As a nurse in any field, from working in the Operating Room, to tirelessly braving the Nursing Home, we all have to deal with an occasional problem. This problem is one we consciously chose to deal with from the time we carried out our first clinical day in nursing school, and the ability to deal with it can make or break any nursing or medical student who first faces it. It alone, can separate the professional from the unprofessional, the heroes from the wimps.
What could this powerful obstacle possibly be?
It's the mighty force of patient odor.
There are a lot of reasons why an otherwise sweet-smelling woman can suddenly become rank during labor. The hormones, the increased discharge. The waking up in labor at 3 in the morning and rushing to the hospital without brushing your teeth and having dry mouth from all the breathing. (He He HOOOO!) The long hours of sweating and leaking.
Don't worry. As long as you are a person who bathes, under certain circumstances you just can't help it, and we don't hold it against you. We just wash you. And if that doesn't work, we have some other tricks up our sleeves to help ourselves manage it. One trick is to sneak a tiny smear of an alcohol wipe or even some essential oil (from our "natural labor" kits) under our nose or the inside of our mask so we subtly smell peppermint instead of an undesirable odor.
A nurse friend of mine, we'll call her Maggie, was having a particularly hard time one night with a patient that unfortunately went beyond the normal limits of circumstantial odor. Even after she encouraged the patient to labor in the bathtub for a while, the smell was still unquenchable. Dismayed, my friend realized that the stench was not only coming from the patient, but her husband as well. This was no problem of a sweaty circumstance. This was a long-lived hygiene neglecting disaster. Maggie was having to battle gagging and nausea because it was so bad.
Having confided in the rest of us, Maggie was at her patient's bedside when another nurse knocked on the patient's door and asked if she had a moment. Stepping out, the nurse slipped Maggie a small bottle of Vick's Vapo-Rub, a wonderful comfort for colds, and in this case, an effective stink cover-up. New hope arising, Maggie figured that if a little under the nose was good, then a whole lot is better! This was a case for a full nostril lube-up. Desperate, she took her two forefingers, and scooped up the salve...and up her nose it went.
She stepped back into the patient's room and took a breath to speak. All at once, fire went up her nose, down her throat, out her eyeballs and stifled her words mid-sentence, "How are you do....hugghhh(gasp)...innggg?"
The amazing thing about nurses is that they are Oscar-worthy actresses. It's always about the patient. Did this nurse ever waver? Did she drop her professional air during those next moments of pain and terror? Did she ever draw attention to herself even though tears were rolling down her face and her "M's" became "B's" as she spoke? ("Don't worry about baking a bess if your bebbranes rupture.") Of course not! Not her!
But that stuff don't wash off....
Yep...she had to go home.