★ On getting over "the ick factor"

Acute care is not for the faint of heart. In graduate school, I was forever repulsed by the things I was sure one encountered working in a medical setting. "Imagine the smells," I would say to friends in class. "And bodily fluids, ugh."

During my interview for an externship placement at a skilled nursing facility, I even went so far as to ask my would-be supervisor how she dealt with "the ick factor". Fortunately, she had a great sense of humor and took my aversion in stride. So much so, in fact, that I left that externship inspired to pursue medical speech pathology full time.

In the end, I made it on my own. Sure it took getting used to, and though two years later I have a considerably higher tolerance for these things than I used to, there's still times when I encounter unpleasantness. It comes with the territory.

My secret now? There is no secret. I just deal with it.

My secret when I was an extern? Tic Tacs.

I kept some in my pocket to use as needed. You'd be amazed how well a good mint can also overwhelm the ol’ olfactory nerve.

And give yourself time. Before long, you won't think twice about all those things you perseveratively feared. If the patients win you over like they did me, you'll be amazed at what you can get used to.

Trust me.