Next Career, No Body Fluids

XXXL Pajama Pants pencil and pastel by jparadisi 2012

“Next career, no body fluids.”

That’s what I tell myself.

I admire hospital management their ability to wear cute dresses and pumps to work or, if they are male, slacks and sweaters. Oh, and jewelry: modestly dangling earrings and longish necklaces. I knew the most talented and charming surgeon who got away with it too, mostly because she’s so damn good at what she does. I once saw her come from the OR wearing green surgical scrubs, a string of black pearls around her neck, and pumps covered in paper surgery booties. I was so impressed I splurged on a string of black pearls for myself, and wore them to work with green surgical scrubs too. Imitation truly is the best form of flattery.

I digress.

I don’t wear cute dresses, few necklaces, or modestly dangling earrings to work because I do direct patient care.  A pediatric nurse quickly learns dangling jewelry is a handhold for infants and children to grab, snapping them or ripping an earlobe. Adult patients suffering dementia put a nurse and his or her jewelry at risk too, and long necklaces tangle into stethoscopes.

The other day, in the adult ambulatory clinic, I started an IV. Unexpectedly, a gush of blood erupted, running warm down my pant leg as if it were the slope of a volcano. I couldn’t get my leg out of the way because I was trying to keep up a calm facade for my patient (“Everything is just fine, just fine.”) while frantically taping the IV in a successful effort to maintain it. When I saw the blood on my pant leg, it looked like I had stabbed myself.

I remembered the last time my clothes were soiled this badly at work. I was a new PICU nurse and a child threw up ALL OVER my pink scrubs.  A nursing supervisor acquired clean scrubs from the OR dressing room for me, and I finished my shift.

I work in an outpatient setting now. There are no kindly nursing supervisors willing to go to the OR for fresh scrubs. I had to think of something else.

In ambulatory care, patients wear their own clothes. Our linen closet is not stocked with an array of gowns or pajama bottoms; however, I managed to find a pair of XXXL pale blue drawstring pajama bottoms stuffed behind the fitted bed sheets. They were so gi-normous, I had to hike and tie the drawstring waist at my bust line. The pant legs were three times wider than both my legs put together. You can imagine how ridiculous I looked (if you can’t, I drew a picture for you above) even with a white lab coat buttoned over the ensemble to hide it. My coworkers were busy, and unaware of my dilemma. When one noticed, all she could say was, “Uh oh.”

Clearly, I needed another plan. Fortuitously, David had the day off, and was near where I work. I called for help, and he brought a pair of pants for me from home. I changed, and resumed patient care.

Apparently, I need a preparedness plan for my clothing at work. Do any ambulatory care nurses have one?

Next career, no body fluids.

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