Jump to content

Nurses with self-harm scars?

Posted
by art24 art24 (New) New

I am a student nurse currently in my first semester.

When I was 14, I chose very poor coping mechanisms to deal with overwhelming emotions from a childhood trauma. I am now 24, and although those issues are very much in my past, I still have very obvious (very obviously old) self-harm scars on my arms.

I am concerned about what my instructors and other nurses might think of my ability to be a nurse if they see the scars. Even more so, I am afraid that the scars might frighten or raise questions from my patients. We have been allowed to wear long sleeves in clinical, and so far I have been able to hide my scars. I know that will not always be possible because long-sleeves could pose and infection risk.

Any advice on attitudes toward the scars that I might encounter? I know that there is little understanding for self-harm among people in the medical profession. Do I continue hiding the scars or should I let them show so people know that it is no longer an issue?

Are there any other student nurses or nurses that have dealt with this or have seen nurses in the workplace with self-harm scars? Is there a lot of discrimination towards them?

Thank for any advice!

Muffy5

Specializes in Acute rehab, LTC, Community Health.

Hello,

I, like yourself, have a history of inflicting harm on myself as a coping mechanism. I, personally do not hide the scars, which quite honestly have become so faded with time (I am possibly older?),that no one would notice, unless I told them. If someone asked,I would feel comfortable sharing with them. I feel that nursing is such a personal field and we know so much personal and possibly embarrassing things about patients, that I don't need to pretend to be perfect. Of course, I don't advertise it to my colleages or patients, but it is something that is there and is a part of who I am. Whether you cover them or not, is completely up to you. Just know you are not alone, and nurses, and patients, generally speaking, are very understanding. Best of luck to you in nursing school!

whodatnurse

Specializes in Psych.

I don't think you need to take exceptional measures to conceal them. If it were me, and someone were to comment on them, I would simply respond with "they aren't something I discuss". You aren't required to explain them to anybody (except perhaps your primary care physician / NP...because it's normal and acceptable for them to take note of scars anywhere on your body, and even that's really up to you).

Realistically speaking however, you may indeed want to cover them up for say, a job interview, when you have a limited time to make an impression, and every little thing about you is contributing to the 'build'. People do have prejudices of all kinds and there's not much you can do about them other than refuse to allow them to become a problem for YOU.

PedsAtHeart, LPN

Specializes in LPN, Peds, Public Health.

I agree.

If someone were to ask about them you have every right to tell them you prefer to not speak about that... personally I feel its no one business what your scars are from (except maybe your PCP like the above commenter stated).

I too have battle wounds of my own, but I always did mine in places that were easily covered...

Muffy5

Specializes in Acute rehab, LTC, Community Health.

Sorry about my previous post. I realized I was not that clear. I wasn't implying that the OP disclose that information (or that I even do), I guess I was just trying to state that it was part of my past and I wasn't ashamed of it. I do agree with the other posters, and if the scars are very noticeable, you might want to cover them for an interview, because as stated, you do have a limited time to make an impression. With that said, people are judgemental, it's just in some peoples nature. I just don't want you to feel badly about your past, because it has made you the caring person you are today!

I don't think your scars are anything to be ashamed of or require any explanation to any co-worker. Unfortunately, though, people can be so quick to judge others, even those in "caring" and "compassionate" caregiver roles. If it were me, I would cover them up at least until I felt comfortable enough with my co-workers just to prevent people to making assumptions that I'm emotionally unfit for my job. It would be similar to how someone with tattoos would cover their arms up. It's pretty common practice to wear long sleeves under or over scrub tops in many facilities to keep warm.

Edited by April, RN
typo

gr8rnpjt, RN

Specializes in Case Management. Has 38 years experience.

Cosign all above. Nothing to be ashamed about, but certainly don't offer all kinds of info about them. I would be very careful about "sharing" that kind of information. Some may take it as a sign of weakness or instability even though clearly this is something from your past that has nothing to do with you now.

P_RN, ADN, RN

Specializes in ORTHOPAEDICS-CERTIFIED SINCE 89. Has 30 years experience.

Maybe a little off point, but at Scout camp when I was about 16 I fell about 7' from the wooden platform of a 4 girl tent. The tabs to keep the curtains closed were 10 penny nails and I caught my elbow on one of these nail heads resulting in a nasty ragged tear. It healed nicely and never showed until now- 50 years later. My arm now looks like I have track marks. I advise you to check with a dermatologist to see if the new silicone gel sheets could prevent this happening.

As far as anyone elses business is concerned, it isn't. Just tell them you got some cuts when you were younger.

If they are long enough to cover what you need 3/4 sleeves are great. They cover without getting in the way as much. Ive noticed a lot of people where shirts under their scrubs and I personally think it looks nice. I never really thought much about the scars on my forearm being an issue until a clinical instructor asked me about it. I dont always wear sleeves now but I will for job interviews and when I start working as a nurse.

For those times when you don't want them to show but may not be able to wear long sleeves, there is body makeup available. Otherwise, I wouldn't be concerned until the subject came up, then I would just say you had a bad accident. Nobody needs to be given information about your past.

I just was thinking about how much courage and strength it took to overcome your issues and not self-harm anymore. If I had those scars I would probably get some kind of tatoos over them to celebrate my journey. :-) Not to hide them necessarily, but to celebrate how far I'd come.

ETA: My daughter just got her g-tube out today and I hope that someday she gets a cool tatoo for her tummy, too! It's something to be celebrated, the end of a hard time and the beginnings of a new journey

Edited by AmericanChai

I slit my wrist rock climbing some years back. That scar is nobodies business regardless of the cause. I would treat your situation no differently.

aura_of_laura

Specializes in mental health, military nursing. Has 8 years experience.

Cutting and self-injurious behavior are so prevalent, I think that this is an issue many professionals are facing. For job interviews, cover them. For work, I wouldn't worry about it. I'm usually surprised to find out that someone (particularly under the age of 25) has NOT self-injured at some point or another.

Depending on what area you work in, they may be a valuable asset - I work in peds psych, and have found few things make self-injuring kids feel like they can trust you as much as knowing you went through the same thing and conquered it!

Jules A, MSN

Specializes in Family Nurse Practitioner.

Like others have said, kudos for working past this but I would do what I could to keep the past in the past. FWIW I'm always cold and wear long sleeve tee's under my scrub tops all year round so no one ever sees my wrists or arms. The sad fact is that people will speculate and judge so for me this would be something I'd try to keep private.

Hi, I just wanted to comment that I also suffer with the same ailment. I am a proud, and determined nursing student in one of the best nursing schools in my area. I was 15 when I inflicted my self-mutilation. . . It is extremely difficult for me to work and learn with my evident scarring. I have been a CNA for almost 8 years, (in-home health care and acute care.) I have worked in a hospital for 3 of those years. And, surprisingly, only one client/patient in the last 8 years has mentioned my scars.

I just want you to know that you are not alone, and that you should stay strong. Don't give up, and don't let your perception of what others think of you get in the way of your calling. If you are in nursing school, you chose it, you worked hard for it, and caring for others is part of who you are. I know how hard it can be to see self inflicted scarring on your arms every day, I know how hard it is to look past the way you think others judge you. Stay strong, and know that you are here to heal and be healed.

Hi, I just wanted to comment that I also suffer with the same ailment. I am a proud and determined nursing student in one of the best nursing schools in my area. I was 15 when I inflicted my self-mutilation. . . It is extremely difficult for me to work and learn with my evident scarring. During clinical training I wear my scrub overcoat that we are able to wear with our school logo, because I am afraid of my clinical instructors judgement as well as my patients judgement. I have been a CNA for almost 8 years, (in-home health care and acute care.) I have worked in a hospital for 3 of those years. And, surprisingly, only one client/patient in the last 8 years has mentioned my scars.

I just want you to know that you are not alone, and that you should stay strong. Don't give up, and don't let your perception of what others think of you get in the way of your calling. If you are in nursing school, you chose it, you worked hard for it, and caring for others is part of who you are. I know how hard it can be to see self inflicted scarring on your arms every day, I know how hard it is to look past the way you think others judge you. Stay strong, and know that you are here to heal and be healed.

Edited by sage.90
elaboration

kataraang, BSN

Specializes in critical care ICU. Has 5 years experience.

I have personal experience and can relate completely. I guess maybe try to ignore them yourself. I find that if I spend too much time looking at them myself (trying to assess how visible they are), then it draws someone's attention to it too. They see me looking, so then they look. If I carry on, working efficiently, and actively engaging them, I've never been asked.

Great job on overcoming it. It's very difficult to do.