I fainted today in the ICU!



I'm currently a nursing student working on my 4-year BSN. I'm only in my second year so I'm not that far into the program. My clinicals start in one year, next spring specifically. Well, for one of my basic nursing classes, we had an assignment to observe/shadow a registered nurse for at least two hours. My teacher's sign up sheet was just for nurses working in the ICU. So, I went this morning to our university's hospital and met the nurse. Everything was going well. Then, when she was going over some records with another male nurse, he told me that I can observe the doctor working with a patient in critical condition. Of course, I got excited and went in. The patient was bleeding in her head, she had multiple fractures and bruises on her body, especially her legs. She couldn't open her eyes and her breathing was going down. At first the site didn't bother me at all, I felt compassion for her. Then, the doctor uncovered her body and started showing me her food tubes and other tubes and needles. That's when I took notice of the smell!!! I started feeling a bit dizzy. I stepped out and there was no where close to sit, so I stood and tried to relax. Next thing they tell me, I had fainted and I hit my head pretty hard on the floor. A bunch of nurses surrounded me and I told them I was fine and just need something to drink. Then, a few moments later, I supposedly fainted again!!! That's when the nurses in the ICU forced me go downstairs and the doctor checked me out.

No matter how much they tried to assure me that this is common considering that I had never been in a hospital for like a decade (literally), I was still very embarrassed and disappointed that this happened! I mean, my professor specifically told us not to pass out!!!

Does anyone have any experience with this? Can you relate? I'm just like hoping this doesn't happen again when I start my clinicals. One of the nurses told me that his wife fainted on the first day of her job, but I think he was just trying to make me feel better. :)

I have no experience with this. However, "I mean, my professor specifically told us not to pass out!!!" cracked me up. Is that really something you can prevent? The only thing I see that you could have done differently is to find a chair or sat on the floor (ewww!)

Try not to feel embarrassed--it does happen. Our instructor told us about a student who went in to see a c/s and passed out--onto the sterile field. That hospital makes students sit in a chair at the door to observe now.

Specializes in med/surg/tele/neuro/rehab/corrections. Has 13 years experience.

Thank you for your story. That comment cracked me up too. :D


42 Posts

I'm glad I could amuse you guys, even though I was looking more forward to words of support and encouragement. lol.

allnurses Guide


8 Articles; 3,016 Posts

Specializes in Advanced Practice, surgery. Has 35 years experience.

I am not a "fainter" in fact there are only 2 times I can ever say I actually have fainted.

First time was when I was a student nurse I went into theatre to watch an appendicectomy. My mother was the theatre sister, I fainted.

She stepped over me and muttered "someone get that ridiculous child out of my theatre", I was mortified, she thought it was quite funny afterwards

Then 12 years later as a senior nurse in Intensive care I'd been looking after a patient with a very rare clotting disorder, he'd been oozing through a large abdominal wound all day and I'd been surrounded but the smell of blood for hours. I was about to turn him onto his other side, got a wiff of the smell and it was all a bit too much for me and I passed out. I was mortified then as well :D

It happens, and we have no control over it, it can happen when your new and inexperienced or even after years of practice. Try not to feel too badly about it


46 Posts

Specializes in Emergency Nursing, Clinic Nursing.

I had a friend that pass out after she attempted her first IV.

I think someone passing out after an ICU rotation is to be expected which is probably why the teacher made the comment not to pass out. You might get teased a little bit but pretty soon it will become a funny story you tell people when you become a RN. Hang in there! :redbeathe

Specializes in ICU/UM. Has 8 years experience.

It's all good, at least you didn't faint into a sterile field :D.

Specializes in ED. Has 13 years experience.
I had a friend that pass out after she attempted her first IV.

I think someone passing out after an ICU rotation is to be expected which is probably why the teacher made the comment not to pass out. You might get teased a little bit but pretty soon it will become a funny story you tell people when you become a RN. Hang in there! :redbeathe

Are you talking about ME? ;)

I nearly passed out a few weeks ago attempting my first IV. I felt it coming on and excused myself to the nurses' station. It had happened once before a few weeks before that in dialysis. I caught myself and sat down but it did not feel good at all.

Now, I've been shadowing a CRNA for a year now and have been in the OR a dozen or more times and watched the knife drop, robotic surgery, a hysterectomy, and lot of other cases and never once felt faint.

My clinical teacher and another seasoned nurse said that I have a sympathetic vegal response. I can handle the blood and guts when I KNOW the patient can't feel anything but when *I* am inflicting the pain, that is another story.

I did try another IV and I was much better. The few tricks are to NOT lock your knees, stay hydrated, and to clench everything pretty hard before you start the procedure. Another nurse friend advised me to not look while starting the IV. She says to just feel your way and don't hyperfocus.

I've tried the clenching thing and it does help but you can't forget to breathe after!

good luck!


Do-over, ASN, RN

1,085 Posts

Specializes in CICU.

Eat something before clinical (or observations) and have a snack in your pocket - the only time I feel faint at work / clincal is when I am hungry.

And, sit down before you fall out - even if you have to go sit against the wall on the floor. Slightly less mortifying...

PS - I had a teacher say something to the effect of - "leave if you feel faint, and make sure you don't faint into the sterile field" =


74 Posts

It's an involuntary response. It happens. Try not to beat yourself up about it too much. Unless you've inherited a genetic predisposition to experience an exaggerated vagal response to stuff like that, you'll become desensitized to it in time. Worst-case scenario (you actually have a disorder of some kind, which you most probably don't) there is effective cognitive-behavioral therapy for it.


254 Posts

I *almost* fainted while watching a C-section. I was fine at first, then all of a sudden, my whole body felt numb, I started sweating and the whole room started spinning. I quickly told my instructor that I needed to sit down ASAP! We went out into the hall, and I took some deep breaths and got something to drink. For about the first 5 minutes I was feeling silly. But, I talked with my instructor, and she said it was fine. My classmates still like poke fun at me--but I take it all in stride and laugh with them! Who cares! :)

Good luck! You were not the first, and you sure won't be the last!! So, don't even worry about it!


37 Posts

You get free pass for that and your intructors will continue to tell future students not to pass out..because it happens! Brush it off...its not like you faint during lectures or tests...or do you..wink winik