If you are wearing no armor and wielding nothing (not even a non-weapon), a nurse's attacks will instead heal you. Quivered items are allowed. If you are at maximum HP already, each hit from the nurse has a chance of raising your maximum (and current) HP by one point. The healing attack of the nurse will also cure food poisoning and illness, but not confusion, stunning, sliming, or stoning. If the nurse has been canceled, the healing effect will not work and the nurse will attack you normally.
The chance of a nurse raising your max HP is 1⁄7, provided that your maximum is less than 5 × xlvl + [2 × xlvl]d10. This means that nurses are most effective when you have fewer than 7 hitpoints per level, and become completely ineffective when you have 25 hitpoints per level. No such restrictions apply if you're polymorphed to a monster, but any max HP increase acquired while polymorphed will only last until you revert to your original form.
After healing you, a nurse has a 1⁄33 chance of teleporting away. If you are on a non-teleport level, the nurse will flee for a while instead. If your maximum HP was raised, the nurse also has a 1⁄13 chance of vanishing entirely.
The corpses of nurses also have remarkable healing properties. Eating one will restore you to your maximum hit points, however many this may be. (Even a potion of full healing is limited to restoring 400 HP.) Starting in NetHack 3.6.1, eating a nurse corpse will also cure blindness. Be warned, however—nurses are human, and eating nurse meat is cannibalism for human characters. Nurse corpses are often tinned, as a tin of nurse meat has the same healing powers, and it does not count as cannibalism until you actually consume the tin (better to live as a cannibal than die of hit point loss). Beware: even a blessed tin can take one turn to open and another to actually consume, so do not wait until you are one turn from death.
If you encounter a nurse, and there are no other dangerous monsters nearby, the easiest way to strip yourself is to press shift + A and select all of your armor, plus your wielded weapon, for removal. Then you can let the nurse start healing.
If you kill a nurse, and it leaves a corpse, you would be well advised to tin the remains. If eating human flesh is not cannibalism for you, or if you would be willing to endure the penalty to save your life, a tin of nurse meat will restore you to full hit points. You may wish to ensure the tin is blessed, so it will take only two turns to open and eat. Tinning the corpse, per se, will not make you a cannibal, only eating the contents. So you can defer that decision until you are in grave difficulty.
As the nurse isn't a valid self-polymorph form, you cannot use this special attack on yourself. Additionally, pet nurses will not normally attack you, and thus cannot heal you. However, even pet nurses can be induced to attack you with conflict or left on a different level until they go untame. Pet nurses will attack enemies, even if they are not wielding anything and are wearing no armor. However, as nurses cannot heal themselves, wield weapons, or wear armor, they make weak pets.
To provide some clue as to the healing abilities of the nurse, they will say the following things when #chatted to:
- "Put that weapon away before you hurt somebody!"
- You are wielding a weapon or other item.
- "Please undress so I can examine you."
- You are wearing any form of armor, possibly hiding a shirt.
- "Take off your shirt, please."
- You are only wearing a shirt.
- "Relax, this won't hurt a bit."
- You are fully disrobed and wielding no weapon, and the nurse's attacks will heal you. If you are currently at your maximum HP, the attack may possibly raise your maximum HP.
- "I hate this job!"
- The nurse is canceled and won't heal you.
During combat, you are notified when you are healed by the following addendum to the traditional hit message:
- The nurse hits! (I hope you don't mind.)
- You were hit by a nurse and were healed instead of damaged.
There is no distinctive message for when your maximum HP is raised.
If you are a Healer, a (non-canceled) nurse will not hurt you even if you're wearing armor or wielding a weapon. Instead, you will occasionally receive the following message:
- "Doc, I can't help you unless you cooperate."
- You are a Healer and wearing armor or wielding something in the presence of a nurse.