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When OTs Wore White Shoes

A Squeamish OT

Published August 11, 2014 10:39 AM by Debra Karplus
I have a confession to make, that many of my friends do not even know about me; though many people perceive me as being "tough," I am really easily "grossed out." Snakes do not bother me; and spiders frighten me only because my last encounter with an eight-legged "friend" landed me in the hospital emergency room. But, if a screening or test for squeamishness had been part of getting into occupational therapy school, then I would probably have ended up with a career in a non-medical setting working at a desk job. "Easily nauseated or disgusted" was the definition of that I found when I looked up "squeamish" using the online dictionary. For me, the problem is not with seeing blood; it's more about seeing something gross on a human body, especially near the face such as the eyes.

When I was finishing my coursework in OT school, in a neurology class we viewed a movie about the eye. I felt myself turning white and slithering out of my seat and onto the floor during the film. Fortunately I came to, before the lights came back on and any of my classmates knew what had happened to me. A few years later, as an OT working in a nursing home, I worked with a lovely patient who was a new above the knee amputee. Training in dressing skills with my patient, I again felt faint as I took a look at her fresh stump. We pulled the nurse call light in her room, not for her, but to help me.  When I am getting a medical procedure, especially one that involves needles, I have learned to give the lab technician a head's up, and I know to just look the other way.  This simple solution has rescued me from many potential fainting spells.

I searched online seeking statistics or other information using keywords "squeamish health care professionals".  I didn't really find what I thought I was looking for, but I did see several lists of medical professions that would be good for squeamish people who opted for a medical career. Some of the jobs listed such as pharmacist or medical records administrator didn't surprise me, but I really did not expect to find home health aide or physical therapist on such a list. Home health care aide is certainly not a comparable job to OT in terms of schooling and pay, but going into anyone's home, you just never know what you might see, be it with your patient or a family member or someone in their home while a home health care aide is providing service  Physical therapy, of course, is comparable to OT, but if OT's working in medical settings may encounter "gross stuff", certainly PTs can as well.

I'd enjoy hearing some comments on this blog from other OTs and health care providers who are squeamish and how they have dealt with this issue on the job.  I haven't been shy here, people; neither should you!

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