Not sure anymore

  1. Hi everyone! This is my first post here! I just had an experience I never expected to have. And because of it I'm not sure if I'm meant for this line of work. I'm a nursing student in his first semester. I just finished my first fundamentals class and during the last day of clinical my instructor offered a chance for those interested to shadow a wound care nurse and I decided why not and tagged along. I saw a patient that had a would vacuum thing on a large area on her lower leg below the knee that stretched to almost her ankle and another right on the underside that was a DVT or something (not a vacuum though). Seeing the would care nurse replace the foam vacuum while hearing the patients screams was agonizing and I almost felt like puking and feeling like someone sucked all the air out of the room and had a hard time breathing and my vision temporarily blacked out and I staggered behind a wall wanting to fall down while the rest of my classmates were fascinated and excited to see all of it. I waited painfully until the nurse was done and quickly exited the room not wanting anyone to see my reaction as I felt ashamed not being able to handle being there. My finger tips and hands felt all tingly and numb even after exiting the room, I was really shaken by the whole experience and I was confused as to why even though I didn't have any issues while dissecting dead bodies in anatomy and physiology prior to being in the nursing program so why now? Emotionally I kept feeling the patients pain while hearing her. I'd probably still have the same reaction since I haven't done anything to cope with that sort of thing. But this is making me reconsider whether I'd actually make it as a nurse. I know I probably wouldn't see much of this unless I specifically sought to become a wound care nurse or something like that but I know that usually you have to rotate around in different departments and I'm wondering if being in med surg or emergency/trauma, critical/intensive care, you have to see gruesome stuff like that a lot.

    Did any of you go through something similar and does it eventually become easier to see or easier to be desensitized to such things with more exposure?
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  2. 6 Comments

  3. by   Rose_Queen
    Every nurse has something(s) that he or she has difficulty dealing with. Personally, I hate respiratory secretions, hence why you will never see me aspiring to become a CRNA. And there's a big difference between dissecting cadavers and working with a real live human being with emotions who can feel pain. Don't let one incident make you think you aren't cut out for nursing.
  4. by   CrunchRN
    Yep. Office nursing was much better for me.
  5. by   VivaLasViejas
    Just about every nurse has things that gross them out. For me, it's dentures and feet. I used to gag quietly whenever I had to clean dentures that had several days' worth of food in them, but eventually I got over that. Feet, on the other hand, I never did get used to---I've had to peel the socks off a homeless man who'd been wearing them for six months, and I've had toes fall off into my (gloved) hands. I also hated clipping nails, especially ones that were thick and fungus-y. Yecccch.

    So, OP, don't think you can't be a nurse because of your reaction to that particular task. Serious wounds are ugly and they often smell horrendous. But you will more than likely get over it and be able to handle it at some point, so don't worry too much. You'll be fine.
  6. by   Rlien
    A few things.

    1. Wound care is a specialty. You either love it or hate it. In the nursing field expect to change some dressings and do some wound care, but the wound you saw wasn't routine. Wound vacs can be tricky; you need to know how they work, how to fix them, how to change them etc. But the area you vaguely described is far from your average wound vac dressing.

    2. The nurse screwed up and/or the patient refuses pain medication. ALWAYS TRY TO PREMEDICATE PATIENTS PRIOR TO CHANGING DRESSINGS!!!! Having spent time in wound care, if it's moderately involved try to pre medicate and take steps to lessen the pain. Now, that doesn't mean the patient is going to be pain free or noiseless and stoic, but if a patient is screaming then you need to stop and medicate or stop and notify MD. You may need to get pain management on board. There may be other issues that need to be addressed (infection, handling, positioning, disease process worsening, etc.) but no patient should be screaming in pain. They might need a local or regional block. There are a variety of options. Bottom line... Somebody above you needs to make the decision on how to handle the uncontrolled pain and what if anything else to do.
  7. by   not.done.yet
    I almost passed out during a knee replacement surgery while I was a nursing student. Everyone has something that gets to them. It doesn't mean you aren't meant to be a nurse; you just experienced something for the first time and had a very natural reaction to it.
  8. by   amoLucia
    Immediately I was thinking like PP, Rlien. Was any attempt at pain control attempted??? Unless there are extenuating circumstances, that level of pain was unacceptable!

    I can think of burn wound treatment as an exception.

    The wound nurse should have stopped, if for no other reason then NOT to allow students see such a gruesome episode.

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