Nursing and fainting........(long)

Nurses General Nursing



Years ago, (starting in 3rd grade), I had gone through this "phase" for lack of a better word, where I would faint whenever I had fillings done at the dentist's, the eyedoctor's (contact lense fitting), or having blood taken. I would also get very lightheaded if I was around people who had tubes in them, etc.

I think the last time I actually fainted was about 7 years ago when I was having a wisdom tooth extracted, and I actually passed out before they had gotten me completely under anesthesia so they had to wake me up and start again........I don't even have any recollection other than feeling like I was going to vomit and then nothing.........

Anyway, years have passed, and I have taken care of my friend who is epileptic, during a seizure, and given my diabetic dog shots of insulin ( which I realize is no big deal, but years ago, I would have fainted by these things) and at some point decided that I wanted to be a nurse. Realistically I am probably better suited for certain types of nursing rather than med surg nursing but......I figured if I could get through clinicals, I should be fine.

(I am interested in Psych nursing at this time)

I am now in my first semester of nursing school and have yet to even take a clinical class; however, during a recent lecture, I almost fainted right where I was sitting. The teacher was showing a picture of parenteral and enteral tube feedings, and the more she talked about it, the dizzier I got until I was actually sweating and almost seeing when I used to have blood taken from me.

So now, my dilemma is......if I cannot seem to sit through CLASS without feeling like this, HOW will I get through clinicals??? Not to mention that it is pretty bad if your nurse falls to the floor as you are in need of some emergency procedure.

I am sure that right away, everyone will suggest that perhaps I find another field for a career; however, I really do want to be a nurse. I am empathatic, nurturing, caring and intelligent. I feel that if I could just get over this "glitch", I would make a really good nurse, and I am not ready to just give up yet.

I am thinking that if I get desensitized to stuff that makes me feel like fainting, then at some point it might just stop?

Any advice is welcome.

Sorry so long..........


K O'Malley

136 Posts

If it will make you feel better, my sister fainted about every other day at the slightest provocation. She even walked out of the hospital where she was supposed to have surgery because they required a blood test. She went on to become a medical technologist and then an M.D. So I think de-sensitization is the key. When you are exposed to gross things all day long I guess the old body gets tired of passing out.


221 Posts

just dont hold you breath when you are nervous, you probably do it unconsciously.


626 Posts

Specializes in Med-Surg, Long Term Care.

I was always a sort of queasy type and when I was in my twenty's, around 10 years before starting nursing school, I donated blood for the first time, hyperventilated, and almost passed out on the table because of the "idea" of giving blood, not pain or anything else. (I kept thinking about making a fist with the little stick and that it was making blood come out of me and go into a bag, etc. etc. They had to put a paper bag over my face to help me recover.)

I used to have to lie down if I couldn't get an eyelash or speck out of my eye, because I'd get slightly nauseous and feel faint. In junior high school soon after I got my ears pierced, I had to lie down when I couldn't get the earring post back into my healing earlobe-hole, and it was making me sick and lightheaded.

Fast-forward to the pre-nursing school physical. I was having several vials of blood drawn for various labs, and blood started dripping onto my skirt because the tech forgot to remove the tourniquet. I had to put my head between my knees until I felt like I wasn't going to faint anymore. For the eye exam, I had to put my head between my knees after the glaucoma exam (where you're not allowed to blink and the machine touches your eye... I hate eye things, obviously :D ).

All of these and other experiences made me doubtful about my making it as a nurse knowing all I would encounter in nursing school.

In school, our first semester was Maternity Nursing, and I got to watch a C-section. I had to leave the room twice to sit in the hall with my head between my knees because I felt faint. Fortunately, they let me return both times and I was able to witness the beautiful birth of a baby. (The problem here was not having eaten in 5-6 hours, a too warm room, and wearing a mask for the first time and not being able to breathe.)

I tell these stories to give you hope because I've been a med-surg nurse for 10 years now, and haven't felt faint or sick for years. I'm betting that, eventually, you will find that your natural empathy and compassion will kick in and will override your feelings which is what happened for me. You may need to help yourself become desensitized, though, by making yourself look at photos and to try to see them in a different way. And as the previous poster said, frequent exposure to gross things will also desensitize you. Also, I'm a great believer in short-term counseling if you need more help getting over this hurdle, but I believe you can do it. I'm living proof!


26 Posts

I passed out at the sight of blood for a long time. When I started nursing school, I nearly passed out watching an IV being started. Don't worry, just keep moving forward. The best thing I can tell you is to work in the hospital as a CNA or something until you eventually get used to the sights and smells. It gets easier!


212 Posts

Hang in there, when you have the initiative, you can do anything you set your mind to. You will do fine as the others have that have posted. It will get better with time. ;) :roll Good luck to you!!!!!


20 Posts


I have the same problem and also starting nursing school. The majority of people in my family have what are called something like vasovagal responses. For most in my family, the sight of blood, a needle, a painful act (like receiving stitches), will make them pass out. It is one of those slowly, tunnelling fainting spells where you know you are about to go down. I have a slightly less version of the vasovagal response ... it only happens to me in 1 or 2 situations. If I lose blood (even giving blood, giving plasma, a punched in the face 'bad' bloody nose) or if something is very painful (I've had a painful IV administered that dropped me and my wisdom teeth too). However, watching others doesn't bother me, at least yet. I worry too about what might happen when I get into clinicals. I am in the process of desensitizing myself though. I watch the heck out of the surgery shows on tv, reach med books, and am trying to get a job as a CNA. I am determined to beat my 'ailment' and think if I can do it so can you. Keep at it.


66 Posts

If it makes you feel any better, I still pass out 10 years on into nursing when I'm having blood taken or having vaccinations!!! Now I'm not the sadistic type but it doesn't bother me watching other people having injections or taking blood off other people, (good job really as it wouldn't do for your nurse to collapse everytime she gave a patient an injection or took blood!!!), just tends to be when it happens to me I pass out!!!!

Specializes in ED/Psych.

Thank you everyone for all the encouraging postings........

I am going to try to maybe even volunteer at a hospital or nursing home to try and get myself desensitized as well as look at pictures, films, etc.

msummar.......I have read about the vasovagal response and have thought that may be the problem especially since, my uncle and my younger brother both have "fainting spells" especially my younger brother.......he has passed out many many times in school, at the movies, etc...........however each time, it has been related to seeing something bloody or him being hurt. I figure what is happening to me is either that...or....a panic attack of some kind...........ahhhhhhhh

I think that part of the problem is the way I think of it.........when I see something, I internalize it and kind of picture it happening to me and that takes place so fast without me even realizing it and then I get lightheaded..........I will probably also try to go talk to someone and see if that will help any.

Well thanks is particularly encouraging to know that this has happened to others and they forged ahead and are doing well now. That means it can be done!


nursedawn67, LPN

1,046 Posts

Specializes in Geriatrics, LTC.

I found that things that would normally bother me, do not when it is something I have to preform. It's like I unconciously and conciously realize I have no choice but to do it and I do. Also it helps to not think to much into what your doing....example: if you are working with an IV, don't think about where the tube is and and all the "blood and guts" portion of it, just do the job at hand. I hope that makes sense. anyhow works for me...good luck!

Nurse Shark

18 Posts

Just hang in there.... I used to have fainting spells in science class in middle school while disecting frogs, then later in high school while disecting fetal pigs. I even fainted in the OR during a C-section during clinicals. For me I think it is smell that causes me to feel faint. I realized that while observing autopsy's. The cutting or penetrating part is actually very interesting. What has helped me however is that I have repeatedly exposed myself to the OR now to just try to get over the smells, the clausterphobia of the mask and so on. And whenever something is happening that is invasive while I'm at work I ask the Dr. if I can observe. I try to focus and make sure I breath and I also make sure I don't lock my knees ( I heard this from my father who's in the military and once passed out while standing at attention)



81 Posts

I have always become faint and sometimes passed out at the sight of blood, prior to nursing school, during nursing school and during my 20 years as a RN. I went to nursing school to become a psych nurse and have only worked in that area. No blood and guts nursing for me!!!

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