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Nursing School after personal burn injury

I'm a nursing student weeks away from my second quarter of Nursing School (we start back up January 8th). I was involved in a very traumatic burn a couple days ago, I was at an outside craft fair/market, got too close to an outside propane gas tank and my skirt caught fire. Within seconds it had burned through my skirt to my legs, abdomen and hand. There was a fire Marshall who jumped in and had me stop drop and roll and an EMT on the scene. Between the two of them they gathered my information, took my vitals, covered me with a blanket and called 911 immediately. They probably saved my life by acting so fast and knowing what to do. Fortunately, my airway was not compromised and most of my burn is just partial thickness, I have full thickness in three small areas. The doctors are optimistic i'll make a thorough recovery with minimal scarring given time and proper wound care without need for a skin graft. They've been treating my pain and encouraging rehabilitation exercises to reduce contractures and promote healing. I'm trying to be brave and do all the right things given the knowledge I have.

My concern is that I won't be healed up in full by the time classes start again. It's hard to say what level of pain I'll be in and how mobile I'll be. The OT told me there's no way I can do my home Care Aide job at the minute until I'm medically cleared. Physically speaking, i'm sure I'll be well enough to sit in the nursing lectures and do the reading but I'm not sure psychologically and emotionally if I'll be able to give all my resources and energy to studying to focus. We also have our med-surg clinicals at the end of January and i'm sure they frown on having extensive open wounds over 18 percent of my body. Hopefully it'll look better by then but it looks like I have a long road before I'm fully healed.

Does anyone have any insight for me? I'm hemming and hawing what would be the smartest decision. This is a huge setback and I'm stlll processing. I keep replaying the moment and everything is so raw (no pun intended). I feel so dumb that I got on fire and so pathetic and gross. Thanks for listening.

meanmaryjean, DNP, RN

Specializes in NICU, ICU, PICU, Academia.

In my opinion, your best move is to take time to heal - physically and emotionally. You will likely need to skip this semester of the nursing courses. Could you take some non-clinical co-requisites and then return in the summer or fall?

Have you spoken to the faculty yet?

Best wishes- and I'm glad you got help so quickly. God bless burn nurses by the way- that and L&D are the two areas I could not do. Ever.

I haven't been able to speak to faculty yet because of the holiday weekend but that is on my agenda. I'm just so disappointed with what happened... still kind of in shock


Specializes in LTC.

So sorry that you experienced such an incident. And while school is something important, your recovery supercedes school.

Take time to heal! You need to. You don't want to do anything that could potentially jeopardizes your recovery.

TriciaJ, RN

Specializes in Psych, Corrections, Med-Surg, Ambulatory.

I really hope you're not blaming yourself for what happened. I am very glad you got prompt help and are going to recover. (My dad died 2 years ago from burn injuries so this is an emotionally loaded subject for me.)

I think you got good advice from meanmaryjean to discuss with your school faculty the best way to stay in the game while making sure you take adequate time to heal properly.

Wishing you a speedy recovery.

KelRN215, BSN, RN

Specializes in Pedi.

You should be able to take a medical leave of absence. I was able to do this between my freshman and sophomore years of college after I had brain surgery. I was able to pick up the program from where I left off when I returned. I graduated a year late but, I'm not exaggerating when I say, literally no one has ever questioned why my college graduation date is 5 years after my high school graduation date in my 10 years working as a nurse.

So sorry this has happened! This is exactly why medical leaves are part of academia. I have not been burned, but have had surgery. Healing tissue takes energy, time, and HURTS. Rehab is also a challenge when scar tissue is involved. What you don't want is partial healing, and partial performance in nursing school. Get better - the rest will wait.

marienm, RN, CCRN

Specializes in Burn, ICU.

First off, I'm sorry this happened to you.

Secondly, others are probably right to suggest that you talk with your faculty about taking a leave of absence. Until your skin is healed you are at increased risk for infection and clinical is probably the last place you should be. Also, you present a risk to your potential patients if your burns or donor sites are still weepy. Your school or hospital may not allow you to do clinical if this is the case. A student in my program had to delay graduating because she broke her wrist and the hospital said her cast (which couldn't be washed) was too much infection risk.

Sorry to repeat the bad news, but your health is definitely the most important thing here.

Pixie.RN, MSN, RN, EMT-P

Specializes in EMS, ED, Trauma, CNE, CEN, CPEN, TCRN.

I keep replaying the moment and everything is so raw (no pun intended). I feel so dumb that I got on fire and so pathetic and gross. Thanks for listening.

First, stop blaming yourself!! You are not pathetic or gross or any of those things. I am sure that your burn hospital/unit has a support group - that might be something to look into to help you as you recover and heal. Best of luck to you!

WestCoastSunRN, MSN, CNS

Specializes in CVICU, MICU, Burn ICU.

What are your burn docs telling you? Without actually seeing your burns -- just going on your description -- it sounds like you are going to need more time in healing than is afforded to you by winter break.

I'm really sorry this happened. I would have a frank discussion about this with your doc and your school faculty. Is it possible for you to go ahead and plan to attend your program and then pull out later if you need to? If so, it might be nice to take the pressure off needing to decide such a thing right now, when your injury is still very fresh and emotions high.

I highly encourage you to connect with a burn support group. Your feelings surrounding this injury are not uncommon and you'll need to work through those -- and there are great resources to help you do that. You're going to be OK. {{{{HUGS}}}}

marienm, RN, CCRN

Specializes in Burn, ICU.

Also, the situation you describe sounds like it was unsafe & I'm sorry you were injured because of it. If the exposed flame was close enough to catch your skirt (even with help from the wind) then it was too close to everything. Hopefully the fire Marshall will help them make some improvements so no one else gets hurt.

The Phoenix society is one burn support group that I know of. Some hospitals are affiliated with local chapters, but I'm sure they have some online resources as well.

I hope you're healing well! If you're still in the hospital, keep your eyes open...I'm sure you're learning a lot about the patient's perspective during this ordeal, but keep your eye on the nurses, too. Do some of them do things that you want to emulate? (Even little stuff like bringing a fresh drink with your meds...keeps you hydrated and saves them a trip.)

Best wishes!

Edited by marienm, RN, CCRN

Ask your faculty for copies of the semester syllabi so you can do the reading, or ask a classmate to provide these to you. And yes, you need to concentrate on healing. Best wishes going forward.


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