How do you tell someone they smell bad? - page 3

Not a patient, but a student? The other day I was getting report from the previous RN, and she had an LPN student with her that she was precepting, and the student smelled awful. It nearly knocked... Read More

  1. by   chicookie
    Here have some good smelling lotion. Now rub it everywhere.
  2. by   AOx1
    They should be told politely. Even if it is cultural, I think many people would want to know and correct the problem if possible. As someone who lived in another country for a brief time period, I was doing something offensive. The people there stood much closer to you than here, and I would naturally back up as someone entered my personal space. Then they would step closer, and so on. I was grateful when someone told me it made me appear unapproachable. I didn't know until someone was kind enough to tell me. I was still uncomfortable with the close contact, but tried to change my behavior enough to not offend. I would think if the student is smelly, he or she would certainly want to know. It could hinder their future career possibilities. I think many employers would be reluctant to hire a nurse who smells unpleasant. I would tell the instructor or preceptr, as the instructor or preceptor deals with the student more regularly and is in a better position to know whether or not this is a regular occurrence or an isolated incident.
  3. by   NurseKitten
    If it happens again, pull her aside and say much of what's been said up here. All good suggestions, save a few.

    We had a unit secretary once that was just plain nasty. It was awful. I knew she had been taught better, 'cause I knew her mother, and how they lived...anyway, since she was the first thing people saw coming into the unit, it had to be addressed. It was around Christmas, and one of the assistant NM's took her into the office and talked to her...then, since I was a friend, and she knew I wasn't being nasty, my Christmas gift to her was a beautiful set of Victoria's Secret bath stuff.

    (Heck, *I* would have loved to get that gift!!!)

    The problem wasn't completely solved, but it did get better.
  4. by   buransic
    I think Batman24 hit the nail on the head. Batman24's description is part of the process commonly used in Crucial Conversations. You can open the dialogue with a contrasting statement, something like, "This is not a personal attack on you and I'm not trying to make you uncomfortable. Your body odor is noticeable and I'm concerned that if I notice it that others do and that it may have an adverse effect on your work with others." As long as the conversation can be sustained, you have a chance at educating the student, and correcting a problem. Good luck!
  5. by   Vito Andolini
    I think the best way to deal with this is directly. In a very nice way, just tell the young lady that you do not wish to embarrass her or hurt her feelings in any way, shape, or form but that you have noticed that she does not usually smell very clean and that you are concerned about it. You let her know that she might possibly need medication for yeast/fungal infection under her breasts, inside her legs, under her arms, wherever, let her know that you wish no harm at all to her whatsoever and that you are so very, very sorry to bring it up but that it is something that makes it unpleasant to be around her and that she will probably not be able to find or keep a job if the problem doesn't get corrected and that you would like to help her.

    If you preface it with enough "schmaltz", if you let her know you are not trying to be mean, if you can help her see you as a friend and someone who wants to help her, she should, hopefully, take it well and do something to clear up the problem.

    Be brave. how would you like to be the stinky one and no one would tell you the truth? Stop making it such a big deal, stop waiting for someone else to do the deed, and just do it.
  6. by   Virgo_RN
    I think if it were me, I'd feel humiliated no matter how nicely or respectfully someone told me. That's what makes it tough for me, I think. Plus I really dislike confrontation, especially when there is a risk of the person feeling hurt. I appreciate all of the feedback. I think I will speak with her preceptor, not to gossip or talk behind her back, but to discern whether the issue has already been addressed. Perhaps there is something I do not know. If the preceptor is feeling as awkward as I am, I will share some of the suggestions you all have shared with me.
  7. by   LEN-RN
    Quote from Goingthere
    1. Vickks vapor rub under your nose.
    2. Don't stand down wind to them.
    3. Breathe through your mouth.
    4. Chalk it up to cultural differences.
    Those are good tips, but what about the poor patients?

    I do respect cultural differences but body odor usually means not very good hygeine. So if they arent washing themselves, how are they doing with hand washing? Sorry but some things should not be excused and overlooked just because its a cultural difference.
  8. by   Vito Andolini
    Quote from NurseKitten
    If it happens again, pull her aside and say much of what's been said up here. All good suggestions, save a few.

    We had a unit secretary once that was just plain nasty. It was awful. I knew she had been taught better, 'cause I knew her mother, and how they lived...anyway, since she was the first thing people saw coming into the unit, it had to be addressed. It was around Christmas, and one of the assistant NM's took her into the office and talked to her...then, since I was a friend, and she knew I wasn't being nasty, my Christmas gift to her was a beautiful set of Victoria's Secret bath stuff.

    (Heck, *I* would have loved to get that gift!!!)

    The problem wasn't completely solved, but it did get better.
    What do you think was the reason for the trouble existing to begin with? Also, what do you think was the cause for it not being corrected fully?

    Was the person angry, embarrassed, hurt, offended or did she seem grateful?
  9. by   Vito Andolini
    Quote from Virgo_RN
    I think if it were me, I'd feel humiliated no matter how nicely or respectfully someone told me. That's what makes it tough for me, I think. Plus I really dislike confrontation, especially when there is a risk of the person feeling hurt. I appreciate all of the feedback. I think I will speak with her preceptor, not to gossip or talk behind her back, but to discern whether the issue has already been addressed. Perhaps there is something I do not know. If the preceptor is feeling as awkward as I am, I will share some of the suggestions you all have shared with me.

    Would you rather be humiliated but grateful and clean or oblivious and stinky and talked about behind your back?

    Sometimes, we do feel humiliated but we can correct the problem and move on. Yes, I know it's not always easy. But problems still have to be fixed, don't they? And haven't we all been on the receiving end of correction at some point in our lives? Of course we have.

    I mean no harm but I really can't stand when people talk about each other "secretly" but will never go directly to the right party and see about getting the issue, whatever it it, resolved. This just really angers me, this "tell everyone but the involved party because I'm afraid to confront " mentality. It's leaving the hard, dangerous work to someone else, it's expecting others to rectify troubles when we ourselves are perfectly capable of doing it. I understand there is concern for who the best person is to tell her but what if there is no best person and someone just has to do it. I happen to agree that her instructor should probably do this and do it with the concern that I and others have expressed - that it will adversely affect her chances of finding and keeping a job. I apologize if I seem harsh.

    You could invite the girl out for soda or coffee or a drink after work or ask her to have lunch with you or somehow run into her outside of work and just tell her.

    There are many times in life when we must confront. If you see your friend or loved one going down the wrong path, you really should speak up. If they get mad or don't want to take good advice, their resultant troubles will not be on you. You have to find a kind way to say hard things. Be as nice and gentle as humanly possible. Or someone could get a big sack, fill it with deodorant, baking soda, soap, nice towels and wash cloths and give it to her anonymously, with a typed note saying to please wash more often and more carefully. Same with bad breath - give them toothbrush and paste, baking soda (the versatile little goody), floss, Listerine, and the name of a good dentist - all anonymously. They'll get the hint, hopefully.
  10. by   nerdtonurse?
    We had a guy at work (back when I was a nerd) that we all hinted at that his breath was bad. In reality, it was beyond bad; I mean, OMG, to sit near him during a meeting could make the hair fall out of your nose. We tried gentle "hey, X, want some gum?" or "Want a TicTac" as you're passing them out. Never got it. Finally, we all chipped in a buck and each bought a "travel size" bottle of mouthwash. Guy comes back from lunch, and there's 20 little bottles of mouth wash on his desk with a 3x5 card that said, "use these, please. Signed, your coworkers". It finally dawned on him that he STANK, and he started using the mouthwash. He was PO'd but he used it.
  11. by   cursedandblessed
    i think as nicely as possible, inquire about her health, buy her some bath and body hand sanitizer (lordy my husband is always stealing mine).

    you never know i live in the rural south and drive to the city for nursing school. there are people out here who do not have running water (i do, lot's of it, sulfur well water) and in order to bathe they have to tote it into the house.
  12. by   leslie :-D
    virgo, i like the suggestion of bringing this person aside, and showing genuine concern...
    gently sharing that you've noticed an 'odd' smell and was wondering if everything was ok with her.
    that, you cannot pinpoint its source, but in the event that others notice it, she may want to tend to the problem.
    and, "i know this must be very difficult to hear, and for that, i am truly sorry, but strongly felt you needed to know..."

    yes, it's an extremely delicate situation...
    but am confident she is not doing this purposely, kwim?
    and so, someone needs to tell her.
    after you're done talking with her, a gentle but quick rub on the back, and walk away...
    just to spare her further embarrassment.

    one more thing...
    i've noticed when i have to give bad news, it is helpful when i can 'identify' with her problem.
    for example (and since she's a student) - tell her that this very same thing happened to you and it ended up being a fungal infection.
    maybe she won't feel so alone and/or horrified.

    i hope this works out, poor girl.
    good luck, virgo.

    leslie
  13. by   tishirajan
    I worked with a CNA who had horrible body odor. The DON talked to her about it and she actually said she thought the way her natural scent smelled was pleasant. I never could understand that. It was a cross between BO and soured milk. For Christmas I drew her name and went to Bath and Body Works and bought her citrus bath and shower gel, shampoo, lotion and body spray. It worked, she actually used it and everyone complimented to her on how good it smelled and she bought more and continued to use it. Thank God!

    It is a tough issue to bring to someone's attention. I certainly would want someone to tell me though, no matter how embarrassing it may be. I could get over short lived embarrassment rather than the ongoing embarrassment of people talking about me behind my back and continually making comments about my hygiene. However, there are some people out there that either don't notice it on themselves, actually like the smell, or have a valid medical reason. There are pretty strong products out there that can eleviate some of the odor to make it almost bearable for those with medical reasons.

    Good luck and bless you for being so empathitic about her feelings. You're a good person and nurse I am certain.

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