“I wouldn’t be able to do what you do,” people say. My proud answer? You’re right: you wouldn’t be able to do my job! Here are ten things nurses can handle that most people can’t.
1. Emptying colostomy bags. Emptying these out is bad enough – you end up holding a container of intestinal sludge. Sometimes though, these bags are just full of gas, and all you can do it letter’ rip! Fun stuff.
2. Getting under those skin folds. You’re fooling yourself if you say you’ve done a thorough assessment without peeking under skin folds. That’s where you find the real good stuff: redness, rashes, bleeding, infections, accompanied by all kinds of wonderful sights and scents!
3. Nasty pressure ulcers. Those pictures you see in textbooks don’t do pressure ulcers justice. There’s nothing quite like sticking six inches of q-tip into a tunneling wound, or cleaning out infectious goo using just bravery and a handful of saline flushes.
4. Clipping/cleaning toenails. Toes are already kind of icky unless they’re your own. Toe nails are one step beyond icky. Make that hardened, yellowing, and possibly fungus-infected – now it’s a party.
5. Getting sputum samples. “Hello! I noticed you have a very wet, productive cough, and apparently the doctor has noticed too. So why don’t you point that cough over here and let me get some of that mystery-color throat jelly for my collection jar? Wonderful, thank you!”
6. Preparing a corpse. It’s creepy. This most often happens in ICU’s – but you never know. There’s more corpse handling than you ever thought you’d have to do – cleaning, manipulating, bagging, putting it on a stretcher, and even carting it down to a morgue. I’d rather wipe butts any day.
7. Manual Disimpaction. So people thought wiping butts was bad? Well it’s better than hooking your finger into one to start mining for the brown gold. Chip away at that rock-hard grapefruit-sized stool and hope you have a really good glove on.
8. Administering a Suppository. I guess you’d say this is the opposite of the last one – instead of picking something out, you’re poking something in. It’s usually quick and quite painless – but not one of my favorite routes of administration.
9. Playing ‘catch the vomit.’ The patient’s about to throw up. You grab an emesis/kidney basin. Emesis basin… that’s what it’s called, so that’s what it’s for, right? Wrong. Whoever came up with the names for those things clearly has an evil sense of humor. And here you are, stuck catching the vomit with your pink kidney-shaped joke.
10. Getting Stool Samples. ..I get that poop is gross. But as long as you can dump it into the toilet, or wipe it and throw it in the trash it’s alright. But what about scooping it up with a spoon thingy? Especially when it’s more of a…soup-like consistency? That just feels wrong.
Whew! Take off your masks. Well if there’s anything you’ve had to do (or have had done to you) at work that tops these, great! Please keep it to yourself. Just kidding – you know we don’t care – we’re nurses!