how gross & messy is nursing REALLY?

  1. Hi there!

    I'm in my mid-20s and I have a degree in advertising, which means I sit at a desk all day -- YUCK. I want more variety, more interaction with people, and more hands-on work. So I'm considering going back to school for nursing, but I'm trying to figure out if it's right for me.

    So, please tell me this -- just how much "scut work" and gross, messy things do nurses do? Would you say being a nurse is MOSTLY this kind of work, or just occasionally, or ... ? I don't think I have a big problem with blood, but it's other things I'm worried about. Am I right in assuming that there are certain settings in which a nurse would deal more with those things than other settings? For example, a nurse at an understaffed hospital versus a nurse in an 8-5 clinic?

    Please shed some light on this for me so I know "the real story" before I commit to anything. Thanks!

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    About amyrae76

    Joined: Nov '02; Posts: 72; Likes: 6


  3. by   sunnygirl272
    well..personally...before i can accurately direct my response...what specifically attracts you about nursing?
  4. by   memphispanda
    I am only a student...second clinical semester. We only have one patient each clinical day but we do have to help with other patients on the floor also. My observation--there is a LOT of gross stuff, but so far nothing that has really totally yucked me. I have yet to see a pressure sore past Stage II though...that will probably bother me. Lots of incontinent elderly people to deal with, lots of enemas to give...various parts of the body oozing stuff that wouldn't normally ooze anything at all (and some of that stuff smells awful). However, because of all the other stuff that has to be done, even on a bad day I haven't spent more than about 20% of my time doing gross things...there's tons of other stuff that needs to be done too.
  5. by   amyrae76
    Well, several things attract me.

    For one, I like the thought of my work days having variety in them (I hate to be bored), and I like the thought of using specific skills I'll learn. The world of "business" bores me, and I want to be more involved with people, not business.

    For another, I like interacting with people. I think I'm a caring person, so I think a caring profession would suit me well.

    Also, I like the flexibility that nursing would offer. If I get bored in one area, I can try another area of nursing. And with the nursing shortage, there should be no problem finding a job, no matter where I live. And when I have children, the nursing profession seems to offer more flexibility than others.

    Does this answer your question?
  6. by   portland_guy

    I am right there with you. Currently I am at work, sitting in front of my monitor which I do for hours on end having next to no personal interactions. It really SUCKS! Is this what I face for the next 25 years before retirement?!

    I am working on my pre-reqs right now to go back to school for nursing. Of course, my parents/family members/friends all question my sanity about this decision because of the hard work that nurses have to do. But, I am looking forward to the challenge. I am sure there will be many gross things, but also some really fascinating things to learn.

    I am in A&P right now and am rather amazed at the body and its functions at this point. My recommendation is call in for a sick-day (mental health day) and have a scheduled appointment to job shadow a nurse. You can get a good idea pretty quickly what they face.
  7. by   tattooednursie
    Poop, pee, diahria, vomit, blood, you are guarunteed to get all that and more on you. but if you really, you'll get used to it. I sure am.
  8. by   chicory
    Once I went to the grocery after work, and while in line I realized had green poop on the back of my upper arm! I had apparently missed it when I washed after cleaning a patient.
    If you work in the hospita setting..medsurg for instance you will have sputum, tracheostomys, diarrhea, vomit, deep wounds that have bone showing, pus, blood and nasty infections. You will clean and tend to dead people. You will console the grieving, you will make the 3am phone call. You will treat people who are suffering needlessly. You must realize that there is going to be alot of unpleasant things to do. But, you will also have so much to give, you can really make a difference in small ways. There's alot of satisfaction in nursing, there's mental and emotional rewards and challenges. It's not boring...but it's not for you if you're afraid to "get your hands dirty".
    Good luck!
  9. by   NICU_Nurse
    I am a neonatal ICU nurse. Last night I was feeding a baby, and had her wrapped in TWO blankets. She was wearing a diaper. I lifted her up to burp her, and when I put her back down afterwards I noticed this lovely green stain about the size of my hand, wrist to fingertip, spread all over my beautiful uniform. This baby had horrendous diarrhea and it was pure liquid, and it leaked all over me. I had to change shirts. ;>) Later, I was bathing another baby who decided to projectile vomit partially digested formula all over me. Have you ever smelled partially digested formula? I had to change shirts. Again. ;>P This morning, I was giving report and a nurse said, 'UH-oh...this baby had a huge bowel movement.' I clapped my hands in glee (believe me, in NICU this is almost always a good thing...). I shouldn't have. I went to the Isolette and this baby was covered head to toe, literally, in seedy yellow stool. It was everywhere and it looked like whole grain mustard. Yum. I got her cleaned up, sheets changed, the works. I lifted her bottom to put a clean diaper under her (the THIRD DIAPER I'd had to use, as she kept on going, despite my pleas for her to stop) and she shot off like a cannon. Imagine a pastry tube filled with yellow frosting. Imagine putting it on the floor. Now imagine stomping on the end of it with your foot as hard as you can. that stream of frosting! That was what it was like. It shot out three feet from her bottom and sprayed the wall. I have never seen anything like it. And it was all over my arms and hands. Now. This was a particularly messy night on my unit. It was a little gross. And thank god I wasn't actually holding that baby when she blew because I surely would have dropped her from the shock I felt seeing such a magnificent feat come from such a tiny little hole. I walked out of there wearing a paper scrub top and grinning my ass off because I love my job more than anything and can't imagine doing anything else. It takes a little time to get used to it. Some people never do. I am one of the lucky ones, I guess. My job is important, it's ESSENTIAL, and it makes me feel great. I feel worthwhile. I feel completely validated. Hopefully you'll feel the same way. If not, there's always nursing administration. ;>) *lol* Good luck in your endeavor!
  10. by   amyrae76
    Wow, Kristi! All that, and you came out of it with a grin? I'm impressed!
  11. by   mmnursewannabee
    kristi, i think i can handle baby stools but not from an old person. woops sorry. i want to be a nurse too but i am thinking about how can i handle this emotionally. i might cry to death if something happens to one of my patients. but maybe i'll get use to it.
  12. by   K O'Malley
    Expect gross stuff on a daily basis--massive GI bleeds, BM of every color and consistency, tracheal and endotracheal suctioning. One time I bent over a COPD pt. to start an IV. He coughed and I felt something land in my hair. I was busy and forgot about it. Late that night at home I ran my fingers through my hair only to feel dried mucous. YECH!!
  13. by   MICU RN
    Please before you make the jump shadow with someone. If you are the type that wants to be in control and not get your hands dirty don't go into nursing!!!!!!! Figure out what you really want out of nursing. Unfortunately nursing requires you to do plenty of nurses aid work. And it can be very frustrating, for example I am currently working in a ICU, like most ICU's we don't have nurs. aids. Administration figures you should be grateful you just have two patients. So you get to do all the aid work plus the more technical work. And by the way with many critical patients who have critical abnormal lab values such as a high ammonia levels the treatment is a laxative that make them usually have plenty of diarrhea. Get the picture, you mentioned that you already had a four year degree, that means you already are trying to get into professional work that requires a college education. Therefore, you may be surprised with the stuff you have to put up with as a RN. Check it out, you may love it or like many you may be very disappointed in what the job discription expects of you. It is the only college type profession that I know of that has all the expections of a profession, you are held to a high standard, you have a lic. and plenty of responsibility. However, on the other hand as a bedside RN you have very little autonomy and are expected daily to perform nurses aid work, clerk work and act as a waiter for the patient and family members. I have been doing it for 4 1/2 years and if I don't go to CRNA school within the year or two I will be looking to get into a better profession. I personally am sick and tired of cleaning **** and waiting on doctors and patients. And by the way if you think it is just me, I spoke with a BSN student today who is grad. this sem. and she told me that at least 1/3 of her class plans on going back to school as soon as they can because they think nursing is such a poor profession compare to other professions that require a four year degree. Oh, and by the way did I mention that nursing school is extremely hard and stressful, by the time you finish you realize that you have worked your ass off and now being told that part of your job is to do aid work that requires absolutely no higher education. I can't believe some times that nursing put up with alll this crap, but I guess you have to look at where it started and realize it has come along way in trying to be perceived as a real profession. It just has a ways to go.
    Last edit by MICU RN on Nov 11, '02
  14. by   2banurse
    I'm pretty much in the same boat as you. I'm only a class away from my AA in accounting and I'm thinking seriously of changing gears and applying for nursing. A major reason is that there is a wide variety of options for nursing. However, we will, of course, have to go through nursing school where we will be involved with the gross and messy things.

    In some ways I am selfish or self-centered I guess, but I think that if I am sick in a hospital and producing much of this yuckiness, I'd want to have a nurse who doesn't look at me as a cause for their discomfort. I would feel embarrassed and only more ashamed. Which is ridiculous because patients rarely have any control when they are sick. I think if those of us that do feel intimidated by the mess, we need to put ourselves in our patient's situation.