Anonymous asked in Business & FinanceCareers & EmploymentHealth Care · 2 years ago

CNA’s/Nurses: What helped you “get over” smells?

I have been an NA for 8 months now and I love my job. I plan on going to nursing school to further my career in the healthcare field, and eventually become an RN. However, as ashamed as I am to say this, I have not “gotten used to” the smells that you encounter every day. Everyone has told me that over time, tasks like changing a colostomy bag would be a piece of cake the more I did it... but that has NOT been the case for me! When I run into these odors, I do my best to keep my composure because I know how important it is to display professionalism and provide a comfortable environment for the patient, and I would never want to make them feel worse than they already do. I’ve tried keeping a mint in my mouth but that doesn’t really help and holding my breath only does but so much because I need to breathe lol, so if anyone has any advice I’d love to hear it! I enjoy helping people and really don't want my sour stomach to get in the way of my dreams.

3 Answers

  • 2 years ago

    Well, the short answer is nothing. You never 'get over' smells ... but you should never want to!

    Smell is one of the most important senses I have as a nurse. It gives you a very quick feedback that something has changed.

    The smell of a room tells me whether rooms were cleaned on schedule or not. The smell of someones breath tells me if they ate or drank or skipped their meal or it wasnt served yet. The smell of bandages, wounds, the patient's breath, sweat, urine, faeces, and so on tells me if there is a change in their condition.

    Point is ... yukky smells are part of the job because it can tell you something important. But my temporary discomfort is worth it if it means we pick up on something quickly ... that is my advice to you. Yes it is hard not to react and yes you dont want to embarrass a patient with a reaction, but always be aware of changes. Good luck!!

  • Jason
    Lv 7
    2 years ago

    I've been in health care since 1992. That's been spent in ambulances, helicopters, aircraft, ERs and ICUs. I've never "gotten used" to some of the smells and sights. You simply push past it and do what needs doing.

    It's not unlike runners who keep running a marathon even though they have a stress fracture -- in the moment, you dig deep, find the *thing* inside you, and push through your limits. David Goggins is one of the most accomplished extreme distance runners in the world and a former Navy SEAL. He runs absolutely obscene distances (he's done more than one 200-mile race and countless other extreme distance races). Listen to him talk about it though: He HATES running. Every minute of it. There is nothing about running he likes. He hates training, he hates racing, he hates the whole mess. He does it precisely BECAUSE he hates it -- because that conditions his mind to do hard things. And conditioning his mind is extremely important to him. So he runs.

    You can take the same approach to dealing with sights and smells. Accept that you will never "get used" to them or like them -- but you can teach yourself to tough it out. When you are dealing with something like that, you can take the time in that moment to recognize that this is a moment of practice. You only get better at the things you do. No one ever got better at anything by not doing it. So every time you are dealing with a horrible smell or something, you are practicing dealing with horrible smells. You can consciously take a second to acknowledge that's what you're doing; that you are consciously practicing. If you can accept that moment as an opportunity to practice handling tough things, you get better at handling tough things. Not because the smells become pleasant but because you have taught yourself how to keep going despite the smell.

    GI bleed diarrhea will never smell good. It will always smell bad enough to gag a goat. There are zero nurses who *like* the smell of GI bleed. But there are countless nurses who've learned through practice how to push through that anyway and do what they need to. You can too. It's easier for some people than others but you are capable of doing it. Just like getting good at anything else in the world, it just takes practice.

    Best wishes.

    EDIT: Elizabeth hit on something important I'd like to echo too: Smell is an important assessment tool.

    Knowing that the distinctive stench that you're smelling today that you didn't yesterday is Pseudomonas can literally save a life by heading off a serious infection early. That horrible GI bleed smell? That might be the first clue you get that this person *has* a GI bleed. C. diff diarrhea... staph wound infections... liver failure... all of them and more have characteristic smells associated with them. A nurse who recognizes those can be a lifesaver for that patient.


    Source(s): Respiratory therapist (B.S., RRT, RPFT) Former paramedic and USAF flight medic Currently working on a master's in nursing
  • 2 years ago

    Some people are not affected because their noses don't work. For them, it is easy because they do not have an acute sense of smell. I do. I have a very acute sense of smell and I could not and would not handle it. Vile smells turn me right off. I won't go into more detail about that but if that job is not the job of an RN, then put up with it with your end goal in mind. If an RN does that too, then you are sunk. Maybe a related nursing position where you are not exposed to vile smells.

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