Smelly Co-Worker - page 17

What would you all do about a co-worker with an odor problem? This gal LOOKS clean but she smells BAD. The beginning of the shift is fine, the middle of the shift and things get bad. I see her... Read More

  1. by   kadokin
    Quote from Bipley
    Oh thank you thank you thank you! I literally need a script and this is it. You give both the nurse and me various "outs" and this is what I have been looking for. Thank you SOOO very much!

    Could you, Randy, and Soldier's Wife do this for me, PLEASE?

    All kidding aside, this is perfect and this is what I am looking for. Thank you! This is just absolutely perfect. Soldier's wife and Randy are on the money with the direct approach and where to have this conversation and your script is ideal!
    Aren't nurses great?
  2. by   LPN1974
    Looking for an update to this problem and hope things went well today.
  3. by   kadokin
    Quote from rn/writer
    I'm glad you're going to tell her before some insensitive jerk comes along and blows her away.

    Really, she has two problems. The obvious one is the embarrassing odor. The other, which is probably equally distressing, is the terrible sense of isolation the odor has no doubt created in her life. Who knows when someone last invited her to lunch. BTW, be prepared for her to turn you down. She may not have the confidence at this point to venture out unnecessarily. Then you might suggest bringing lunch to her house.

    Someone suggested you tell her at the beginning of a shift. I don't think that's a good idea. Hearing what you have to say might leave her shaken and unable to concentrate. Then, too, she'll feel even greater pressure when she starts to get funky half-way through the shift.

    I think the fact that you are direct in your speech is more of an asset than a liability in this case. The last thing she needs is someone hemming and hawing and beating around the bush.

    Whenever you have the opportunity, you might start by sharing with her a time when you were told something embarrassing but necessary. Or, if this has never happened, make it a hypothetical and say that if you ever really needed to know there was a problem situation, you hope there would be someone in your life who would care enough to overcome their own reluctance and put your needs first. Tell her you wouldn't hurt her for the world, but there is something you need to talk with her about.

    This preamble does two things. It gives her time to process that she's about to hear something difficult and brace herself. It also indirectly states that YOU are someone who cares enough about HER to put her needs first. I guess it does a third thing as well. It lays the groundwork for a respectful approach and offers at least a small amount of reassurance that you intend to tread carefully.

    The next thing you do is go for objective data. Tell her you've noticed that she goes into the bathroom mid-shift and that you've seen her with deodorant and FDS. Then mention what you've told us--that you can see she's a clean person and that she cares about her appearance. Say that you've noticed an odd odor around her later in the shift and tell her you wonder if she might be struggling with a problem you used to have. (Hopefully, this will eliminate any suggestion that you're looking down your nose at her.) You can tell her about the BV and the often incorrect approach suggested by docs and web sites and ask if she might be struggling with this.

    Be prepared for a wide range of reactions. She could get angry and defensive and end the visit. She could break down in relief that someone cares enough to connect. She could be desperate for information and be willing to try anything you suggest. Or a million other choices.

    If she's at all receptive, ask her what kinds of things she has already tried. That should cue you in on whether she's gone in for actual medical treatment. I suppose we shouldn't assume that a nurse would cover all the proper medical bases. I know I sometimes don't.

    Once you know what she's attempted, you can start laying out some possibilities. You had some plausible ideas on what might be behind the mystery odor, and there were plenty of additional causes suggested here. My guess is that two well-educated nurses should be able to put their heads together and brainstorm some solutions. The alkaline douche is certainly an easy enough avenue to explore.

    If the easy options don't work, let her know you'll be happy to help her sort through the other ideas and offer moral support while she's investigating.

    The most important thing, though, is to make the human connection with someone who has probably felt terribly alone. Most of us yak with co-workers about the ongoing sagas in our lives. She hasn't had the freedom to confide, ask advice, or even vent. Or to hear the input and encouragement of those who care about her. You might be the first person to reach out to her in a long time. And that might mean as much to her as a cure.

    Even if she has an ungracious response, tell her you will be available any time she changes her mind and maybe give her your phone number (already written out). It might take some time for her to overcome the shame that this kind of predicament often causes. But your show of concern could well plant a seed for when she is ready.

    Whatever her reaction, I admire you for caring enough to get involved. Heaven knows, this is one of those times when it would be easier to gossip and criticize behind her back. Instead, you are willing to stick your neck out and try to be an ally.

    One last thing. If you are a praying person, ask God to give you the good kind of boldness, the best approach to reach her, and the right words for her to take in. Then the outcome is in his hands.

    The rightness of your actions is NOT determined by her response. You're doing what needs to be done. You could be perfect in your delivery and she could still reject your offer. That's her prerogative. On the more optimistic side, you could make a huge difference for this poor woman. And you might end up with a friend for life.

    I wish you both the very best!
    Again I say, aren't nurses great! Even if she flys off the handle completely, you have planted a seed in your caring way and she may decide to address the problem (or address it in a different way than she has in the past) and work toward some solutions. I hope she is not too traumatized, but you will have done something really compassionate to help another human being. God speed.
  4. by   Bipley
    Quote from Julielpn
    Hey Bipley~
    Just wanted to say "good luck today" and let us know how it went!
    Prayers and thoughts are with you!
    Thanks. I did talk to her today ... just about setting up a time to 'chit chat' and we are meeting for breakfast in the morning before work.

    I can now honestly say that there IS something that the anticipation and dread is worse -- than a root canal.

    I almost wish I would have set up something during coctail hour. A "few" Rum and Diet Cokes wouldn't hurt.

    This reminds me of when I was in college. I was working for a company that had supervised apartments for MR/DD adults. We had one guy that was NOT MR in the least. He was quite intelligent and a really sweet guy however he had severe CP. He couldn't walk so he rode one of those scooter things.

    This guy was bright, he was in college, (I used to help with homework, I'd write for him since he was unable) he was fun, had a GREAT sense of humor, really a cool guy. Well, he wanted to go to a bar. I honestly couldn't think of a reason not to. He wanted to do what his college peers were doing. He wanted to go to a bar AND he wanted to go dancing. He couldn't dance, he couldn't STAND.

    I talked to my boss and he said our job is to make their lives as absolutely normal as possible. He was of age, he was not mentally retarded, he was quite capable of making his own decisions and if he wanted to go to a bar and experience that, he had the right.

    We get to the bar and I'm thinking... "Thank heavens the dance floor is up steps, he won't want to dance!" I simply didn't know how to dance with someone in a scooter. He insisted, he wanted to dance.

    Okay, I admit... it took a Long Island Ice Tea but I agreed. Wasn't sure how this would work, but I agreed.

    We go to get up to the dance floor and I'm at a loss. A few young guys saw what was going on and they picked Randy AND his scooter up, lifted it up three stairs to the dance floor and we started to dance. Keeping in mind it is a slow dance. Being a person with severe CP he was essentially sitting "side saddle" and flapping his arms and giggling in delight. I swear, I had no clue what to do. So I started doing something similar to what he was doing but not quite to the same degree.

    People saw him dancing and actually moved out of the way so he would have lots of room. He was thrilled, he was having the time of his life. At the end of the "slow" dance people clapped for him and cheered him on. Thankfully the DJ played a fast dance for the next song as that is all Randy could dance to anyway, something verrrry fast.

    That taught me a lesson in keeping things as normal as possible for folks. They deserve nothing less.

    Anyway, sorry... I digress. My point is that I really feared that experience too just because I hadn't done it before and I didn't know how. Can't say I actually know how to do that one to this day, but I managed. I'm banking on the same theory in the morning.
  5. by   Bipley
    Quote from LPN1974
    I agree...you are doing the kindest thing, in a very confidential way.
    I hope she gets from you that it is confidential.........I mean as confidential as your conversation goes. Of course everyone knows that she has a problem already, but your conversation should be kept confidential, ESP. from the other mean co-workers.

    And I hope she goes to the doctor and gets a diagnosis on this problem, and then maybe your research will help to alleviate it.
    Oh, it will be confidential. I refuse to discuss the odor problem with other nurses. When they are complaining I usually try to come up with a comment to make them feel guilty and then leave the room. I'm not sure I've been very effective but it makes me feel better.

    I have discussed this with NO person. The first time I have ever really communicated about it was here, on this forum. That is where it stays.
  6. by   Bipley
    Quote from CRNASOMEDAY25
    I don't think they read the whole thread.
    Who wouldn't want to read 22 pages about stinky stuff? :chuckle
  7. by   Bipley
    Quote from tencat
    Ummmm.....is this a new treatment that I haven't heard of????
    Sorry, I couldn't resist.
    Kinda makes one wonder just WHERE the gum goes???
  8. by   Bipley
    Quote from SaderNurse05
    Is there a special applicator?:chuckle :chuckle
    Sure! Just like the stick on a sucker. You just hold it in place for a loooong time.
  9. by   Bipley
    Quote from KristiePDX
    Maybe she recently had cryosurgery for cervical dysplasia. If the procedure was extensive enough, one would be able to smell the odor of rotting flesh.
    For months??
  10. by   Nikki69
    I had a co-worker like that once, and the supervisor finally said something to her. Humiliated, she soon quit the job. I just found out she killed herself.
  11. by   rn/writer
    Quote from Nikki69
    I had a co-worker like that once, and the supervisor finally said something to her. Humiliated, she soon quit the job. I just found out she killed herself.
    Maybe if some caring co-worker had taken the time to connect with her before it got to that point, she would have had a different outcome.

    I really question the wisdom of your timing with this information.
  12. by   ChristinaRN2B05
    I had a coworker with a very similar situation. After getting to know her she revealed to me she had chronic BV (Bacterial Vaginosis). She was put on Flagyl 500mg every day for almost a year. After some blood work came back suspicious she had to stop taking the Flagyl because it is thought that it can cause cancer in lng term use. Soooooo, its either smell or cancer which would you pick.....
  13. by   Bipley
    Quote from ChristinaRN2B05
    I had a coworker with a very similar situation. After getting to know her she revealed to me she had chronic BV (Bacterial Vaginosis). She was put on Flagyl 500mg every day for almost a year. After some blood work came back suspicious she had to stop taking the Flagyl because it is thought that it can cause cancer in lng term use. Soooooo, its either smell or cancer which would you pick.....
    Seriously? A more appropriate treatment. If the abx's don't work, it isn't the abx's. It is the dx.

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