Dear Nurse Marge,
I need your opinion. I’m worried I might have a problem. My family certainly thinks I have one – but I know other nurses who do the same thing, so maybe things aren’t that bad and it’s just that my family doesn’t ‘get’ nursing.
Here’s the issue. I don’t want to bring anything home from work — and I’m not talking about pens or cookies from the snack tray. MRSA, cdiff, all this stuff – it scares the heck out of me. So when I get home, I change out of my scrubs and shoes in the garage and throw that stuff right in the washer. I slip into a robe I keep out there and head right to the shower. My family thinks this is nuts and that I’m over-reacting.
Are they right? Or am I being reasonable?
Germaphobe in Grand Rapids
Deciding how to protect your family from the germs you encounter on an everyday basis is a legitimate concern. Handwashing protocols and common sense go a long way — if you’ve had a patient puke on you, the last thing you want to do is suddenly snuggle with a toddler.
That being said, is it prudent to shed your scrubs in the garage? It depends. Do you share the garage with other families? If the answer is yes, then you’d better keep your clothes on. Grand Rapids isn’t exactly the tropics — I’d be more worried about chilblains than cross contamination myself.
Bear in mind that your family is going to run into all sorts of nasty things while they’re out and about on a daily basis. Yes, hospitals are full of sick people — but so are grocery stores, busses, and especially elementary schools. Unless you can hermetically seal your family inside a bubble (at which point, let me tell you, they will DEFINITELY think you’ve got some issues) then you have to come to peace with the fact that disease is everywhere. The only difference is that in the clinical setting, we know about it.
Ultimately, it’s a personal decision. You need to do what you need to do to maintain your personal comfort level about what you encounter at work. If that means stripping down in the garage, so be it — but if you find that it takes more and more time and effort to reach that comfort zone, or your routines are interfering significantly with your daily life, it might be a good idea to talk with a counselor or colleague to check your perspective.