I've discovered the perfect solution to getting rid of smoke smell in the hospital. With health care comes unpleasant smells. That's a given. Since I'm dealing with disease and the lay public on a daily basis, I've come to expect a wide array of smells to be emitted from patients and family members alike. What are some common unpleasant smells in the hospital? I think the most recognizable to doctors and nurses is the smell of melana. Melana is the black stool created when you bleed from a proximal gastrointestinal source, usually in the stomach or duodenum. It has a very nasty and distinct odor.
Another common hospital smell is infection. Certain bacterial infections have incredibly terrible odors to them. The smell of dying tissue is never pleasant. But I would say, by far, the most common unpleasant, and sometimes the most overwhelming and unbearable smell is the smell of smoke. Getting rid of smoke smell is priority number one when I'm taking care of patients.
Awhile back a firestorm erupted when Apple computer warranties were not being honored due to a thick layer of tobacco smoke and residue which technicians considered toxic and dangerous to their health. Apple would not force their technicians to fix anything they felt was a danger to their health. I can understand their health concerns and I agree with their concerns. Cigarette smoke and its residue should be treated like toxic waste.
In fact, I'm waiting for the day a home health care nurse gets fired for refusing to enter the home of a smoker for fear of her own medical safety. And I'm waiting for the nurse to win that case to set a workplace precedence in health care to protect doctors and nurses from the dangers of second and third hand toxic smoke residue.
Getting rid of smoke smell on patients is easy. The nurse tech gives them a sponge bath and all is well. But the patients are rarely the problem. It's the family members that make caring for patients sometimes unbearable. There isn't a day that goes by where four or five family members aren't coated in a raunchy stench of tobacco smoke and body odor. And it's usually for a patient admitted with a primary lung related disease such as COPD or pneumonia.
That toxic smell almost sets off an asthma attack in me and I have never had asthma. I can't imagine what it's like for my patient to sit in that room inhaling that smoke smell emanating from their loved ones. The other day I walked into a room and was blown away by the unbearable stench. There were just two family members present, both of them coated in stank. Both of them with long tobacco stained beards. Both of them oblivious to the nasty rank they were emitting. So I said, "It smells like a smoke infested bar in here." And with that I apologized to my patient for leaving, turned around and walked out of the room and returned looking like this.
And I didn't say another word about it. I wonder if they got the hint. Probably not. This solution worked like a charm for getting rid of smoke smell. I wasn't being exposed to the toxic residue bordering on asthma. Later I asked the nurse how she stands to be in the room with the family there. She said she stays out as much as possible. I don't blame her. I was told that getting rid of smoke smell is also accomplished by placing a dab of peppermint liquid under your nose or on the face mask. Apparently, a secret stash of JCAHO unapproved peppermint liquid has infiltrated Happy's hospital floors to help nurses get through the day, dealing with smelly patients and smelly family members.
I'm thinking about asking our administration at Happy's hospital to place a stash of peppermint and face masks at the entrance of every elevator bay and every room. This issue rises, in my opinion, to the safety concerns about food and drink at the nurses station.
Not a day goes by where I enter an elevator infested with smoke smell, asking myself how to get rid of that nasty cigarette smoke smell while five smoke infested family members, fresh off their smoke break, go to the ninth floor to see their mother admitted with a new diagnosis of lung cancer. Having a mask available would solve that problem. Either that or force all family members to be smelled prior to allowing entry to the patient rooms. Perhaps just like the metal detectors in airports.
Since my mask moment, I have employed it four or five other times when entering patient rooms with smoke infested family members standing by their side. Each time telling them that it smells terrible in the room and I'm going to get rid of the smoke smell by placing a mask on to protect myself. I can only imagine what the smokers are thinking to see their mother's doctor placing a mask on to protect himself from them. Some might be offended. Some might find the motivation to finally quit. Some probably have no idea about anything.
Regardless, when you're taking care of patients in small rooms with little ventilation it doesn't take much more than one smoking family member to stink up the room and for me to initiate the getting rid of smoke smell mask I have now employed for self protection.
Now, the next step is to tell the family member to leave the room for patient safety issues and not to return until they have showered and fumigated their cloths. How well do you think that will go over? For the family members that understand their actions are harming their loved one, I assume it would go over just fine. For the selfish ones, I assume not so well.