When nursing gets icky but you still love your job...How to deal?

Posted

Every time I build up my confidence and feel like I am getting somewhere and really making a breakthrough...Stuff happens and kills my mo-jo...(Yes, I am a new grad, about 2 months working, 1 and a half on the floor)...

Today it was just sensory overload. We have a patient that is actively dying and the smell coming from the room is insanely grotesque. I really like this pt and even though she wasn't my responsibility today, I still went in a few times to comfort her...But dear goodness, what an awful way to go. It is totally haunting me and she is a fairly young woman to boot.

Then I had just a plethora of other sights, sounds, feelings etc...etc...etc...All weekend my patients were the end result of gut twistingly sad stories, patients who will never have a good prognosis or maybe even a good day ever again. Lots of morphine drips, horrible necrotic wounds, brain death, CA with mets everywhere...Just all those horrible things that are just not compatible with life...

I don't know exactly what I am asking for here, maybe I just needed to vent. I don't expect these things to get much easier ever. Maybe I just want to know that someone understands.

I am feeling sad and even worse, a little disappointed in myself for being grossed out at times. I brought this all home with me and now it all just feels like a million little elephants laying on my chest.

SweetseRN

SweetseRN

199 Posts

And I must add, it's funny to think that in nursing school my worst fear was poop! Now I love when my patients poop, even if it's a mess because it's so much better than the alternatives!

CaLLaCoDe, BSN, RN

Specializes in Cardiology, Oncology, Medsurge. 1,174 Posts

Is this a halloween thread?

Seriously though, I agree the stench of a dying patient is sometimes unbearable. Breathing through one's mouth when in the room helps. Don't care for masks, I prefer patients to see my person. The use of plenty of air freshener outside the room helps too. Leaving the door closed, often times considered rude. But works wonders for staff moral.

I commend you for visiting her even if she wasn't assigned to you, Bravo!

Tip: if you have vicks vaporub....rub a small amount under your nose periodically during your shift! May numb your upper lip but will keep your gag reflex in check!:p

Edited by CaLLaCoDe

VivaLasViejas, ASN, RN

Specializes in LTC, assisted living, med-surg, psych. Has 20 years experience. 142 Articles; 9,974 Posts

Ah, Sweetse, what you have so eloquently described is called reality. There is a lot of ugliness in human illness and decline, and nurses get to experience emotions, sights, sounds, and especially smells that challenge one's ability to provide dignified care AND keep their lunch down at the same time. Sometimes it's almost overwhelming even to us veterans; and in the early going, it's really easy to let it all get to you and wind up depressed and anxious.

So what you do is what you've already done: talk to other nurses. No one outside this profession understands what we see everyday; they have no frame of reference for the suffering and despair, and they don't get the 'jokes' we make, sometimes out of desperation, that help us hang onto our sanity. Allnurses is here for you anytime you want us!

It also helps a lot---if you are a spiritual person---to maintain an active prayer life, or have open communications with the Higher Power of your choice. Sometimes all that's needed to keep your perspective is to look up at a night sky full of stars, or to stand on a beach at sunset watching the endless waves crash on the shore, and see in their vast infinity how truly insignificant our earthly matters really are.

There are also many different methods of stress reduction, such as meditation, yoga, exercise, music.........these are only limited by your imagination.

It may also help you to remember that you are still VERY new to this career, and you are going through an adjustment period that will last anywhere from a few months to several years. Don't rush the process---you have so much to learn, and it's OK that you don't have it all wired just yet. Drink deep of the well of experience---ask your co-workers questions and find out how they've learned to cope with the emotional impact of certain situations and conditions.

Above all, remember that being a nurse is only ONE aspect of who you are. So many of us tend to let nursing consume us, especially in the earliest days of our careers when we're soaking up new knowledge and thirsting to know more and more. Maintain a life and relationships outside work. Learn to let bad days roll off you like water off a duck's back, and never forget that almost every patient is someone's spouse, someone's parent, someone's friend........and that life itself is a miracle that renews itself every day.:redbeathe

Yup. Vick's is your friend. And you will develop a twisted sense of humor that will help you distance yourself from the heavy duty emotional situations we face every day. But don't use it around non-nurses. Or students, for that matter.

And big hugs.

SweetseRN

SweetseRN

199 Posts

I knew I would find what I needed here. A lot of truth for me to soak in...It is true, right now nursing is my primary identity and I need to learn to detach a little. Also true that non nurses, as much as they mean well and want to help, just cannot understand...

As for the vicks vapor rub, I prefer Tiger Balm lol!

I dread going back to my floor right now. We have air fresheners, but I have now associated this scent with the aforementioned odor so they don't help me much..At very least hopefully they spare our other patients and visitors from the very obvious scent of a horrible reality.

I honestly believe that the end of life for this poor soul is made somehow better by my presence. I will continue to visit until it's over for her.

I am just surprised that a smell can be so..Depressing.

Much love and thanks to this site and all of you for the support through my most difficult experiences. I don't know if I could have made it this far without the amazing people here on AN.

That Guy, BSN, RN, EMT-B

Specializes in Emergency/Cath Lab. Has 6 years experience. 3,421 Posts

Try a pan of crushed up charcoal under the bed. It is the best air freshener out there.

And yeah you develop this sick sense of humor to deal with the crap we have to.

carolmaccas66

carolmaccas66, BSN, RN

Specializes in Med/Surg, DSU, Ortho, Onc, Psych. 2,212 Posts

Ah, Sweetse, what you have so eloquently described is called reality. There is a lot of ugliness in human illness and decline, and nurses get to experience emotions, sights, sounds, and especially smells that challenge one's ability to provide dignified care AND keep their lunch down at the same time. Sometimes it's almost overwhelming even to us veterans; and in the early going, it's really easy to let it all get to you and wind up depressed and anxious.

So what you do is what you've already done: talk to other nurses. No one outside this profession understands what we see everyday; they have no frame of reference for the suffering and despair, and they don't get the 'jokes' we make, sometimes out of desperation, that help us hang onto our sanity. Allnurses is here for you anytime you want us!

It also helps a lot---if you are a spiritual person---to maintain an active prayer life, or have open communications with the Higher Power of your choice. Sometimes all that's needed to keep your perspective is to look up at a night sky full of stars, or to stand on a beach at sunset watching the endless waves crash on the shore, and see in their vast infinity how truly insignificant our earthly matters really are.

There are also many different methods of stress reduction, such as meditation, yoga, exercise, music.........these are only limited by your imagination.

It may also help you to remember that you are still VERY new to this career, and you are going through an adjustment period that will last anywhere from a few months to several years. Don't rush the process---you have so much to learn, and it's OK that you don't have it all wired just yet. Drink deep of the well of experience---ask your co-workers questions and find out how they've learned to cope with the emotional impact of certain situations and conditions.

Above all, remember that being a nurse is only ONE aspect of who you are. So many of us tend to let nursing consume us, especially in the earliest days of our careers when we're soaking up new knowledge and thirsting to know more and more. Maintain a life and relationships outside work. Learn to let bad days roll off you like water off a duck's back, and never forget that almost every patient is someone's spouse, someone's parent, someone's friend........and that life itself is a miracle that renews itself every day.:redbeathe

What wonderful words of wisdom.

Best post I've seen on here!

xtxrn

xtxrn, ASN, RN

4,266 Posts

You will develop your own weird humor, like most of us have (and it HELPS a lot- other people won't get it though- so if you're out at lunch with your non-nurse friends, I'd save the jokes about poop and snot- they won't be calling you much :barf01:).

AND, if you ever forget the human in that bed, become a sewer inspector (and to whoever is going to link that with nursing- step away from the computer :D)

Bless you for caring :hug:

kool-aide, RN

kool-aide, RN

Specializes in Cardiac. Has 5 years experience. 594 Posts

Try putting dry coffee in the room, works great.

nurse_autumn

nurse_autumn

30 Posts

I am feeling sad and even worse, a little disappointed in myself for being grossed out at times.

Don't be so hard on yourself! Everyone has an 'ick' factor. We all get grossed out at times. We wouldn't be human if we didn't. The difference is we have the caring curve :redpinkhe

CaLLaCoDe, BSN, RN

Specializes in Cardiology, Oncology, Medsurge. 1,174 Posts

I honestly believe that the end of life for this poor soul is made somehow better by my presence. I will continue to visit until it's over for her.

This is just so lovingly compassionate. Florence Nightengale could not have stated it any better! When your gut tells you to do something, even if it may appear counter nursing culture, do it anyway! Especially if it's for the good of the patient. You have my highest esteem for you act with conscience.