Someone asked me what nurses think about when their patients undress. For the most part, we’re thinking, “damnit, when’s my coffee break?” We never really look for anything on your body except abnormalities, scars, bruises etc. – this is required for our notes. Basically, if you look like the picture in the anatomy and physiology book, then there is nothing to see and we eagerly move along. Female nurses have an easier time dealing with female patients than they do with males. In fact I felt anxiety when I was assigned to the male ward in the hospital I worked for. They called it the snake park. It was difficult to work there as a new nurse. I didn’t want to deal with that. It was when I had to put on a condom catheter for a patient that I realized that it’s twice as uncomfortable for the patient as it is for the nurse. I didn’t want to be there but at least I was allowed to keep my clothes on! The patient swatted my hand away as I was about to put the catheter on for him. I left him alone until I could find a male nurse to help him. It’s unfortunate that nursing is female dominated and it’s not always possible to find a male nurse. I was actually grateful that he refused to let me help him. It’s acceptable for the patient to refuse a procedure but it is unacceptable for the nurse to refuse to perform her duties unless she has a really good reason to refuse.
As time passed I felt less and less awkward about it. Though I much preferred working in a female-only ward.
Then there are the freakishly obese, absurdly skinny and deformed people – I admit to gasping inwardly at the sight of some of these bodies. Especially those who’ve lost limbs to gangrene and other diseases. It’s shocking to see what a disease can do. It’s however in our nature to quickly look the person in the eye, smile and go on to performing your duties.
To answer the question simply, for me, it was never about how sexy or unsexy a person is. I can’t speak for all nurses but I felt the need to rush through the procedures as quickly as possible and have the patient get dressed as quickly as possible. If you can pick, choose a nurse that’s of a gender you feel comfortable undressing in front of. If you don’t have a choice because there are no male nurses available (as is often the case), don’t let your anxiety prevent you from seeking the medical help you require. You most likely look just as normal as a clothed person to the nurse that probably saw hundreds of naked people before you and still has hundreds more to come after you. Also we are taught in nursing school to do our best to preserve the dignity of the patient. That includes, keeping the patient dressed or at least partially dressed most of the time. We are taught to cover the patient and expose only the necessary parts of the body for the procedure at hand. If you don’t feel it’s necessary to be completely naked, speak up instead of getting upset about it. The medical staff will respect your wishes and find a way to make you feel comfortable. If your never-nude policy prevents you from getting the treatment you need, you really need to figure out your priorities.
Seeing so many naked people has its side effects on nurses though. While people often say you can never see too many naked people, I have a feeling I am not the only nurse that would disagree on that sentiment. Nurses become desensitized to the sexiness of a naked body. I was walking on the beach, amused at the look of awe on my friends face as he stared at the half naked people on the beach. To me there was nothing hot about it. Basic anatomy intact – nothing special. Oh well, at least I am one of the few people who go to the beach just to be on the beach…FML…