Strong stomach, weak heart.....

  1. I need some advice....I'm a first semester nursing student, getting A's in everything (so far), dealing well with the challenges of nursing school.... I'm very happy to be on this journey....
    There's just one problem.... I do ok when I'm at clinicals. I don't mind the sights and smells of nursing (if you know what I mean)... it's when the patients cry out in pain that really bothers me. Seeing people in pain just breaks my heart. I manage to hold it together and do what I'm supposed to do but as soon as I get home, I cry for them. I just feel so badly for them and I worry about them and imagine what they're going through and I can't seem to let it go. I pray for them and that seems to help a bit.
    I know I'm not going to be an effective nurse if I don't get a thicker skin (as my skin is very thin in this area).
    Is this normal or am I a nutcase? Has anyone ever experienced this? If so, any suggestions? Will it get easier?
    Thanking you in advance....
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  2. 8 Comments

  3. by   ChicagolandRN
    I used to have a hard time with this as well, until one day in my med-surg clinical when I saw a nurse really go to bat for a pt. This pt had been in pain for days, but this nurse had the pain under control within two hours. Obviously, this isn't always the case, but I'm an oncology nurse, and I've seen people with unbelievable pain get comfortable enough to sleep for an entire night. It's important to educate yourself about pain management so you can advocate for your pt. ("Dr. Smith, the prn morphine order we have for Mrs. brown is barely touching her pain, can we increase the dose/frequency or switch to dilaudid or a morphine drip or a PCA or a fentanyl patch...) There's a lot out there...it's just a matter of finding the right med for that particular pt. Many times, it helps the pt A LOT to know that you're at their side and you are committed to resolving their pain issues.

    PM me if you want to hear more. Pain management is my thing and I can talk about it ad nauseum!

    PS~ Don't forget...where there's a narc there should be a stool softener (constipation hurts too )
  4. by   GPatty
    You will be an effective nurse.....and a great patient advocate! Keep the feeling of caring, never let it go...the ones who do, THEY are INeffective nurses.
    Your big heart will take you a long way...
    Best of everything to you...
    Julie
  5. by   luckymichelle
    Oh my gosh Heather - I could've written this post myself!

    I feel the same way! You know it's funny - I'm fascinated by all of the diseases that attack the body, mind, etc.... But, the second I'm seeing someone in pain, I lose it. My first day job-shadowing I passed out. I was so embarassed.

    Often, I question myself a lot about this nursing decision because I don't know how to get over the pain issues. Maybe we'll feel better when we know we can actually help, instead of just watching? I don't know... sorry for hijacking your post here! I just really relate, and look forward to the advice that others have!

    Michelle

    PS - I once read that a doctor said "A patient needs my help more than he needs my empathy." I'm going to try to remember than when I see difficult things.
  6. by   Carolanne
    Great advice from ChicagolandRN -- once we see that they're in pain, bring it to the doctor's attention that the current plan isn't working. I'm still a novice, but from what I've seen at clinicals so far is, the ones who are in extreme pain are the ones who haven't been given prophylactic pain medication before hand to keep it under control before it becomes unbearable. And then it's even more difficult to control.
  7. by   ChicagolandRN
    PS - I once read that a doctor said "A patient needs my help more than he needs my empathy." I'm going to try to remember than when I see difficult things
    Welcome to the board, Michelle! This is an important thing to keep in mind when giving injections, doing painful dressing changes etc, but sometimes we focus so much on helping that we forget about the importance of empathy, especially when dealing with pain issues. I feel that we can't help if we don't have empathy to begin with.
  8. by   Louisepug
    I'm there right along with you guys! I feel like I'm very "thin-skinned" too. Bodily fluids/smells etc. don't bother me in the least either, but if I see a patient crying or seriously depressed, I want to start crying too! I've been doing clinicals at a LTC facility in the alzheimers unit and have grown attached to this one resident. She's very lonely and no one comes to visit her. I started to visit her on my own, but am concerned a little with this. It is a very bittersweet experience when I visit. I am also moving soon (to a different state) and will not be able to visit her anymore. I guess I'm saying that I feel like it's going to be hard for me to not become too attached to my patients when I become a nurse. Sorry I hijacked your post, but it sounds like you may be the same way. Anyone have any advice on how to care but remain somewhat "detached?" Louisepug
  9. by   twarlik
    Quote from Louisepug
    I'm there right along with you guys! I feel like I'm very "thin-skinned" too. Bodily fluids/smells etc. don't bother me in the least either, but if I see a patient crying or seriously depressed, I want to start crying too! I've been doing clinicals at a LTC facility in the alzheimers unit and have grown attached to this one resident. She's very lonely and no one comes to visit her. I started to visit her on my own, but am concerned a little with this. It is a very bittersweet experience when I visit. I am also moving soon (to a different state) and will not be able to visit her anymore. I guess I'm saying that I feel like it's going to be hard for me to not become too attached to my patients when I become a nurse. Sorry I hijacked your post, but it sounds like you may be the same way. Anyone have any advice on how to care but remain somewhat "detached?" Louisepug
    Do not become attached to this patient! You're not helping yourself at all. You say that you've been visiting her on your own. I know at my school that this is not permitted. Remember that you should have a professional relationship with your patients.
    One of the best pieces of advice I've gotten so far was to "keep an emotional distance from your patients." I'm only in my second term of nursing school and am finding this difficult. I know though, that if I ever expect to survive as a nurse I need to keep that distance.
    Good luck to everyone. You all have such big hearts and I'm sure you'll make great nurses!
  10. by   BETSRN
    That's a common problem. You will learn as you gain experience to handle those feelings. the fact that you feel so bad for the person in pain tells me that you will be a great bedside nurse when yoiu graduate. patients need people lke you to take care of them. Best of luck.

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