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.