Do you consider yourself a "highly sensitive person" ?

  1. I just finished reading Elaine Aaron's book, "The Highly Sensitive Person." Do you identify as one? Take a self-test here:

    There is a chapter in the book about HSPs and finding the right career. Ms. Aaron claims there are two classes of people: the "warriors" (non-HSPs, people on the front line) and the "royal advisors" (which includes many HSPs, some of who are behind the scenes).

    I do identify as an HSP, but I'm now a bit worried/skeptical if nursing is right for me as I'm about to enter a BSN program soon. I, like some other HSPs, can feel overaroused in some situations, and can find it challening having to complete numerous tasks all at once. So, I'm curious to get thoughts from other nurses who identify as an HSP.

    What are some pros and cons of having this trait as a nurse? How overwhelmed do you feel most of the time? How do you manage that? Do you think nursing is not a good choice for an HSP?

    The book also claims that there are many positive traits of being an HSP, such as identifying subtleties and changes in environments, and being keenly aware of the suffering of others. Are there some advantages of being an HSP in nursing? I suspect many HSPs are drawn to nursing because of this compassion, but I'm also not sure how they manage the stress and overstimulation at times. For all you HSP nurses out there, what type of nursing environment works best for you, if any? What are some other thoughts?
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  3. by   ijuanabhappy
    I don't even need to take this test to know that I am a highly sensitive person! Have you taken the Myers Briggs personality test also? I am an INFP and we are very emotional and sensitive. I just graduated and question every day if nursing is right for me. I started recently on a med-surg floor and within a week I knew it was not going to work. I felt so completely overwhelmed, anxious, uncomfortable, nauseous.. just completely out of my skin. It was horrible. I wonder however if I might function well in ICU because I am very keen with picking up subtleties and minor changes, but having way too many patients or juggling tons of tasks at once is just not me... I may not be much help here because I have the same questions as you, but I feel your pain!
  4. by   ijuanabhappy
    Another thing I wanted to mention... I sometimes wonder if I would be a good psych nurse, however the horror stories scare me too much to apply. One of my positive traits is that I am great with picking up on the psychosocial needs of patients and actually I probably would have made a better counselor than a nurse! lol I do still have faith that there are so many areas of nursing, you will find your niche!
  5. by   wezzie, RN
    I scored an 8.. I wouldn't worry if I was you.. I don't think too highly of that assessment tool.. but that's just me.

    I'm a very sensitive person to the needs and feelings of others, I am affected by others moods and feel tremendous empathy for the suffering of others, but loud noises, deadlines, lots of things going on around me, do not bother me. I actually enjoy that. I guess it depends on what you are "sensitive" to.

    I can't say how I'll be affected since I'm a new grad hoping to find a position soon. This will be a second career for me and I think my age and life experience will serve me well. I desperately want to work in psych, I think I'm a perfect fit. I felt right at home my first day of my rotation there.

    I also did my practicum of 200 hours in an ER and LOVED IT! Shame they all seem to want a minimum of a year of med/surg to work in an ER. Hard to even find a med/surg job around here as it seems nearly all new grads follow that road. I understand and know I have a lot to learn, but an ER with willing, experienced nurses could mold me like clay.. lol.. oh well, their loss.

    In any event, best wishes to you!
    Last edit by wezzie, RN on Aug 6, '10
  6. by   guiltysins
    I agree with weezie. I don't know for sure I would call myself high sensitive, I think I might just be get overemotional. The kind that will cry from seeing other people cry in a sad situation but I can take pressure, meet deadlines and work under stress and even though I know situations like death might make me upset in the moment, I don't dwell on it and I move on afterward.
  7. by   sistasoul
    I am a highly sensitive and emotional person. I get stressed easily. I never thought I could handle a med surge floor either. I found that the more you get used to something and the more knowledge you gain the less stressful it is. The first year of nursing is highly stressful time. I cried a lot due to being overwhelmed and detailed oriented. Of course I only received 3 weeks of floor training as a new nurse. I found that being sensitive and empathetic helped me to be a better nurse. I still have a long way to go but the stress level has come down tremendously. I am only one person and can only be in one place at a time and that is all I can do. If I ever had 2 patients doing badly at the same time I could always call my charge nurse or even a supervisor. What helps is knowing that you are never truly alone on the floor.
    Last edit by sistasoul on Aug 6, '10
  8. by   PetiteOpRN
    I am NOT a HSP. At all. But my twin sister is, extremely so.

    She has also been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome and ODC. She is working on her doctorate in physical therapy right now, and seems to be doing well, with medication and a therapist. She has even managed to take mission trips.

    Nursing and PT are very different. Nurses are required to multitask, in virtually any patient care setting, whereas PT can focus on one thing (one patient, one problem) at a time. PTs also see patients for limited periods of time, so it the environment is overwhelming, she doesn't have to deal with it for very long. I think that might be the saving grace in this situation.

    Good luck, whatever you decide.
  9. by   NeoPediRN
    Nope. According to the test I'm not, and I don't identify myself as highly sensitive either. I enjoy challenges and tend to dive head first into them. I push through the very busy times at work and everything else seems to go away. I don't even like to float because there aren't any monitors on the other floor. I almost feel like I need the chaos to function. If anything in my personal life I would say I'm underemotional.
  10. by   metal_m0nk
    I am a bit of both. I am highly sensitive in terms of intuition, reading people, sensing things, and picking up on obscure cues, and I also suffer from tactile hypersensitivity (for example, touching cotton balls with my bare hands feels like nails on a chalkboard). On the other hand though, I am pretty confrontational and a bit of an adrenaline junkie. Over the years, I've learned coping strategies for dealing with overwhelming input. I still don't like crowds and I'm still a little awkward in some social situations because sometimes I feel like I'm being bombarded with people's moods, interpersonal needs, etc, etc - but this is usually only when the group is splintered, unfocused, and not coordinated toward some common purpose. I do well at concerts and things of that nature because most everyone is focused on the music. But going to the zoo or an amusement park or a busy park, street market, or something where everyone is going in their own direction, I have to work harder to block out all the input.

    Great, now I sound like a crazy person.
  11. by   wezzie, RN
    Quote from triquee

    Great, now I sound like a crazy person.
    lol.. not at all.. it's our "quirks" that make us who we are as individuals.. those are the best things in life..

    Show me someone who isn't a "crazy person".. we'd be at a funeral..
    Last edit by wezzie, RN on Aug 7, '10
  12. by   Healsalot
    Wow, I believe I am. I'm so glad that I came across your post!! This is something I want to know more about. I feel like a light came on when I was taking that test . It makes so much sense to me, and I think it may explain why after 5 years as a nurse I still don't really feel like I am "cut out for it".

    I'm currently in the ICU, but I've thought of working in a plasma/blood donation center, or maybe education. Home health might be another option for a more "one-on-one" kind of exerience. I believe that there has to be room for HSP's in healthcare, so if what you really want is to be a nurse I wouldn't let that deter you. There are many options beyond the overstimulating work of floor nursing. That being said, I may have to heed my own advice and look more seriously at some of these other options! Thank you for the thought provking post, and good luck to you in finding your place in healthcare as a nurse if you so choose to continue down that path
  13. by   trixey
    Hello there HSP, there is nothing wrong with being sensitive. I am nursing in the UK and have nursed for 30 years! I have worked with numerous types of people, some should not be in the nursing profession as it is a very caring profession. It is very stressful but also rewarding, challenging and teaches one allot about life. It has always provided a job for myself and have always said it is a passport to the rest of the world.

    I am an HSP, have shed many a tear especially when certain people are bossy, I usually try and identify those who are like minded and find the support there.

    Hope this has helped you, and all the best with your career.
  14. by   Future O.R. Nurse
    This is a great post! I worked in the O.R. and although you work with one patient at a time, everything you do is for that one patient. The only problem I found was dealing with the doctors and the interactions with other nurses. O.R nursing i already know is what I am cut out for. That's why I got my Surgical Tech Diploma before going to nursing school. So I would be well rounded when looking for an O.R. position. Other specialties such as plastic surgery, and doctor's offices may be a better fit for highly sensitive people.