- by Spidey's mom Guide Dec 3, '12This isn't the first time I've had this issue with kids in my 2 years as a district nurse. But got this in my email today. What would you say to this teacher?
"I have a student with very poor hygiene. He is from a very low socio-economic household and I am not sure what resources they have. I have been to the house, but not inside several times. Is there a procedure for approaching this situation? "
I don't know of any written "procedures". Do you?
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- Dec 4, '12 by DC CollinsHow old are the kids? If the school has an athletics program, encourage the kids to join = free showers?
- Dec 4, '12 by mariebaileyIf the children are young & have consistently poor hygiene, that is a sign of neglect. That could potentially be more of a social services issue.
- Dec 4, '12 by FlareI always hate getting this request. Nothing makes a kid feel better than getting sent to the nurse to be told they stink. 9 times out of ten it's a kid that we hardly ever see so it's not like it's a kid we have a relationship with, but it's part of the job, so i grit through it. No, there are typically no procedures in place for this. If the teacher thinks it's a case of neglect then the teacher is obliged to call DYFS, but if it's just a case of a kid neglecting their own hygiene, which is most often the case, then the kid needs to be reminded to shower daily, wash their hair, change and wash their clothing and use deodorant.
- Dec 4, '12 by Spidey's momGot a nice note from my mentor, who stated - "I tried not to get in the position of being the only one who would deal with poor hygiene. I don't believe it always requires the expertise of the nurse. A teacher can use compassion and honesty and often is able to help in the resolution of the situation."
She also mentioned that some lower socio-economic families have that "smell of poverty" that is universal and permeates everything. I've come across this as a hospice nurse.
I'm going to encourage the teacher to try to contact the family with compassion and honesty. I don't think this is necessarily a sign of neglect as this is a high school kid who actually has some mental issues. Our local CPS rep states responding to hygiene issues isn't necessarily something they think is important. I know as a hospice nurse, I see families living in filth and besides making sure things are safe, we can't tell them to wash their dishes or clean their toilets.
This is a tough issue.
Thanks for the responses.
- Dec 4, '12 by tictacI get those requests every now and then as well, and it seems that teachers automatically want to send them to me. Like Flare said, it's usually someone I don't know well. I feel that the teacher has a closer relationship with the student and the student will be less embarrassed if it is handled by the teacher. Now if they've already had the talk, and nothing was resolved, then I understand having me step in, but I don't feel like I have any special expertise in handling this topic.
- Dec 6, '12 by squidbillyI have a 4th grade student with very poor hygiene, and I have been pondering how to approach the potentially touchy subject. I see the student often, so I think it would be just as appropriate for me to start the discussion as it would be for his teacher to (although his teacher has never voiced any concern). The student is usually visibly dirty. He will have marker ink on his hands for days and always have dirt under his nails, which to me indicates a lack of hand hygiene. I always have him wash his hands when in my office. And as for the "smell of poverty".. yup! I know boys get dirty, but they should not stay dirty. I would love tips as to how I can approach this subject in a sensitive manner.
- Dec 6, '12 by Cherry Ames Peds RNI also am reluctant to call parents regarding children's hygiene issues. When I do make those calls I acknowledge to the parent that this is a sensitive topic. I also make sure the family has access to running water, washing machine etc. I recently spoke with a second grader about hygiene and she told me they don't have soap at their house.
When I speak to the parent, I do try to frame hygiene as an educational issue: other children don't want to sit by the child if she smells, it makes group projects difficult, the child may be teased, etc.
In the past, I have done a brief hygiene lesson for the fourth grade. I used a poem called "The Dirtiest Kid in the World" from this site: DirtyKid Then we talked about what that kid could do to clean up his act. I also had a hidden word find puzzle with hygiene-related words and a hidden message with the left-over letters. The kids loved it and got a hygiene-related prize like a toothbrush or deodorant when they completed the puzzle. The benefit of group instruction is that an individual child is not singled out.
- Dec 7, '12 by nhnursieUgh... Had to do this again the other day with a 15 year old girl...sad...she smelled, her clothes are dirty and she is now placed with a cousin who is barely able to care of her self. I have found over the years a direct approach is the best...I just say that it came to my attention that some folks were concerned about you and why. I have a shower in my office so I just tell them to pop in when ever they need to, it is always here for them, as I am. Some times I really need to direct them and say directly "You need to get in the shower now" firmly but gently. In the beginning it was NOT easy and rarely is it ever comfortble for the kid (or me) but in the long run it IS what's best for them and usually works out ok.
- Dec 7, '12 by FlareNHnursie is right - when it boils down to it and you have to confront a student, direct, non-judgmental and matter of fact is the best