Medical professionals and the ‘yuk’ factor

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  • #10144

    To medical professionals such as doctors, nurses, paramedics: What goes through your mind when you see a terrible trauma or a patient suffering from a particularly gory illness? I sometimes watch the surgery channel on cable television because I’m interested in the way the body works, so I’m not disgusted by blood or the sight of whole organs, like a heart pumping away in a cracked chest, for example. However, the sight and sound of the rib-spreader being used to get to the heart makes me want to vomit. How about when someone has been burned, shot or in a car accident? How about caring for patients who need you to empty their bedpans? There are things I am sure would make you think, ‘Oh gross!’ in your professions, but I’ve never seen a medical professional express any particular feeling about what they’re looking at other than how to fix it. Is this a quality you have to have before you enter your line of work? Do you just learn to be a good actor? Are you too concerned with the patient’s well-being to worry about how nasty something might be to look at, do or touch?

    User Detail :  

    Name : Jennifer R., Gender : F, Sexual Orientation : Straight, Race : Black/African American, Religion : Humanist, Age : 29, City : Saint Paul, State : MN Country : United States, Occupation : Writer/Student, Education level : 4 Years of College, Social class : Middle class, 
    #36215

    SG
    Participant

    I believe it’s a combination of (as you said) being a good actor and having to get the job done. I’m a general internist, so I don’t see a lot of gore, but I do get exposed to things that bother me, such as infected sebaceous cysts and fecal impactions (smells are what get to me.) But someone’s got to do it, and the patients feel so much better after you treat them. Also, the patients are often embarrassed about the problem, and I don’t want to make them feel worse. I try not to laugh when women apologize for not shaving their legs; it seems so minor. A lot of it is what you’re used to, too. My brother, a dentist, can’t believe I do pap smears, while I wouldn’t want to spend my whole day working on people’s mouths.

    User Detail :  

    Name : SG, Gender : F, Sexual Orientation : Straight, Race : White/Caucasian, Religion : Christian, Age : 46, City : Jacksonville, State : FL Country : United States, Occupation : physician, Education level : Over 4 Years of College, Social class : Upper class, 
    #29143

    Diana
    Member

    I think you get used to bedpans, etc., over time. It’s not a pleasant job by any means, but if you have become a nurse, this is a big part of it. Some things are “ugh,” and some things are OK. If you have a queasy stomach, nursing is not for you. These things don’t bother me. The only thing I can never get over is losing a patient, especially someone I grew fond of.

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    Name : Diana, Gender : F, Sexual Orientation : Straight, Race : Italian, Religion : Catholic, Age : 53, City : Richmond, State : VA Country : United States, Occupation : nurse, Education level : Technical School, 
    #46394

    Leslie22894
    Participant

    My first thought: It’s yuck, gross and ick! My immediate second thought is concern for the patient’s welfare. While it may be yucky for me to SEE it, I’m not the one having to EXPERIENCE it. So my primary thoughts are concern and empathy for the individual experiencing it. I don’t ‘act’ to hide that something is gross. The patient knows it’s gross, I know it’s gross and all are more comfortable when that is openly acknowledged and discussed. However, I will say that once one is in the medical field for a few years, you become quite desensitized to what may seem repulsive. When you see/smell/hear things over and over again, they lose their shock value. Very few things shock me or gross me out anymore – though having to deal with a patient’s bowel problems can still disgust me. I think that this desensitization is a part of the lack of response from medical professionals that you have noticed.

    User Detail :  

    Name : Leslie22894, Gender : F, Race : White/Caucasian, Age : 26, City : Gainesville, State : FL Country : United States, Occupation : Psychologist, Education level : Over 4 Years of College, Social class : Upper middle class, 
    #41475

    Josie29153
    Participant

    I’m a volunteer firefighter/EMT and have seen some traumas and burn victims. It’s definitely not pretty, I’ll give you that, but when I am on a call, I have a job to do. I protect life and property, and sometimes life is a little yuckier to protect, but I do it. I know that what I do helps my patient feel better. Any little bit of reassurance I can give them, like a smile, might just help them know that it is going to be OK in the end. It is good acting sometimes, but you just suck it up and do the job. And just ask any EMT, paramedic or firefighter: If something bothers us, we talk about it once we get back to our station. It’s like therapy with people who saw the same things you did. In the field it’s all professional, but at the station, you can talk it up.

    User Detail :  

    Name : Josie29153, Gender : F, Sexual Orientation : Straight, Race : White/Caucasian, Religion : Catholic, Age : 22, City : Punxsutawney, State : PA Country : United States, Occupation : waitress/firefighter/EMT, Education level : High School Diploma, Social class : Lower middle class, 
    #44447

    Kerry
    Member

    I’d have to agree with the poster who said you just kind of get used to it. I worked in nursing homes for three years, and things happen. It’s like she said: you have an empathy and sympathy for the person experiencing it, and then start calculating what you need to do about it.

    User Detail :  

    Name : Kerry, Gender : F, Sexual Orientation : Lesbian, Race : White/Caucasian, Religion : Wiccan, Age : 31, City : Ventura, State : CA Country : United States, Occupation : Stage Worker, Education level : 4 Years of College, Social class : Middle class, 
    #47688

    Kevin L.
    Member

    In my line of work I’ve seen it all. Yet I know there is still more to see. The site of burned flesh does not bother me. It looks waxy, like a candle. The smell, however, stays in your sinuses for weeks. I have worked in EMS and the Fire Service for more than 10 years, and the one thing that keeps you from being ‘grossed out’ is your professionalism. Would you return to a doctor who told you the infection you had was repulsive looking and smelling? I think not. I would not refer to it as being an actor. Most in this type of work have true compassion for their patients. If you don’t, you will burn out. Trauma (accidents, stabbings, gunshots, etc.) tends to shake up most people. This is where I do my best work. I and most of my coworkers thrive under pressure. What greater pressure could there be than working in the worst conditions to save a life? You have to enjoy it because it sure doesn’t pay in the bank account. The worst things I? Abused and neglected elderly and children. That makes me sick.

    User Detail :  

    Name : Kevin L., Gender : M, Sexual Orientation : Straight, Race : White/Caucasian, Religion : Catholic, Age : 29, City : Porterville, State : CA Country : United States, Occupation : Firefighter / EMT, Education level : 2 Years of College, Social class : Lower middle class, 
    #30625

    Marie H.
    Member

    As a critical care nurse, I have seen a lot of things that are gross, bad traumas and injuries and diseases, and even just poop or vomit. You have to be able to deal with the person or the family professionally. I’d have to say that professionalism is key. You don’t want to alienate your patient or family by making faces or saying rude comments about something which the patient has no control over. The patient is there to be treated as a human being, and that means with kindness and respect. I may talk about it with other nurses in private, but never in front of the patient. Plus, you get kind of used to it.

    User Detail :  

    Name : Marie H., Gender : F, Sexual Orientation : Straight, Race : White/Caucasian, Religion : Lutheran, Age : 29, City : Utica, State : NY Country : United States, Occupation : RN, Education level : 4 Years of College, Social class : Middle class, 
    #25972

    L-L
    Participant

    You become desensitized to the ‘icky’ things. In school, people were always a bit apprehensive about certain situations at first. Either because they were ‘gross’ or feared caring for that person. Yet we see these situations every day and truly do not notice certain gross thing. I tend to focus my vision and thinking to particular items. I work in a critical care area and have seen many ‘digusting’ things. Yet I never acknowledge if anything should make me feel that way. I am only watching, someone else is feeling it. The patient does not need to be made to feel gross or icky. They are a human. We are treating them, and it is just the human body. You truly do get used to seeing these things on a regular basis, and it becomes a normal occurrence for you. While you care for that patients emotions and provide support, sometimes while providing care you must distance yourself and view the problem at hand just as a phsyiological process that is seperate from any actual human. The patients well being is first and foremost in the mind. What may be odd or icky for other people, is an every day happening for health care workers. You just become desensitized to it. It starts off as something ‘icky’ yet becomes something you truly are comfortable with. Besides, it is just a human body and human functions. Nothing to be ashamed of there. If health care providers are comfortable with it, it helps the family and patient to be more comfortable with their diagnosis.

    User Detail :  

    Name : L-L, Gender : F, Sexual Orientation : Straight, Religion : Catholic, Age : 23, City : Miami, State : FL Country : United States, Occupation : Nurse, Education level : 4 Years of College, Social class : Middle class, 
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