Nurse Impersonators

  1. Am I the only one who resents the "nurse impersonators" who abound in the health care field?

    Everyone who works at a doctor's office or in a hospital wears scrubs and seems to pass themselves off as a nurse. Of course, the hospital doesn't mind. Visitors and patients don't realize how few nurses are actually on the unit if the unit clerks, nursing assistants, housekeepers, and technicians are all wearing scrubs.

    It seems harmless enough, this generic flowered jacketed scrub outfit, until you think of the harm it does to nurses' reputation as a whole. I just wonder what people think when they see two or three "nurses" ambling around the hallways or sitting at the nurses station while their family member waits for pain medication!

    I have to think the doctor's offices are the worst. The doctors will actually refer to the medical assistant as "the nurse". I wonder if a doctor would appreciate an employee passing himself off as a doctor?

    Last month I was in a doctor's waiting room with my son when a man came in holding his hand wrapped in a towel. He announced that he'd cut his hand and needed to see the doctor ( ok- dont ask me why he didn't go to the ER!) . The "nurse" told him to have a seat. The waiting room was crowded and it was obvious he was in for a very long wait. I saw the towel becoming saturated, and I couldn't help going over to him and telling him to hold his hand above heart level, apply pressure, try some deep breathing, etc. I told the "nurse" to let him go in and be seen, but she said, "He has to wait his turn, it wouldnt be fair to the patients who had appointments."

    Driving home, my son asked, "Why didn't that nurse help that man?" I told him, "Because she's not a nurse!" But I wonder how many people in that waiting room went home with the story of the nurse who wouldnt help a bleeding man.

    I know nurses don't want to go back to the days of wearing caps (even though I love my cap), but shouldn't we be more concerned about people in scrubs making us look bad? Shouldn't a nurse on duty be as easily recognizable as an EMT, a Firefighters, or a Police Officer?
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  2. 252 Comments

  3. by   Q.
    You have spoken my mind.

    You have no idea how much this angers me and my fellow nurses.

    I work in a clinic setting, full time, during the day. Actual patient care is done by MAs, whereas the nurses are stuck in the back office doing telephone triage, which is what I do. Let me tell you, triage it is NOT. Most of the time is spent scheduling appointments, faxing orders, and other glorified secretarial work. Our merit is judged not on nursing standards, but rather, that of secretaries and receptionists. How quickly do we answer the phone - how long do patients wait on hold - how long is each call - blah blah.

    There is nothing to differentiate nurses from MAs in this clinic, as we all wear the same cute scrub type outfits from AllHeart.com etc. While I enjoy the scrubs, it does pose a problem in identifying who is who, except for our name badges which are very small. Interestingly enough, every single nurse wears her name badge, not every MA does.

    Our charting is done via computer, and we as nurses can see the horrible documentation of the MAs, and some "email" type messages that can accompany our electronic medical record. Some times we see patients asking for "Nurse Sharon" when "Nurse Sharon" is really an MA. The MA naturally doesn't correct the patient - and it's horrible. It really makes nurses as a whole look bad, especially when you have a really bad MA. I've heard my own non-nursing friends complain about the "nurses" standing in halls, sitting in the "nurses station" etc. I tried to explain that just because a person is wearing scrubs doesn't mean they are a nurse, but that doesn't always work.

    To add insult to injury, our clinic is thinking of dismantling the triage RNs and using them as.....ok...prepare yourself:

    Medical Assistant's Assistants

    Yes, you heard me correctly. The MAs are apparently overworked and the clinic is thinking of pairing a nurse with her to be delegated tasks to when the MA sees fit or falls behind. If you would see half these MAs -sitting on the internet, making personal phone calls - it's horrible. If it wasn't for my immediate co-workers and the hours of the place, and the fact that it is 5 minutes away from my grad school, I would contemplate getting another job. This is just part of what is wrong with the nursing profession. It makes me feel hopeless. A nurse shouldn't have to wear all white to be made known; I appreciate the fun colored scrubs. But I would give them up in a heartbeat to differentiate us all.
  4. by   Navy1Nurse
    I get your point about the hats though... from my point of view Being a Male I get mistaken for a MD all the time, even after I have repeatedly introduced myself as an RN, it's kind of funny really...Or I get the old "So when do you plan on going to medical school?"
    I'm sure this happens alot, but it get's old after a while..

    I do think RN's should be more easily identified/identifiable too.
  5. by   WalMart_ADN
    I agree. On the floor where we do clinical (in a VERY SMALL rural hospital) the floor secretary is my younger sisters best friends mother....(the point in that being that I know who she is outside of the hospital) She wears scrubs and nursing shoes (along with the other secretaries, houskeeping, dietary, cadeteria staff...etc.etc.) She TELLS PEOPLE (namely, her daughters friends and anyone else who will listen) That she IS A NURSE!!! She told me that once....then saw me in clinical the next day.....as she was answering the phnes and doing whatever else the secretary does...do people not realize how hard we work to GAIN that title??? I haven't gotten the privelage to use the title RN yet, but i am still very proud to use the SN after my name...and it makes me mad how people can just devalue it just like that....maybe i'm taking this thread a little too seriously, but the question just got me going! I had always looked forward to wearing the colorful scrub uniforms, now i think i will be wearing all white after i graduate.
  6. by   NancyRN
    I tried wearing all white and pretty soon I noticed a trend: all the nursing assistants were wearing all white, too. AND no name badges. The hospital is really happy to see it and they won't discourage it. Why should they? What if we all wore an arm patch like an EMT or a Police Officer? Sad day when it's easier to identify the DOG CATCHER than an RN!
  7. by   P_RN
    A couple of months back on this forum someone had found a site where the pediatrician (on his website) referred to his MA's as NURSES.

    He was deluged with e-mails from US! He also was reminded that the Board of Nursing (BON) takes very seriously these impersonators (and their employers.)

    His site was changed within 24hours.

    I have called our BON myself. You need to do the same. It is ILLEGAL!

    We need to wear the RN/LPN badge. We also need to inform the uninformed patient that "Nurse LuLu" is NOT A NURSE.

    And Susy.......I believe I'd have to have a serious conversation with DrDoofus that came up with the idea of Nurses being the Assistants.
  8. by   SharkLPN
    My hospital has the smarts to let the nursing staff wear their choice of scrubs, but the support staff is uniformed by them. (Maternity and OR nursing staff are required to wear the same scrubs provided by the hospital though - but that's more of a security issue)

    Nursing assistants in a disgusting lime green (they actually match the soiled linen bags) with "Nursing Assistant" embroidered on the top, housekeeping, laundry and transport wear polo shirts and black pants, kitchen staff wear identical scrubs, but have hairnets and also have "Dietary Services" embroidered, so there's little mistake there. Unit secretaries wear their own business dress clothes, but wear a long jacket over that.

    Of course, patients and family still get confused as to who is who, but at least the housekeepers can't pass themselves off as nurses!
  9. by   thisnurse
    we are color coded but it doesnt matter. all females are nurses and all males are docs.
    i dont think i have ever heard an assistant correct a patient. i have a policy of introducing myself to my patients and then telling them who the assistant is. it does make a difference most of the time but there are still some who just think female=nurse
    male=doctor.
  10. by   highasthesky
    I'm not yet a nurse, only working on it. If I ever have to stop by a store on the way home from school, occasionally I'm asked if I'm a nurse (we have to wear the scrub uniforms). I respond by telling them that I'm attending school to become a nurse, but not one yet. I agree, that's a title that you work VERY hard for and only the ones who actually earn it should be able to claim it!

    I also know a lady here where I live (a friend of my mothers) who portrays herself as a nurse. Everyone was fooled by her until she called me one day to see if I would come and help her out, "her patient" was having trouble. I drove over to see what I could do to help. She has been hired by a well known family here to sit with their mother, which is 87 years old, during the day. When I arrived, the little lady was having trouble breathing, but I had no idea what to do for her besides take her to the emergency room.
    She refused to take her, saying that the family would fire her if she wasn't capable of taking care of her. I told her that if her "patient" died she would be out of a job anyway, then have to deal with a lawsuit! She finally called the ambulance, then the family. I met them at the ER, and you're not going to believe this...............when the ambulance arrived, the little lady was unresponsive, so of course they looked to her "home health nurse" for answers. The family was mortified to find that she could ony answer one of the questions, which was what she had to eat that day. When they asked her about her vitals throughout the day, her blood sugar (which was supposed to be checked twice a day, she had no clue. She said she had forgotten. In other words, the "patient" had not had her insulin shot. When the little lady was stablized and coherant the next day, she explained to her family that she kept pushing her buzzer because her head was pounding and she was very dizzy and having trouble breathing, but her nurse just kept yelling from the other room telling her she'd be there shortly after she finished the game which she was playing. (SHE WAS PLAYING A GAME ON THE INTERNET!) Needless to say she was fired that same evening, and the family is checking into filing criminal charges because of "this nurse" putting their mothers life in jeapordy. I've never known anyone to use a home health care nurse, but do people not check backgrounds and check references anymore?
    Oh, and by the way, this "nurse" was making $17 an hour.

    Oh yea ( don't worry- I'm almost done! My mother came over two days ago to show me her hair to see if I could give her some advice. Her "friend", also known as "the nurse", had given her a perm, and burnt her hair really badly. She is now claiming to be a cosmetologist, which isn't quite as dangerous to the community, but still not a good thing either, which my mom found out the hard way!
  11. by   pandora
    We have the same problem here. I have often been told by people that they were 'nurses' for years. When you ask what college they went to they get a bit red-faced and admit that they were really health care assistants. It took me four years of hard work to earn my stripes and I do object to the nurse 'impersonators'. These people trivialise our professional status and can give a bad impression of us. I realise that this may sound as if I'm trying to be elitist, but I really don't care. It's time we nurses stood together on this one.
  12. by   stevie b
    Does anyone remember TINA/ She is the lady who won Survivor last year, and every week her little smiling face was broadcast to the world with the identifier"Personal Nurse" along side of her name. What was that? After the show was over,it was acknowledged that she was a nurses aide.Some of my non nursing friends couldnt understand why I was so bothered by it.Did anyone else resact to it,or am I just spinning?
  13. by   Q.
    No Steve I was bothered by it as well.

    The thing is, why do people WANT to impersonate nurses? If we took all the impersonators and had them go to school, imagine all the extra staff we would have.

    I am contemplating calling my state board to report the obvious fraud that occurs in my clinic on a daily basis.

    Didn't the ANA get involved with the Tina thing?
  14. by   pandora
    Can't help you there Stevie B because I didn't see it, but maybe you can help me. I'm guessing that an MA is a medical assistant. It's a new one on me because I've never heard of this in the UK. What do MAs do? If they have no formal medical qualification how can they justify having a RNs for 'assistants'?

    Here's a true story that some of you out there may be able to identify with.

    A couple of years ago I was working in a hospital in the south-east of England (not the one I work in now). I went for my coffee break and ended up sitting next to a health care assistantI barely knew from another ward. She was complaining about the number of post-surgical patients she was having to do vital signs on. She said she had hardly seen an RN all morning (I find that hard to believe on a busy surgical ward!) She was clearly stressed out and upset, so I sat and quietly listened. My sympathy kind of ran out when she said that she was as good as the RNs. She added, "I just haven't got the piece of paper to say that I'm a trained nurse", "I do exactly the same job".

    I asked her whether she had assessed the patient on admission, prepared the care plan, gave the medications etc., Of course, she hadn't. Not that I think that's all there is to nursing, but we have the knowledge to do these things (and much more), and we take the legal responsibility.

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