Why Do You Want to Be a Nurse?

This is another one of those nagging questions from well-meaning friends and loved ones. You can usually explain yourself and move on. When this question comes from another nurse, it can be more troublesome. Why should a nurse feel this way? There are a multitude of reasons and this is something you'll need to explore with the nurse as an individual. You'll need to take his or her answers under consideration and with a grain of salt.

Nursing is a highly skilled profession. You need the ability to understand math and science, as well as have great compassion for people. You need a strong desire to want to make a difference in the quality of a person's life every day.

You will learn to glean your rewards from seeing how you've helped someone, even if just a little. You will take with you a satisfaction that you have given it your best shot and tried everything you know how to do, even if you think you've failed.

What if I'm squeamish?

Most nurses do have either a weak stomach or an aversion for something involved in patient care. Overcoming this is an acquired art. Give yourself some time and try some of the tips and tricks discussed in this chapter.

But what if I can't handle the sight of blood? What if needles terrify me? What if I can't stand the smell of hospitals? What if I pass out at the sight of an open wound? What if I gag at the sight of excrement and bodily secretions? These are definitely challenges you will have to face. Your strong desire to be a nurse can help you to come to grips with your fears and aversions.

Those who can't understand your desire to be a nurse will wonder why in the world you would want to deal with these things. Or why you would want to have to take math and science courses beyond what was required in high school. You know why you want to be a nurse, even if you can't put it into words.

Getting back to those difficult questions, let's explore them one at a time.

What If I Can't Handle the Sight of Blood?

In many instances, the blood you've been exposed to is either yours or that of a close friend or loved one. The sight of your own blood has usually involved pain. Your body's response incorporates a natural defense mechanism and you may feel faint or nauseated as a result.

When a friend or loved one is injured, your emotional response incorporates this mechanism and you may have the same type of response. This is not to say you won't have the same response to a stranger's blood, but it should be less of an issue. It is something that you can and will develop a level of tolerance to given time. Additionally, as a nurse you will often automatically move into an “emergency/help mode,” and you won't really have time to worry about your own response.

What If Needles Terrify Me?

Again, as the nurse, you won't be on the receiving end. Learning to handle and use hypodermics and IV needles prior to injecting a patient will help you to have a new respect for needles. As an instrument to help you assist the patient in getting well or alleviating pain, needles will take on a different meaning to you.

In fact, your own fears will help you to be a better nurse. You'll wield the needles with more compassion and you'll be sure to take the time to help the patient tolerate the procedure better.

What If I Can't Stand the Smell of Hospitals?

First, your intolerance is probably linked to a scary or unpleasant experience in a hospital. As a student and then as a nurse, your experience will be on a different level. Also, like anything else, the more time you spend around an odor, the less you can smell it. At first, you may find that everything smells like the hospital and then it will begin to fade. As you spend time in the hospital and understand what makes some of the smells, your fears will fade as well.

One way of dealing with unpleasant smells is to use a little camphor or eucalyptus oil on the tip of your nose to mask the smell until you become more comfortable in a hospital setting.

There is a common misperception that the smells are emanating from sick people, but, in fact, it is usually a combination of cleaning chemicals, food odors, plants and flowers of all varieties, a multitude of perfumes and body scents, and all the people congregating in a space that has no open windows.

What If I Pass Out at the Sight of an Open Wound?

Once again, whose open wound was it? Was it yours and was it painful? Or was it a friend or loved one's wound? Again your emotional response combined with your body's defense mechanisms was most likely causing you to faint.

If someone else has already seen the wound you are about to go and re-dress, ask that person what it looks like. If you already have a vision in your mind, you'll be more prepared for what you find. Surprises can make the experience a lot worse. Read the chart, what was the latest description? Are there any photos in there? Be prepared and it won't be as bad as you anticipated.

Wounds, especially large, infected ones, are not a favorite of any nurse. Wound ostomy nurses who specialize in wound care seem to be more tolerant and can even discuss them over meals, but in general this is something that you will develop your own way of coping with.

What If I Gag at the Sight of Excrement and Bodily Secretions?

It's usually the smell that will get to you. If you can do something to avoid or mask the smell this helps. Breathing through your mouth helps. You can also cough. It's impossible to cough and gag at the same time.

Your main concern will be helping the patient retain some dignity. Just get in there and do what you have to do. Turn your head away, close your eyes and relax for a second, and remind yourself that you can do this! Comforting and reassuring the patient will get you through it.

Remember, many a nurse has discreetly gone straight from the patient's room to the bathroom when it's all said and done. Nurses are not robots. Don't let your fears keep you from becoming a nurse. You will learn to cope.

When someone asks you why you would want to be a nurse, the answer is that you want to make a difference in the quality of someone's life every day!

Another suggestion for helping to disguise unpleasant odors and to keep from gagging, is to pop a hard candy or cough drop with a strong menthol, mint, or cinnamon flavor in your mouth just before you go into the room. Gum with a strong flavor will help as well, but the taste may not last as long as the candy's.

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