While reading this, please keep in mind that it’s 0630 after a night shift. I’ve had a solid two hours of sleep in the last 24 hours so please don’t judge me if I ramble.
You know, sometimes being awake in the wee hours of the morning makes me ponder things.
Tonight, I was pondering the many, many comments I get from from community members, patients, and patients’ families about ER staff and personal hygiene.
Not the staff’s personal hygiene, mind you.
The patient’s personal hygiene.
By now you may be confused.
Let me explain, in the form of a story…
Once upon a time (the day before yesterday), I met a patient, and the patient’s daughter. Let’s call her Sue.
Sue’s mom was under my care for a little while, and during that time we discussed a variety of different topics, and somewhere along the way the subject of leg hair came up.
“Don’t mind my hairy legs” says Sue’s mom.
“Ha! You should see mine.” Says I.
“Winter is coming.” says Sue’s mom. “I need to stay warm!”
“Absolutely! Otherwise you might freeze.” Agrees I.
Sue sat and stared at me.
“So much for shaving my legs in case I have to go to emergency.” says Sue.
That’s not the first time I’ve heard a comment like that, and I really doubt it’ll be the last.
See, somewhere along the way patients labelled ER staff with a stigma.
The stigma says that we staff have a total aversion to hairy legs, hairy armpits, hairy chests, mismatched underwear, socks with holes in them, or dirty boots.
The stigma says that if we are performing CPR on you, and all of a sudden happen to notice any of the above, we’ll immediately stop.
We’ll step back.
Throw up our hands.
“I’m not saving this person’s life anymore! Their legs haven’t been shaved in a week.”
And we’ll walk away. Wander down the hall. Wash our hands.
Ha. Yeah right.
Sorry, Sue, and all the other patients out there…
If you have hairy legs, or hairy armpits, or a hairy chest, or mismatched underwear, or socks with holes in them, or dirty boots,
we actually won’t stop saving your life in disgust of your body hair or your choice of style.
We’ll actually just ignore it and focus on what really matters: airway, breathing, and circulation.
Yes, we promote personal hygiene.
Yes, we appreciate someone who smells nice.
But no, we will not judge based on if your socks match, or if you just came in from the worksite, or if it’s been two weeks since you scraped a razor over those shins.
So, my tip of the day is, shave those legs because YOU want to shave your legs… not because you feel you need to have perfectly shaved legs (or clean shoes, or matching underwear), in order to impress us.
Trust me, it takes a lot more than perfectly shaved legs to impress us.