7 Gross Duties You’ll Have as a Nurse (Is Nursing For You?)

7 Gross Duties You’ll Have as a Nurse (Is Nursing For You?)

10 February 2020 By Kate

7 Gross Duties You’ll Have as a Nurse (Is Nursing For You?)

Being a nurse isn’t easy, especially for someone with a sensitive stomach. From blood and vomit to pus and disease, nursing definitely isn’t for the faint of heart. 

We’ve outlined the top 7 grossest duties of a nurse so you can decide for yourself whether nursing is for you.

7. Working with Blood

We’re starting off easy with an obvious one: blood. As a nurse, you’ll encounter a lot of blood whether it’s during a draw or wound dressing. Being comfortable around blood and needles is an absolute must for being a nurse—this is a baseline. We put this first on the list because it may make some squeamish, but it doesn’t smell and isn’t particularly gross compared to the next six things nurses have to deal with.

6. Handling Corpses

Death is an inescapable presence in a hospital, so it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll encounter a dead body as a medical nurse. The death of a patient is hard to come to terms with emotionally, but those who are squeamish may also have a hard time with the concept of early decomposition and the cold, clammy feeling of a deceased body. Depending on the cause of death, the body may also begin to smell, which can be hard to stomach. Luckily, corpses are usually removed before anything starts to get exceptionally gross. 

5. Changing a Bedpan

Fecal matter. One of the many, gross bodily fluids you will encounter as a nurse. As a nurse, you will be expected to change, empty, and clean patients’ bedpans. You get up close and personal with the excrement of your patients and often may need to do some cleaning and wiping of the area before replacing the pan. Sometimes you may find yourself with excrement in places you didn’t think were possible, so it’s important to be prepared no matter what. The smell of fecal matter can be too much for some, but if you have children, you may already be desensitized from the smell and sight.

4. Cleaning Vomit

Again, if you’re a parent, you might already be used to this one, but for someone without a strong stomach, cleaning up vomit can be a horrible task. Sure, human excrement can migrate, but usually, it’s pretty localized. Unfortunately, vomit can end up anywhere meaning you’ll likely have to clean floors, sheets, clothes, and equipment, which will prolong your exposure. The smell of vomit can range from being tolerable to really bad, and given its acidic contents, might end up burned into your nostrils and mouth for a few days. It may take a couple of showers and a lot of perfume to get the smell out of your senses.

3. Cleaning Infections

As a nurse, you will encounter infections in all parts of the body. You will undoubtedly need to clean them out by scraping or draining before sterilizing the wounds and dressing them. Infections that are exceptionally bad can be full of odor-producing bacterial colonies and pus. Some of the worst cases of infections can attract flies, encouraging them to lay their eggs in the wound, which ultimately means you could end up removing a horrifying number of maggots.

2. Clearing Respiratory Tract

When someone arrives with a respiratory issue, as a nurse, you’ll need to help clear it out. The gunk that gets cleaned out is called sputum, and it’s not a pretty sight. Sputum is a mixture of mucus and saliva that is coughed up from diseased lower trachea and bronchi—before being coughed up, it’s called phlegm. Since it’s usually the result of pulmonary infection or disease, it often contains pus and bacterial colonies, which frequently come with a nasty smell. Sputum can come in all sorts of colors and consistencies, none of which are nice to look at. Sputum is collected for laboratory testing so the problem can be accurately identified straight from the source.

1. Sponging Under the Folds

One of the absolute grossest things nurses do is scrubbing under skin folds. Depending on the health and hygiene of the patient, skin folds can hide some nasty things. Lifting a skin fold that hasn’t been cleaned in a few months can house anything from rashes to maggots and everything in between. Skin folds can hide nasty infections home to countless bacteria, but unlike the infections we touched on above, skin folds don’t have access to airflow, which will make the stench even worse than a conventional infected wound. The thought, look, and odor of it all might trigger queasiness and fainting in those with sensitive stomachs.

How to Get Over Gross Things as a Nurse

Interested in medicine, but this list makes you sick? You’ll need to desensitize yourself for nursing. Before paying for a program, you should definitely make sure you’re up for the challenge. Spend some time looking at photos of diseases, infections, and graphic medical photos to build a tolerance. Although many nurses say the smells are worse than the sights, preparing yourself using images on the internet is definitely a solid first step forward. Seeing the horrors in person will certainly be worse than on a screen, so exposure over a few years is the only way to completely get over them.

A Nursing Alternative—Medical Assisting

There’s no getting around the gross stuff, so if you can’t handle these nurse duties, this profession might not be for you. If you still think medicine is your calling, you can look into medical assisting. Medical Assistants will be asked to perform “hands-on” tasks like taking blood pressure, testing reflexes, medical coding, and billing, but not anything on this list. At Pioneer Pacific College, we offer Medical Assisting programs that can prepare you for a rewarding career in healthcare that does not involve sputum and maggots.

Nursing student dressing a wound at Pioneer Pacific

Not Grossed Out Yet?

Can you handle being a nurse? Here at Pioneer Pacific College, you can learn everything you need to know about nursing so you can mentally and emotionally prepare yourself for the stomach-churning horrors that you will undoubtedly encounter as an RN, LPN, or LVN. We offer a 50-week practical nursing program in addition to several other degrees and diplomas, that you may need for your future medical career.

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Enroll in one of our nursing programs today!

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