Self injury scars on arms and patient questions.

  1. 0
    Just curious as to whether anyone else on here who is also a former self-injurer has ever had to deal with questions from patients about your scars? What do you say?

    I work mostly with adults and thus don't feel obligated to shape the truth into something less offensive. "I used to cut myself when I was a teenager" tends to end the conversation fairly quickly. But I wonder whether this explanation will eventually get me into trouble as TMI. I'm really good at smiling and nodding when I have that occasional patient who wants to save my soul upon learning of my past.

    I work on a burn unit -- thus wearing long sleeves isn't really an option most of the time?

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  2. 25 Comments...

  3. 5
    "What's wrong with your arms?"
    "I have scars"
    jds87, OCNRN63, dirtyhippiegirl, and 2 others like this.
  4. 1
    I wear long sleeves under my scrubs, but roll them up all the time during cares or if it's just way too hot in the facility. I've been asked about my visible self-injury scars and I just say, "Oh, they're just some scars from a long time ago," or "I got these when I was really sick" and that's usually enough for them.
    jds87 likes this.
  5. 1
    "I used to cut myself when I was a teenager" should cut it off.

    I have prominent scars from a suicide att., one on each wrist. no one has ever asked and I'm glad! there is no way to cover them even w/ sleeves.

    ((((you guys)))) I never had the cutting desires but I have addiction issues. it must be hard xoxo
    VivaLasViejas likes this.
  6. 0
    Yay, thanks for the reassurances/suggestions.

    I don't know what it is but it seems like my patient population doesn't take to the generalized answers -- "Oh, they're old" IS something that I use in most general settings and get away with it but not while I'm nursing. Just leads to more questions.

    My left arm is such a pulpy, disfigured mess of scar tissue that some of my burn patients specifically ask me if I've been burnt in the past. I almost feel obligated to explain the truth in that particular situation.
  7. 2
    Quote from dirtyhippiegirl
    Yay, thanks for the reassurances/suggestions.

    I don't know what it is but it seems like my patient population doesn't take to the generalized answers -- "Oh, they're old" IS something that I use in most general settings and get away with it but not while I'm nursing. Just leads to more questions.

    My left arm is such a pulpy, disfigured mess of scar tissue that some of my burn patients specifically ask me if I've been burnt in the past. I almost feel obligated to explain the truth in that particular situation.
    seems to me in nursing school (a hundred yrs ago) they encouraged us not to get into personal discussions of ANY kind, basically, "oh, we aren't here to talk about me, let's talk about you. What do you do in your spare time" or "how is that pain of yours?" or something. Outside of work people would not ask such questions unless they knew you - it would be almost rude to ask. So diverting the conversation like that is basically a polite way of saying "none of your business" but diverting back to them. Usually they are happy to do so.

    There are those who will persist of course. like the burn pt, I have no idea how you would answer that. to say "no" would invite more questions, to say yes is lying (unless you just say, "I don't want to discuss it right now," (and not answer) and then revert to the "We're here to talk about you. so ... " etc...

    there are times tho, I think, where it could be theraputic to talk about it a little, or, use it to help the person deal with their OWN scars, etc. ie the burn person, "how is it for YOU to have scars..." etc.

    well I don't know if any of that is helpful ... hope so.
    jds87 and VivaLasViejas like this.
  8. 2
    I have to politely disagree that personal stories are not what we do in nursing. Seriously, storytelling is how our civilization keeps itself sane and informed. I have found that being aloof and "therapeutic" as we learned it in school, is a load of hogwash unless I just don't like the patient. People sometimes have problems that they want to get outside of, and they might like to know the nurse is human, not some therapeutic robot. My way is not everyone's way, but I have found that it works for me and my patients.

    Once I had a patient struggling with pain after her breast cancer returned, and she was in new A-fib, and she had a fight with her husband, who was at home sulking or something. Somehow she asked enough questions about death and pain that I told her the only stories I had, involving my only two experiences to date with the subject. I told her how hard it was to learn to speak to dying people at all, how much I regretted the first case where I didn't know how to help or to try harder, and so on. She got something out of that, what, I don't know. She called her hubby, who came to see her. She died that week. So basically if I feel like saying something, I will say it. I know when it's time to open up and that I will regret it if I don't.
    jds87 and VivaLasViejas like this.
  9. 0
    Quote from Indy
    I have to politely disagree that personal stories are not what we do in nursing.
    Well my point was, none of us HAS to answer personal questions. In fact it is discouraged in nursing school. But of course we do use our own judgment and use our own experience if it's theraputic, which I also brought up in my post.

    But we can do that to excess sometimes. And, we are not obligated to do so.
  10. 0
    You're right, Liddle. It takes something out of you to continually talk about yourself, plus you miss things if you aren't listening. I will say there are things I would not dream of opening up to a patient about, that are personal, and I just don't allow that part of me to exist or be seen when I am at work. I have no idea what I'd say if directly questioned about a couple of topics.
  11. 3
    "Are your scars from burns?"
    "No, they are not"
    Then onto their assessment.....


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