RN With Contamination OCD - Please Help!

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hppygr8ful, ASN, RN, EMT-I

Specializes in Psych, Addictions, SOL (Student of Life). Has 20 years experience. 2 Articles; 4,287 Posts

On 10/22/2021 at 5:08 PM, canoehead said:

don't you need 15 minutes under UV to kill germs? And how do you know how much light to use? Give me the scoop!

When my husband started to talk about the "System" as he calls it, I thought it was a joke. After 29 some-odd years in health care and never catching anything I really wasn't super worried about Covid since it appeared that common sense measures really did prevent it coming home with me. Still I humored hom because he can get a bit paranoid and it kept him occupied during the pandemic,


Wow! I am gratified and amazed at the number of people who took time to respond. You have all given me a lot to think about. Thank you 🙏

I'm also amused to find that my post rated a picture! It's pretty accurate, except I'm definitely not a blonde 😛

On 10/15/2021 at 5:58 PM, Tweety said:

I don't always come home and change immediately because I'm always hungry and go right to the kitchen.  I'll hang out in my scrub bottoms, socks and my t-shirt in until time to go to bed.  


As far as I know it, I've never got a hospital acquired illness and haven't even been sick with a cold for years.  

On 10/15/2021 at 6:29 PM, nursej22 said:

My experience is similar to Tweety's. I don't believe I ever experienced a hospital acquired illness, even though I worked on a medical floor for years. Heavens, I worked before gloves were so routinely used.

My therapist has been encouraging me to dial back on my showering ritual, but it seemed unwise. It just doesn't feel safe to me, but I realize that OCD may be triggering that feeling.

When I hear that other people do not have these grueling "decontamination" rituals and are still OK, it encourages me to continue pushing back against my OCD. So, thank you!

On 10/19/2021 at 11:22 PM, LibraNurse27 said:

I think logically there isn't much to be concerned about with your scrubs; most diseases don't last on clothing and dirty clothes are not a common mode of disease transmission. Especially if you're following all precautions at work I think you're good! But I totally know mental illness doesn't allow us to think logically sometimes. I'm really glad you're getting treatment from a specialist, and thank you for sharing your experience with OCD. 

Thank you for your support!

I have heard that scrub-bourne pathogens aren't an entirely realistic concern, but I am having trouble finding a source. I tried a quick Google search, but that yielded suggestions for even more draconian "decontamination" rituals for healthcare workers. Google definitely knows there customers, LOL. Does anyone have suggestions where I might find reliable info about this?

And yes, mental illness is incredibly illogical. My brain has no trouble with the notion that I become practically radioactive with contamination after a single shift at the hospital, but it struggles against the suggestion that scrubs might not be a massive issue...

Emergent, RN

Specializes in ER. Has 29 years experience. 2 Articles; 3,860 Posts

I think it's important to maintain one's general health, with proper diet and a lot of rest. Once I got the vaccine was totally loose about the precautions because I figured, if I was exposed to a little bit of the virus at that point that was kind of like a booster. The body likes a little bit of a challenge you know, that's how it was set up.

While I am grateful for those who are so accepting of my idiosyncrasies, I know I can't continue like this. I am addressing my OCD because I know it's an issue.

I have been "benched" a few times by Employee Health because my skin was so ragged and compromised. I use a password login for our medStation, since my fingerprints have practically eroded. And, I would really love to be able to have a drink of water when I come home from work, but I am too scared to enter the kitchen until I've showered. 

The showering ritual alone isn't responsible for the first two issues, but it's all part of a mental illness that needs to be tackled holistically for it to be treated. I can't just ignore this OCD behavior because it's less bothersome than some of my other compulsions. My therapist explained to me that allowing myself to indulge in any OCD compulsions leaves me vulnerable to (re)developing more of these behaviors.

nursej22, MSN, RN

Specializes in Public Health, TB. Has 37 years experience. 1,996 Posts

@FSZ Student Nurse I admire your determination to tackle your compulsions. It seems that you have an understanding therapist, and employee health who wants to keep you healthy. I have not experienced compulsions to the degree that you have, but I has an inking as to the discomfort that arises. 

I hope that you can find ways to relieve your anxiety that do not impact your health, I.e. damaging your skin. Living in the time of COVID certainly doesn't help. 

Best wishes! 

Emergent, RN

Specializes in ER. Has 29 years experience. 2 Articles; 3,860 Posts

This whole covid situation has definitely fed germophobia in the society as a whole. It has really fanned the flames and it almost feels like the germaphobes have taken over the world.

I was brought up by a very sensible woman, who really had a holistic view of health maintenance. She kept a very clean house but was totally opposed to being totally paranoid about germs. We were free-range kids who played outside in the dirt a lot. She fed us very wholesome food compared to the standard fare in the 1960s and 70s. She never would rush us to the doctor at the drop of a hat.

She had two sisters. Aunt Shirley was a neurotic germaphobe who fed her kids a junkie diet and on the other extreme was Aunt Rhoda who was totally into extreme health diets, organic gardening, and became totally against all vaccines. Aunt Shirley is very left-wing and very judgmental, and Aunt Rhoda is a hardline right-wing person, and can't shut up about that. I don't talk to either one of them and my mother died years ago from a brain aneurysm. But she set an example of taking the rational middle road in life. I advise striving for that middle path.

I am so proud of myself and I wanted to share with everyone who has encouraged me!

I came home today, took off my shoes, and washed my hands... then I went to eat dinner. IN. MY. SCRUBS. And I'm still alive! I'll let y'all know if that changes 🙃

Psy_sci, BSN, RN

Has 12 years experience. 19 Posts

On 10/22/2021 at 9:02 PM, Journey_On said:

Of course! 🙂 

It is a product (not sure of the rules on here about links, but you can see the products at PhoneSoap dot com) - different variations of the product, but they all do the same thing - kill germs with UV light. I'm slightly embarrassed to admit I have multiple of these devices around my house (PhoneSoap just kept coming out with more that really appealed to me), and I actually use all of them to UV sanitize my stuff after a shift.

They do make a travel-friendly one where it doesn't needed to be plugged into an outlet to use. I hope this helps. 🙂

Thanks so much! I will check it out...sounds really cool, although I'm afraid I'll become too germaphopic (if not so already :-p), LOL!

NurseSpeedy, ADN, LPN, RN

Has 20 years experience. 1,597 Posts

On 10/15/2021 at 12:00 AM, FSZ Student Nurse said:


I am a new-ish RN struggling with OCD. I am trying to assess whether my hygiene habits after my shift are OCD behaviors or legitimate. I would be incredibly grateful if anyone could give their feedback on my routine!

After my shift, I go home and shower immediately. I do not prep food in the kitchen or even sit on the couch before I shower. I feel like I might have brought "something" home on my skin or scrubs and I don't want to spread germs. If I go into the kitchen for a quick drink before showering, I very carefully lean over the counters, so that my dirty scrubs don't brush the counters or dishes. If I need to sit for a minute before I shower, I sit on the floor so that I don't contaminate the sofa (Of course, I wash my hands as soon as I walk in the door from work).

Before my shower, I take a bag with me into the bathroom for my dirty scrubs. I strip my dirty scrubs into the bag, so that when I bring them to the hamper later I am not holding a bundle of dirty scrubs against my clean clothing. After my shower, I open the door and only then do I pick up the "dirty" bag of scrubs to bring to the hamper, since I don't want to touch the doorknob after touching my scrubs. I wash my hands well after dumping the bag in the hamper.... And yes, laundry days are a dreaded ordeal 😞

I am very curious what others would do before they shower - would they sit on their couch? prep food or lean against counters? brush against doorknobs? hold a baby? Or even - gasp 😮 - go to bed without showering? (I think the last one is probably universally acknowledged as gross 🤮, but my perspective here might be a bit skewed).

And how do you handle your dirty scrubs?

I think it really depends on what area you work-since COVID, when I was in the office with patients before going remote, I had done the same thing I did when in the hospital with a bunch of sick people. Shoes off outside, entered my house stating to family “don’t touch me, I’m gross” went straight to bathroom and stopped of scrubs, washed my hands, got towel around me and threw the scrubs into the washer and turned it on immediately. I then jumped in showered, scrubbed and cleaned, used different towel to dry (the other one I used on the floor” and got into clothes. I always meal prepped the days before my shifts and everything was plated out. Someone got hungry, pick a plate and heat it up. Yes, I’m a germaphobe. However, my own whacked out immune system is too busy attacking itself to help me so I’m prone to catching whatever is possible. I don’t want whatever I was playing with that day and I really don’t want to share it with anyone I care about. So I may be a bit over the top, but I’m in, it’s cleaned and I’m showered in under 15 minutes-the washer may take closer to thirty, not sure. It gets high heat dried to top it off.