Can I stomach nursing???


This is my first post so please be gentle with me! I'm hoping some experienced nurses can give me some help here and I'm going to try not to sound silly.

I have always loved medicine and biology and was pre-med way back when. I decided to go in a different direction but I've always regretted not getting into the healthcare field. I'm 40 and ready to go back to my first love but the question for me is what field.

Nursing is such an important career and I really want to consider it along with radiology, lab careers, PA, etc. I'm about ruling out the lab because I like being around a variety of people. Nursing appeals to me but I honestly don't know if I can stomach all of it. I'm fine with blood and guts, in fact surgery completely fascinates me, but I would need to get used to feces, sputum, and probably some things I've never thought of before!

My question is whether any of you had to get used to certain things or if some things were hard at first but you just had to get over it. Do all nurses just naturally have a tolerance for everything or did most of you have to learn to deal with something?

Just for a little more background on where I'm coming from, I did some dental assisting to pay for college, I was a candystriper, I've done really basic procedures on pets (catheters, sub q fluids) and I'm really great at handling medical emergencies. I'm considering getting a job at one of the local hospitals so I can be in a clinical setting. I'm really working at getting a clue here so I figured I'd turn to the pros who see it all.

Any advice you can share would be greatly appreciated.


4 Posts

Sorry folks, I didn't see the "squick out" thread until after I started mine. I feel better knowing some people have things that just totally gross them out.

I guess my question now is how well is it accepted on the job? It sounds like some of you are lucky enough to be able to trade to other nurses who don't mind that particular thing or you just go ahead and do it, gagging or whatever. So it's sort of accepted that everyone might have something they just squick out over?


4 Posts


You know I've wondered the same thing to a degree. Like you I can handle blood and guts. I show and breed dogs and while they are nothing near the same as human medicine, I've dealt with giving lactating ringer's sub Q, Tube feeding newborns, watching and even assisting in C-sections when the Vet and I were the ONLY ones at the Vet clinic at 2am. I've also collected semen from the dogs, done AI's. So not much grosses me out.

As far as stress, I was a 911 dispatcher for fire/ems. So I can deal with that.

With all that said I do have a bit of apprehension about doing things right. But I suppose I'll learn how in class and clinicals. I don't have the strongest backbone though and do not like being yelled at. So I may have to really get over that one quick if I have hard instructor's or very verbal boss's.

I'll have to go find that thread. But I too would love to hear from others about this kind of stuff.



720 Posts

Specializes in CCU/CVU/ICU. Has 15 years experience.

If you're easily grossed-out, how in the world were you a dental-hygenists?...eeewww!bleckhh!yukk!

Hmm. If,as you say, you're really good in a medical emergency...perhaps you're being driven to the ER?? (just a guess).

Although the shows are cool (reality or otherwise)..they dont show the poop-smeared nursing home residents that roll through the doors...or puking belly-achers (all over your scrubs and shoes)...or bleeding-squirty heroine addicts w/hepatitis and HIV (still like blood and guts?)...or snotty booger-coughing kids (with freaked-out/mean parents)...or oozing STD's...shall i go on??? (you'll see these types of people alot more often than the dramatic dying-types...even in the ER)

If this worries you, dont do it. You'll be nauseated alot. ...unless you think you can develope a thick nose/skin.

Surgery is an option, but you wont be dealing *directly* with any medical emergencies... a nut-shell i guess, if you can't handle the 'fluids and functions', you'll be dissapointed by the profession. It sucks...and it REALLY takes all the glamour out of nursing..(what little 'glamour' is inspired by all the cool shows)...

I wish the TV show 'ER' (or 'trauma: life in the ER') would show some of the nurses/techs/aids wiping a sloppy poop-butt. May not do much for drawing new recruits into the profession...But would go a long way for reality's sake...

Or those Johnson-and-Johnson commercials with all the happy-proud actors claiming loudly "I'm a Nurse!" ...i would LOVE to see these same people holding a bundle of puke-soiled linen, or administering an enema, or catheterizing a malodorous 500lb woman ...i bet they'd be a little less enthusiastic...

...i better stop and go take a burn-out pill...sheesh...

Specializes in Rehab. Has 10 years experience.

The only thing that has grossed me out so far was when I irrigated an ear the other day, and a huge plug of cerumen came out that was about the size of a dime. Blech....


4 Posts

I have to clarify, I wasn't a hygienist at a dental office, I just did some basic assisting like on extractions and fillings. Still, there were gross things to encounter there and didn't have a problem with that. I actually don't gross out easily compared to the average population or I'd never even consider anything in a health field!

As for the way tv shows glamorize nursing and medicine in general, I'm smart enough not to fall for that! I don't even watch ER (the NBC one) because even with my limited knowledge it never seemed that realistic to me. None of those shows, including the new Gray's Anatomy, are realistic. It's all neat and clean, the characters look well rested and made up and they have a lot of time on their hands. I love the show House but even I know doctors don't go into patients' apartments to look for clues to help with a diagnosis. And there's never any poop or pus or sputum. Fake blood is the only thing that looks good on camera I guess! And do people in hospitals really have that much sex with one another? Some shows make it look like the horniest place on the planet!

This year I spent some time in the hospital with my dad and saw some of that nastiness with fluids. But I also saw how wonderful most of the people there were with him and our family - it really made an impact on me. I took care of him while he was at home with Hospice care until he passed and I could do everything but the poop. But given past experience I think I could toughen up and get used to a lot. I can handle a lot now, it's just some things squick me out, but based on that thread it seems a little common that everyone has something that gets them.

But I also have to be realistic and choose something I'll enjoy and hopefully will not have me nauseated most of the time (could this be a new diet? :) ). If the "fluids and functions" are a big part maybe I need to look at the OR or some area where "f&f" is minimized. Maybe I could use some suggestions on nursing specialties or some allied field outside of nursing. OR is a possibility, as someone mentioned. Thanks


80 Posts

I used to have major problems with snot and secretions from the nose/mouth. But now I do a few trachs (and they are messy trachs) right before I eat lunch. I don't even think about it now. I did have a moment of nausea when some poor buy came in with a bed sore that I name "the cave". But again, I'm fine now.

Now does that mean you will be ok? I can't tell you. I figure most people initially have trouble with all the secretions that can come out of a human body, but after awhile it becomes no big deal. Unfortunately you won't find that out until you get to clinical. I think the chances are good that you will be ok. I think you have hit it on the will "toughen up".

I know some nurses have tricks like putting menthol rub under their nose when they anticipate smelly things. But so far I haven't had to do that.

Good luck whatever you decide.

Specializes in NICU.

True story from Wednesday:

First day at clinicals, and I'm helping get a pt on med-surg ready for transfer to a nursing home. While the nurse was changing her diaper, she loudly bmed all over the place. Didn't bother me for a second. That night on the subway, a guy bmed all over himself. (It's New York, don't ask) and I nearly puked on the spot. So I think context might have a lot to do with it.


4 Posts

Thanks to everyone who has replied, it's all be really helpful. Everyone is bringing up great points and different stories so it gives me a greater sense of how people handle things.

It sounds like people get used to stuff. The context does seem like it would matter, like when you're busy doing your work you're probably not going to have as bad a reaction like on the subway - thanks for sharing that story elizabells! Sounds like menthol rub might help the ride home too!

Maybe what I need is immersion therapy, I could go seeking out excretions so I can get used to them. Sort of like my own version of Fear Factor (or Squick Factor). :rotfl:

Specializes in Pediatrics, Nursing Education. Has 4 years experience.
I used to have major problems with snot and secretions from the nose/mouth.

LOL first thing I thought of when I read this line in your post... don't work peds, I deal with runny noses all night long!! champion snot sucker here!!!


80 Posts

LOL first thing I thought of when I read this line in your post... don't work peds, I deal with runny noses all night long!! champion snot sucker here!!!

:chuckle Good point...funny how I used to have more of a problem with things coming out the mouth than things coming out the other end...go figure. Glad I got over that.


168 Posts

Work as a CNA because it prepares you more than some of the prerequisites will prep you.


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