Published May 5, 2009
]I am a LPN student & recently started to panic. As far as I can remeber I always wanted to be a nurse but now that reality is setting in & I am in the "frontline" esp with clinicals, I'm not sure if this is for me anymore. I have seen poop thrown at nurses, I have seen nurses put on AIDS meds because they got a needle stick, I have seen mystery fungus' on nurses feet that they have NO IDEA where its from & how it got there. I don't know what to tell myself anymore. How do you answer someone when they ask you "why wold you put yourself & family at risk by all your exposed to?" Just curious to see what some of you guys say on that one. Thank you so much!! :redpinkhe
Dealing with poop and the risk of needle sticks and infection are definitely a part of nursing. Strangely, I have not met any nurses who have quit nursing or spoken of quitting nursing due to these things. Instead, nurses quit because they are treated badly and unappreciated by peers, associates, and (especially) management. Nobody I know enjoys the dirty or risky aspects of the job, but they realize that it is part of being a nurse. What does not and should not be part of the job are chronic understaffing to save money, being floated to units where inexperience puts your license at risk, inflexible scheduling, an atmosphere tolerant of abuse by coworkers, etc...--in other words, a tacit message from their employers that nurses are expendable and of little worth.
You get used to poop, and universal precautions and frequent hand washing will cut your risk of infections dramatically. If you want to enjoy being a nurse, then work for a hospital that will treat you with the respect that a nurse deserves. That may be tough in this economy, but if enough nurses start speaking up and refusing to tolerate the intolerable, positive change is possible. It would be kind of nice if a nurse's biggest stresses could be poop, needle sticks, and foot fungus.
If your worried about poop being thrown at you, bring a change of clothes and use proper precautions. This isn't the worse of it. The needle stick situation, you have to be VERY CAUTIOUS with needles and there are always those accidents, but make sure that you are cautious and using safe technique. Always keep the needle away from your body and put the safety on if available (most needles like lovenox you just press and the cover comes up automatically and most insulin/heparin syringes have a safety you pull up and click to lock after injecting). As for mysterious fungus, make sure you were proper shoes and cotton socks, you are always on your feet so you gotta make sure those babies can breathe! A part of nursing is yes exposing yourself to hundreds of bacteria and disease, but you are in it to care for these patients! If you use proper handwashing/contact precautions throughout your day, you should be fine! Remove your clothes before entering your house/leaving the hospital if you wish, nobody would say any different! I usually remove my clothes (full of mrsa and cdiff) as soon as I get home and put them in a bag in my basement to be washed and take a shower in dial soap. This isn't the worse of it, there are many things you'll be faced with everyday and sometimes saving a life is more important than the poop being thrown at you!
RedhairedNurse, BSN, RN
I'm sorry, but I got a good laugh after reading this post.
I know it was meant to be serious, but thanks for a laugh
out of my busy stressful life. I've been a nurse for a
year now and have never had poop thrown at me, nor
do I know anybody that has had poop thrown on them.
As far as needle sticks go, you just have to be careful.
That's all there is to that. You knew that from the
beginning. Mystery fungus?? That's a new one on me
as well. Never heard of that. Only thing I can think
of is that nurses wear there shoes for so long that they
begin to sweat in them. I really don't know.
Do you know what you're being exposed to when you
put your hands on a shopping cart at your local walmart
or grocery store. Do you know where that hand as been
that you shake at church? Ask youself these questions.
At the hospital, we KNOW what we are being exposed to.
We know how to protect ourselves with PPE. Google the
top ten germiest jobs and you will find that nursing is not
#1. It's teaching. Do you know what your child is being
exposed to at school?
With all respect, I get what your saying, and it is a reason
to worry, a little enough to BE CAREFUL, but I think you
are over reacting. Also I was told by occupation health
that splashes are more reasons that medical personnel
seek medical attention.
They are much more common than needle sticks. So
protect yourself in this way too. Wear glasses and mask
when dealing with certain pts. And always always always
Take care! :)
MassED, BSN, RN
Well, there is that aspect of the job that is gross (bodily fluids, diseases, exposure, etc..), but it's much more than that. Do pilots decide not to become a pilot because of the risk of the job? Or does flying mean more than anything to them? You have to decide for yourself why you chose nursing as your profession. If you love to help, heal, and educate patients, then I would suggest you stick it out until you can find your niche in nursing. I love the changing pace of the ER. I love that it is fast and you really have to be on your toes. It is scary, but continuously rewarding. I can act independently and do a great job. I love collaboration with doctors and learning through them each shift. I have been a nurse for 7 years and feel as though the learning will never end. I do freak myself out every now and then about the risks, but you know what? Life is a risk. You don't live in a bubble, and if you try to, you'll be the one to live life towing the line and get struck by a car, or lightning. There is some risk in following a dream. I suppose it's up to you to decide if that risk is worth your dream. Good luck. (Know that the profession actually begins AFTER school ends.)
diane227, LPN, RN
You should not be getting exposed to very many needles with the systems currently in place in all facilities. Needless systems are required in all facilities now. Where are you working? Depending on where you work, your exposure to flying poop will differ. If you work in LTC, it might be a bigger issue.
Unfortunately, as a nurse we have to deal with "stuff" that comes out of people. Use proper precautions and WASH YOUR HANDS. Avoid wearing jewelry on your hands. Wear an isolation gown even if it is not required and it makes you feel more comfortable. Wear gloves. If you are worried about transmitting stuff to your family you can do what a friend of mine used to do. She used to get undressed in her GARAGE before she would go in her house. She also left her shoes in the garage and washed all her uniforms in hot water with bleach. I though this was a bit extreme but if it made her feel comfortable then so what.
It gets easier to deal with as you get more experience. After 31 years the thing that bothers me the most is spit. I can go GI bleed, maggots in wounds, etc, but spit just puts me over the edge.
Daytonite, BSN, RN
i think that for a student of ___ months you are jumping to a hasty decision. i have been a nurse for 30+ years. over 30 years ago as an aide i saw another crazy aide smear poop in a patient's face (yes, i did). we cared for one of the first aids patients and were never told he had aids; we found out when they put him on azt as a clinical trial! and, i have had so many needle sticks, accidental and because of my own negligence, that i can't give you a correct count. i was stabbed with a needle by another nurse accidentally during a code blue and had to go through a year of hiv testing. i got infected with scabies twice while working with homeless clients; the itching drives you crazy and having to wash all your linens and clothes to get rid of the bug which you can't even see is a inconvenience. what would i tell someone who would ask me why i would put myself and family at risk to these exposures? well, first of all, i didn't complain about them. i saw each as part of what goes on at the job. stuff happens. some of it was because of my negligence and some of it was purely accidental and not my fault. secondly, you learn in school how to protect yourself from taking things like exposure to hiv and fungus along with you where you yourself become a victim of it. its called aseptic technique. and, third, i love what i do and i am going to defend it and not let others try to sabotage what i love. friends and family know how to push our buttons. don't let them.
in my 30+ years i have helped so many more people than have had negative things happen to me. nursing is a giving profession. there will be days when giving of yourself is all you do--and it tires you out. but it also makes you feel like you have done something necessary and important. it is selfless. if other people can't understand this need within you don't discuss it with them because they do not understand it. just smile, change the subject and talk about something else.
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