How did you prepare yourself for the less pleasant aspects of nursing?

  1. I've never been one of those people who were fascinated by the functions of the human body, I often found myself having to look away from anything "gross" on medical shows, whether fictional or on the Discovery channel. Ever since I decided that I wanted to pursue nursing, I've been telling myself that I'll get used to seeing that kind of thing and it won't bother me anymore.

    The other night, we were watching "Horror Stories of the ER" on TLC, and there was a mentally disabled homeless woman who came in with severe abcesses on her arms. They were so bad that she actually had holes in her skin, in which she had inserted worms. Her skin was blackened with infection and dirt.

    When I first saw it, I had to look away, although I made myself turn back, thinking "I might see something like this as a nurse, I have to learn not to be bothered by this kind of thing"

    But then I wondered...if I have to make myself not be bothered by seeing open wounds and so on, am I really cut out for nursing?

    How did you reconcile yourself with the fact that you will be dealing with this kind of thing. Are you the sort of person who finds the workings of the human body fascinating, even when the appearance is...unpleasant? Or did you inure yourself to it in some way? If so, how?

    I want to be a nurse because I want to help people. I think it's an exciting, dynamic field where the sky is the limit because there are so many directions to go. I may end up choosing a field of nursing that doesn't concentrate on hospital care, but I will have to go through that type of environment as I train, and I want to make sure I'll be able to handle it.

    Any thoughts?
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  2. 16 Comments

  3. by   Sheri257
    If you're really worried about it, get a job in a hospital. The more you see (and, also smell) it, the more you get used to it. While you might not get totally used to everything ... after awhile, it does become more routine and you don't think much about it anymore.

  4. by   stpauligirl
    Quote from ceryna
    I've never been one of those people who were fascinated by the functions of the human body, I often found myself having to look away from anything "gross" on medical shows, whether fictional or on the Discovery channel. Ever since I decided that I wanted to pursue nursing, I've been telling myself that I'll get used to seeing that kind of thing and it won't bother me anymore.

    The other night, we were watching "Horror Stories of the ER" on TLC, and there was a mentally disabled homeless woman who came in with severe abcesses on her arms. They were so bad that she actually had holes in her skin, in which she had inserted worms. Her skin was blackened with infection and dirt.

    When I first saw it, I had to look away, although I made myself turn back, thinking "I might see something like this as a nurse, I have to learn not to be bothered by this kind of thing"

    But then I wondered...if I have to make myself not be bothered by seeing open wounds and so on, am I really cut out for nursing?

    How did you reconcile yourself with the fact that you will be dealing with this kind of thing. Are you the sort of person who finds the workings of the human body fascinating, even when the appearance is...unpleasant? Or did you inure yourself to it in some way? If so, how?

    I want to be a nurse because I want to help people. I think it's an exciting, dynamic field where the sky is the limit because there are so many directions to go. I may end up choosing a field of nursing that doesn't concentrate on hospital care, but I will have to go through that type of environment as I train, and I want to make sure I'll be able to handle it.

    Any thoughts?
    One of the things that might help me tolerate the gross stuff is to think of the poor person who has to put up with the pain and discomfort of whatever it is. I have been at my worst a couple of times in my lifetime and if it wasn't for the wonderful nurses putting up with me and helping me get better, what would I have done? Having had terrible pain myself, and in one case almost dying.....puking like crazy in the ambulance and ER....I have not forgotten the discomfort and pain. I will be so happy to help someone out of their misery that it will be easy for me to deal with the gross.
  5. by   Boston-RN
    One of the things that might help me tolerate the gross stuff is to think of the poor person who has to put up with the pain and discomfort of whatever it isthis is exactly what I was going to say
    Last edit by Boston-RN on Dec 7, '05
  6. by   Boston-RN
    One of the things that might help me tolerate the gross stuff is to think of the poor person who has to put up with the pain and discomfort of whatever it isthis is exactly what I was going to say
  7. by   Nutmeg5575
    I recommend that you read the book "Ambulance Girl" by Jane Stern. It was made into a movie for Lifetime starring Kathy Bates. I haven't seen the movie yet but the book is hilarious. It is true story about the author going through paramedic school, and she is the same way. She is not only grossed out easily but also afraid of closed in spaces! (back of an ambulance lol)

    Not ALL nursing is as bloody as the ER stuff you see on TV. Remember that you will have to face this stuff eventually but you can get a job in an area that has less gore factor, and even work in a clinic. Good Luck!
  8. by   over30nursestudent
    I work as an aide at a hospital, and when I am collecting specimens from patients or dealing with other issues I tell myself that it's my kid's mess!!! It really works for me 90% of the time. But there really is no way to make a pleasant experience out of playing around in someones feces with a popsicle stick trying to scrape enough out the "hat" into the cup for lab!!!!
  9. by   stpauligirl
    Quote from over30nursestudent
    I work as an aide at a hospital, and when I am collecting specimens from patients or dealing with other issues I tell myself that it's my kid's mess!!! It really works for me 90% of the time. But there really is no way to make a pleasant experience out of playing around in someones feces with a popsicle stick trying to scrape enough out the "hat" into the cup for lab!!!!
    I guess in that case you "JUST DO IT" and remembering the not so shaby paycheck might help, too I've cleaned toilet at gas station during night shift for$4.25 per hour supporting my son.....(other gas station attendents didn't do it for days in a row) THERE IS NOTHING I CAN"T DO!
  10. by   LoriAlabamaRN
    I had very similar worries. That's why before nursing school I took a job as a CNA, and kept it through the program. As a CNA, you get pretty close to total immersion in the stuff you're worried about. Changing diapers, cleaning up horrible messes, emptying drains, etc. You'll also have wonderful moments when you know you made a difference. I got to know so many wonderful patients and family members. Within two weeks the gross stuff really didn't bother me nearly as much. I'm not saying that it ever became fun, more like it became matter-of-fact. Look at it this way: when you give your first shot or start your first IV you are not going to be comfortable at all. It is only with practice and repetition that you become comfortable. Soon it will be second nature for you.
  11. by   Danianne
    I used to have a really hard time cleaning out the kitty box but now after working in LTC for 1yr I can handle just about every thing even GI bleed abd that is pretty gross. I think tolerance comes from exposure.
  12. by   FoxyRoxy21
    Quote from Nutmeg5575
    I recommend that you read the book "Ambulance Girl" by Jane Stern. It was made into a movie for Lifetime starring Kathy Bates. I haven't seen the movie yet but the book is hilarious. It is true story about the author going through paramedic school, and she is the same way. She is not only grossed out easily but also afraid of closed in spaces! (back of an ambulance lol)

    Not ALL nursing is as bloody as the ER stuff you see on TV. Remember that you will have to face this stuff eventually but you can get a job in an area that has less gore factor, and even work in a clinic. Good Luck!
    I saw the movie and it was actually pretty good. I am not big on Lifetime Movies, but I did find "Ambulance Girl" inspirational. I am sure just like the other members have said, it'll just take some getting used to. Good Luck with the 'gross stuff', I am sure you will be fine.
  13. by   ceryna
    Thanks for all the encouragement.

    If things go well, I should be starting a CNA class at a LTC facility in January, and I will work there after the class has been completed. They will also sponsor me for my licensing. I'm sure it will be an adjustment to get used to the gross stuff, and it'll be a good experience for me.

    I can handle gross household chores like the kitty box and those moldy leftovers you leave in the 'fridge too long, so hopefully with time I'll adjust to the extremely gross stuff. Here's hoping. ^^;;
  14. by   u62philo
    Couldn't tell you. I'm in it for the blood and guts and vital organs.

    OK, seriously. Don't think about it as a whole. Think about it as cells, or tissues, or even elements.

    If I feel a little icky that is what I do.

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