they needed, only to find everything had already been set up – despite no living staff member knowing who had set it up.

“I just think it’s brilliant, how fascinating that you have somebody who’s still doing their job,” added Ms Allwood.

The grey nurse could be from a bygone era, or they could have died recently, they don’t have to have died on their worksite or while working, they may have died at any age, not just prematurely, and can inhabit old or new buildings.

The nurse may even be able to move with workers and patients into a new building – as Ms Allwood said the grey nurse from the former RAH has been reported in the new hospital buildings.

The main factor is that these grey nurses were invested in their caring role and continue to do it.

Ms Allwood said it is important to remember that the grey nurse is not a demonic creature like those portrayed in movies and is not something to be scared of.

“If they were a nice person in life, they’re going to be a nice person in death. Just because they’ve died, doesn’t mean their personality has changed,” she said.

“It’s something nice and light and something that should be embraced, and an extra pair of hands in a time when people are short staffed.”

So if you do believe you have a grey nurse in your workplace, Ms Allwood has some advice for what to do about it.

First of all, don’t panic.

If you’re ever frightened by the ghost, give it a name, even if the name is simply ‘Nurse’, as Ms Allwood suggested humanising the phenomenon will take away the fearful aspect.

If your grey nurse continues to frighten you, try asking it out loud to leave you alone, as it likely isn’t aware it is bothering you.

Finally, Ms Allwood said, “Just embrace it, it might be going about its daily activities and not even know you’re there.

“If you’re short on hands you could say, ‘Okay my dear if you’re around could you just do this for me?’”

You never know, the grey nurse may help you out in these times of stressful workforce shortages in aged care.

Do you have any stories of unexplained activity in your workplace? Tell us in the comments below.

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  1. This is the first I have heard about Grey Nurses. I am not a religious man but I believe we were created by a higher being just by looking around in nature.I have had a few contacts from the other side and I believe it may be a possibility that the grey nurse is working her old job again.Anyway we will all find out sooner or later!

  2. I’ve been on shift when a buzzer would go off and either the resident is unable to use buzzer, or the room is empty cause of a passing. One facility I worked at every morning at 2.30am our front automatic doors would open even though they were locked. The facility got people to come and check the doors and always found was nothing needed fixing and could not explain why it happens.
    When my Mum was nursing there was a silluate of a grey nurse (when nurse’s worn the grey), which Mum herself had seen while on night duty and the resident would past peacefully during the night. It was said the grey nurse would sit and comfort the residents that were about to pass.

  3. We do have a grey nurse, very helpful one at our workplace. Once, a resident was fully incontinent and faecal matter was all over the floor, in towel and clothing’s. One of our night staff went to get fresh linens and towels leaving the resident in the toilet. 10-15 mins later, when he returned, everything was clean and fresh. The resident was back to bed and not a sign of any mess. The second night staff was also approached, she had nil idea what happened.
    Thanks to our grey nurse🙏

  4. I am not sure exactly what i saw….if they were grey nurses as such….but i remember when i was doing a night shift about 8 years ago in the nursing home and i was told to sit at a desk and watch the buzzers. I nodded off for just a second then all of a sudden i opened my eyes and could hear all this noise! There were nurses busily rushing down the corridor with funny looking hats on and old fashioned nursing attire. There was so many of them….and for a split second i thought “where on earth did all these nurses come from?” as i was all by myself. As soon as i looked up and thought that….they all vanished infront of my face… without a trace.

  5. I recall a similar phenomenon when working overnight in a low-care residential facility, with just myself on the over night shift.I supported 43 residents and was doing the evening medication administration, room by room. All the automatic facility doors were locked and access was only via the doorbell and my physical action of pressing the key-code in.

    I was called by the bell to attend to a room where I found the resident on the ground after falling and her head was badly gashed open. As the only person available, I applied first aid to her and called for an ambulance. The trouble was, how could the pressure be kept on the wound, but open the facility doors when the paramedics arrived? My resident was dazed and concussed so she was unable to follow instructions to apply pressure to her wound and I couldn’t leave her.

    A few minutes later I heard male voices call out in the deserted hallway that they were from the Ambulance service and where were we? I was able to call out and direct them to where we were without pressure being removed from the wound. I was very confused about how they accessed the building and asked them who opened the front doors. They said that it was a lady standing by the side of the entrance who let them in and directed them to the right hallway. When I asked for a description of the lady, the medic said that she was dressed in a uniform and her hair was in a bun but she didn’t say anything, only pointing the direction. On hearing this, I felt a shiver, but also gratefulness for the mystery lady. She must have been sent to help me and my resident during a critical time.

    But whoever it was, be it earthly or a grey nurse, I’m forever grateful for her assistance that night.
    There were other signs and noises in the facility during the night-shift which can not be explained so I believe in these ethereal nursing angels who continue to care, beyond the veil.

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