7 Things Nurses Deal with that Make Others Freak Out.

By: Lee Nelson

Being a nurse involves seeing, hearing, smelling, touching and dealing with some of life’s not-so-pleasant things. Nurses face it all from the grossest to the most stunning situations that would make the normal person squirm or run. They build up an immunity to it, but it’s still something that can make them very wary. Yet, they never stop a beat of helping the patients that they have been trained to see through it all.

“We see it all,” says Barb Gallogly. She is senior lecturer and coordinator for Post Baccalaureate Nursing Program at Henry Predolin School of Nursing at Edgewood College, Madison, Wis.

“We are the eyes of the physician and the ears of the respiratory therapist. We are in a position of privilege to be with the patients on a minute-to-minute basis. People trust us, and people open up to us,” she says.

And those patients trust them not to run away when things go from bad to worse or when they need them the most.

Things That Nurses Face That Make Them Unique, Strong And Oftentimes – Saints


It’s not pretty. “But sometimes some of us still gag at vomit and other things that come out of bodies,” says Kristin Gundt, chief nursing officer at Community Hospital in Grand Junction, Colo. “It all depends on how much you are exposed to it, but that doesn’t mean you have to like it. We all have triggers that makes our own bodies react to it.”

Gallogly agrees that there are still things that make her gag. “But you have to rise above it, and work with it, and not to let your own personal feelings or reactions get in the way of good patient care,” she says. “A nurse must remain respectful of the patient and be calm when all hell breaks loose.” (Is your patient difficult beyond their physical condition?


In Gallogly’s office hangs a lithograph with a person who has germs all around and the words, “Please Wash Your Hands” stamped on it.

“I’m a germaphobe. As a new nursing grad, we didn’t wear gloves or masks back then. We never thought anything about it,” she says. “But now, there is anti-bacterial gel at every entrance – gel in and gel out. That’s hammered into our students now.”

She sees a lot of infected wounds, and a lot of people put into isolation because of infections. “Universal precautions don’t cut it anymore,” she says.


Sometimes when someone else is vomiting, the sound itself can set nurses off with their own gagging reflex. “Or sometimes you hear someone with diarrhea and the gas with it, and it can set something off in you, too,” Gundt says. “But we try to hide our reaction for the patient’s sake.”

She adds that one of the hardest smells to stomach is when a patient is bleeding from their intestines or stomach. “You might have to excuse yourself if you are going to gag or throw up. You don’t want to make the patient feel like even the nurses can’t tolerate it,” she says. “But it smells so bad.”


“We don’t know what death will be like from one person to the next. It can be smooth to really traumatic to really messy. It can be awful,” says Gundt.

One time comes to mind for her when she was a home health care nurse. The elderly lady had a relative come during the last stages of her death. The relative was panicking because she didn’t understand death and all the things that happen when the body shuts down

“People are incontinent. They can’t hold their bowels. Nothing in them is awake anymore,” she says. “So, I kept her clean, changed her and turned her, and made sure she got pain meds. I stayed with her and the relative. It’s the people that are alive that are panicking. People are scared to be alone with the person who is dying.”


“Most people’s jobs aren’t like this,” Gallogly says. “You learn really quickly to become a great multi-tasker and set priorities all the time. You usually have three or four things coming at you. You learn to delegate to others that can help you.”

Some days, it will be overwhelming. You leave work thinking that you didn’t do a good job. “With budget cuts, nurses are expected to do a lot more with less. It’s hard to give quality nursing care, and we want to take care of that whole person, but so much is coming at us. That’s frustrating,” she says.


“We don’t just take care of the person, but the whole person which includes the family,” Gallogly states. “If the family is demonstrating behavior that are precluding progress or treatment for the patient, then we pull them aside. You never know what is going on with them. We don’t know their histories. There is usually a reason for their behavior.”

She says it’s easy to label people as the “crazy daughter” or “hysterical mother.” But that doesn’t solve any problems or help anyone. “We try to explore those dynamics and include them in what we are doing with the patient,” she adds.


When people are sick, their behaviors aren’t necessarily their norm. “They lash out at us, hit us, spit on us and swear at us. There is a lot of physical and emotional abuse,” says Gundt. “Sometimes, it’s very unexpected. You never think some of these people will strike out at you because they seem stable as can be.”

Gundt adds that nurses try very hard to not put themselves in a situation to be hit or hurt. “If it’s a family member that we feel is being obnoxious, abusive or unrealistic, we won’t hesitate to escort them out or get someone to do so,” she says. “But we will start with way less restrictive methods. We try to keep people on our good side.”

Nursing isn’t all roses and sunshine. But most people understand that when they go into the profession. It’s not easy. It’s not always pretty. But for those who choose it, they say they do it because they want to help people. They want to educate people to live healthier, happier lives no matter what squeamish circumstances they have to confront.

Reposted from: https://nurse.org/articles/things-nurses-deal-with-that-make-others-squirm/

We’re Working Nurses to Death.

By: Jason Silverstein

Nurses do the work that neither hospitals nor patients could live without, which comes at an ever-increasing physical and emotional cost, as they are expected to aid sicker patients for longer hours with less support.

Otherwise, nursing could easily be the best job in the United States—the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates more than 400,000 new jobs will be created by 2024. In five states, the average pay clears $85,000, with nursing jobs in California crossing into six figures.

Those numbers are no surprise to those who are aware of how much older the nation’s old are, and how much sicker they are, too: By 2030, there will be 70 million people over the age of 65, of which an estimated 14 million will have Alzheimer’s and more than 50 million will have at least two chronic health conditions.

But just as the need for nurses is increasing, so too is the price for devoting one’s life to the direct care of strangers. Nearly a quarter of hospital and nursing home nurses aren’t satisfied with their jobs, according to one study, and more than a third feel burned out. “Burnout is an occupational hazard in nursing,” says Jeanne Geiger-Brown, dean at Stevenson University’s School of Nursing and Health Professions. “It is hard to generate a lot of caring about other people, because you are so depleted yourself.”

Burnout, of course, is caused by overwork, but what causes overwork is more complicated and reveals how the cost-cutting priorities of hospitals force their nurses to pay an emotional tax.

“What’s causing the overwork is the increased acuity of patients,” says Susan Letvak, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro School of Nursing. “You are only in a hospital if you are so acutely sick that you can barely move. The minute you can move, you are kicked out the door.”

“The push is to get everybody out of the hospital as fast as we can,” echoes Bernadette Melnyk, dean of the College of Nursing at the Ohio State University and the university’s Chief Wellness Officer. Melnyk and her colleagues recently published a paper that shows depression among nurses is associated with both burnout and medical errors.

Getting people out of the hospital “quicker and sicker,” as a few Harvard health policy researchers explain, is a response, in part, to Medicare’s prospective payment system, which pays a fixed amount for a diagnosis no matter the length of stay, and the need for open hospital beds. If that formula seems designed to create higher rates of readmission, well…yeah. Even so, there’s also a financial incentive to avoid having people readmitted.

How does the quicker and sicker approach add up for nurses? Physically, it means the shifts themselves are much harder, especially since shifts are often twelve hours to begin with, which itself is a risk factor for burnout and mistakes in a place where patient alarms are constantly sounding. “It’s not healthy for the nurses, it’s not safe for the patients,” Melnyk says.

Emotionally, the quicker and sicker model means the long hours are engineered to be less fulfilling. “It’s not very satisfying to just put bandaids on people who are really quite ill,” Geiger-Brown says.

When the hospital is successful at turfing patients to home or anywhere else, you might expect nurses to benefit somewhat: Fewer patients on a given day could mean a slower shift and a chance for a break. But that’s not how it often plays out.

“Minimum is maximum staffing,” Letvak says. “We don’t have any easy days anymore. If the [patient load] is low, which happens all the time, they send the nurses home, instead of them having a light afternoon. How few do we need? That’s all that you’re getting. Every time you are at work, it is a bad day. There really isn’t a chance of having a lighter day anymore.”

Yet nurses should have the lightest days possible—like air traffic controllers, they do a job in which we accept no room for mistakes. Suppose you know that the ideal number of patients for a nurse is four—would you want to be number five?

While it may seem like a water is wet revelation to say nurses should care for fewer patients rather than get sent home, take a look at the work of Linda Aiken and her colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania. They have shown just how many lives are on the line when nurses are overworked. Give a nurse just one patient beyond four and the chances of that patient dying shoot up 7 percent and the chances of that nurse getting burned out climbs an astonishing 23 percent.

Overworking nurses extinguishes their lifesaving impact. Aiken and her team have shown elsewhere that every ten percent increase in the proportion of nurses with bachelor’s degrees lowers the risk of death for patients by five percent. A study by a different group found that a 10 percent increase in registered nursing staff saves five lives for every 1,000 people discharged. (If five saved lives doesn’t sound like a lot, try replacing “five” with five names of your loved ones.)

And while nurses care for a sicker and older population in an environment that is a burnout and depression generator, they may avoid mental health care for themselves, fearing that a hospital concerned first-and-foremost with the bottom line will use a mental health diagnosis against them.

“Think about the legalities,” says Letvak, who teaches on law and policy. “If a nurse made an error and something were to come out that they had depression, and then you can see the research that links depression and errors, that nurse just exposed herself to potential liability.”

Reposted from: https://tonic.vice.com/en_us/article/43nkjd/nurses-overworked-stressed-burnout?utm_source=vicefbus