Dealing with not-so-pleasant smells is common in the nursing profession. Vomit, feces, infections, body odors...c-diff are everyday occurrences in the life of a nurse. Yes, some nurses eventually “get used to” foul odors while others continue to struggle. Overall, we do our absolute best to show empathy and maintain the dignity of our patients.
Scientifically and evolutionary speaking, humans are turned off by foul odors as a defense mechanism - bad odors are associated with illness and disease.
Of course, our bodies have developed a coping mechanism for dealing with bad smells that last longer than a few seconds. For most people, our noses will be attracted to better-smelling aromas.
Still, many nurses continue to struggle to cope with foul odors. We asked our nursing community of over 300K nurses on Instagram to share their best tips.
Here is what they recommended:
1. Research the patient’s chart before entering the room.
If a patient just defecated or vomited there’s really no way to prepare for that. However, a review of the patient’s chart will tell you if they have some other infection that may produce an odor. Know their condition and prepare accordingly.
2. Keep your patient and their room clean.
You can control some odors by keeping the patient’s body clean, cleaning up smelly messes promptly and keeping their room tidy.
3. Follow these tips to decrease odors
Put coffee grounds in the patient’s room. Coffee grounds are powerful and absorb all sorts of smells.
Wear two masks and overpower the bad smell with these tips:
Carry a travel-size container of vapor rub, apply under the nose
Essential oils such as lavender or peppermint: apply to the wrist and under the nose.
Wear mint flavored chapstick
Chew strong mint-flavored gum
Put a dab of toothpaste between the two masks
4. Breath through your mouth.
Many nurses report feeling like they “taste” the smell. Might not be for everyone but, worth a try!
5. Think empathetic thoughts.
Nursing and empathy go hand-in-hand when dealing with patients. Simply replacing negative thoughts with empathic thoughts can change how you react to smells.
Nursing is so much more than learning to cope with foul odors but, we hope these tips will provide relief to those who are struggling.
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