The Yuck Factor – 9 Gross Things Nurses Have to Deal with On the Job

Gross nursing stories

Most nurses have their own gross nursing stories to tell and be proud of. But do you know that even though nurses normally deal with all kinds of body fluids and secretions at work there are still some things that exceed expectations?



Do the following seem familiar?

1. Phlegm

Most nurses have seen all kinds of phlegm around. They can name all descriptions of phlegm you can think of – whether it’s yellow, green or white and whether it sticky, loose or gelatinous. From phlegm collection up to sputum suctioning, nurses deal with it in their everyday bedside care tasks.

Yuck Factor: Have you heard the sound of tracheal suctioning in a patient with productive sputum? Some nurses find it as the most satisfying sound around while others can’t stand it. Also, there are weird colors of sputum you will find once in a while like pink and violet.

2. Mouth Care

You will be surprised with what you will find in a patient’s oral cavity when doing mouth care especially among elderly patients. Cleaning dentures with plaques and residual chewed food contents is the best. Not to mention the indescribable smell you can’t help but sniff when doing a patient’s first mouth care.

Yuck Factor: Removing days-old food debris from the surface of the patient’s tongue is gag-inducing for some nurses. It’s also surprising to see how much food debris can be scraped off.

3. Feces

Nurses even have their own code when cleaning their patients’ feces – the famous code brown alert! Change of diapers filled with the golden brown stuff is normally part of a nurse’s everyday bedside care. The task is even more adventuresome when dealing with elderly patients.

Yuck Factor: Have you tried emptying a patient’s colostomy bag? This task is like squishing out toothpaste from a tube. Sometimes when you are lucky, the bag is just full of gas.


4. Vomit

When a patient is about to throw up, nurses have to catch it with the emesis basin. Or worse if you are not fast enough, you have to assist the patient in cleaning up the mess.

The characteristics of different patients’ vomitus are diverse ranging from fresh blood, food and plain gastric juice. The smell is also incomparable to other body fluids.

Yuck Factor: Call it a baptism of fire but it’s not uncommon for nurses to get showered with vomit. Yes, their hair, scrubs or shoes get the occasional vomit treatment from their patients.

funnest nurse gif

Also Read: 40 Funniest Nursing Gifs on Tumblr

5. Skin Folds

There are many wonders underneath a patient’s skin folds. Doing a thorough nursing assessment includes peeking under those skin folds and that’s when you will find interesting stuff like rashes, fungal infections, breaks and many more.

Seasoned nurses even have their own gross nursing stories after checking under those skin folds.

Yuck Factor: Some nurses have discovered ticks, maggots and other parasites. The smell is also deadly!

6. Manual Disimpaction

When you think wiping other people’s feces is already bad, think about manual disimpaction. It is a procedure where you will do manual evacuation of feces by inserting your gloved finger into the anal canal and breaking up the impacted feces with a scoop-like motion.

It doesn’t only smell bad. There’s also how the patient reacts to the discomfort the procedure brings.

Yuck Factor: Most nurses do triple-gloving for manual disimpaction as the procedure leaves a lasting unpleasant scent in the hands afterwards.


Also Read: 100 Funniest Nursing Memes on Pinterest – Our Special Collection

7. Pressure Ulcers

Pressure ulcers are not the simple red sores you see in textbooks. Most of the time, they are oozing with whitish to yellowish sticky secretions and plugged with unpleasant smell. Sometimes, the skin integrity within a pressure ulcer is so weak that you can actually dig deeper and make a small tunnel inside it during cleaning.

Yuck Factor: When severely infected, chronic pressure ulcers harbor maggots. You can also see edges of the patient’s bone structures in severe cases.

8. Handling of Corpse

Post-mortem care doesn’t only appear disgusting as it also looks creepy for most people. Once a patient expires, nurses need to clean and seal the patient for morgue transfer.

The expired patient’s nose, mouth, ears and anus normally ooze with blood and other body fluids after death so thorough cleaning is important to preserve the integrity of the patient’s body. The task is even more challenging if you got no help and you need to do post-mortem care alone.

Yuck Factor: Once rigor mortis sets in, it’s even harder to do post-mortem care. For this reason, seasoned nurses aim to do it in the quickest way possible.


Also Read: 250 Funniest Nursing Quotes and Ecards

9. Close Encounter with Body Organs

Seeing body organs in a patient who is alive is different from seeing them in pictures and videos. This is the reason why it is not surprising to see nurses and other healthcare workers collapse during an ongoing operation.

The most commonly hated body organs during operative procedure are eyeballs, brain, intestines and heart.

Yuck Factor: Some people are fine with seeing body organs in a live patient but when they hear the sounds produced during an ongoing operative procedure, they almost pass out. What are these sounds? Imagine hearing a little saw drilling a bone. Most sound-sensitive people can’t stand it.

The work of a nurse is full of diversity. You will never have the same experience and story with each patient you take care of.

What about you, do you have your own gross nursing stories to share? Let us know in our FB page!