Some of the comments on the previous post surprised me.
Yes, maybe I am a little squeamish when it comes to bodily fluids. But it seems like it would be different if it were my own kids. Who, hopefully, wouldn't be harboring the kinds of infections that many of my patients are.
If my child threw up on me, I would feel icky, sure.
But if a patient threw up on me, I would feel like running into a decontamination shower, and would probably throw up too.
And so would you. I think.
Even if you're used to what comes out of your pets and your children, I think it's different when it's a homeless guy with scabies and bedbugs and the plague. Maybe that sounds bad, I don't know. Maybe it makes me a terrible person to not want to touch my patients who have open sores all over their bodies, or to go near my patients who smell like sewage.
My hair touched a patient's arm the other day, just barely grazed me, did not make any real contact. And I couldn't stop thinking about it for the rest of the day, and the first thing I did when I walked into my apartment is take a shower.
The first thing I do every day when I walk into my apartment is take a shower. I smell. After a day of work, I smell like hospital patients. I don't want to smell like hospital patients.
I signed up for this, sure. I absolutely signed up for this. And I don't blame the patients for whatever they come to the hospital with. We're here to treat them, it's our job, I totally understand that. It does not make my patients bad people if they have body lice, or if they haven't showered in six weeks, or if they have pink eye. I will treat them. I will do what I can for them.
But it doesn't mean I want to give them a hug, and it doesn't mean I'm not putting on gloves whenever I'm anywhere near them.
Look, some of the things I'm talking about-- smells, urine, vomit-- probably aren't going to actually make me ill, they're just unpleasant.
But I have no interest in bringing home bedbugs or scabies, or catching any illness I don't have to catch.
And then there are the real dangers. I know two residents who've had needle sticks when dealing with patients with HIV, and they've had to take six weeks of HIV post-exposure prophylaxis drugs-- which has side effects-- diarrhea, headaches, fatigue. Not fun. A risk I signed up for, but I don't want it.
Patients scare me. They have things I don't want. This should not be controversial. We're still people, who are still icked out by whatever we were icked out by before we became doctors.