Nursing as a customer service profession?

  1. I am graduating from nursing school in the next few months, and I am just beginning my job search. I have discovered that many hospitals have something about nursing as a customer service profession in their mission statement or RN job description. For example, the performance review at one hospital rates nurses on customer service skills-- such as phone etiquette, meeting patients needs, and acting in a friendly and courteous manner.

    I don't see nursing as a customer service profession. I think that my primary responsibility is to help patients get well, and if that means making them get out of bed when they don't want to, then so be it. I think the best nurses are nice yet firm at the same time. I don't think it's my job to coddle patients and give them whatever they want. What does everyone think about this-- is nursing a customer service profession?
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  2. 93 Comments

  3. by   P_RN
    According to the US Dept of Labor it is.

    I really tire of seeing good nurses treated like this.

    We had to personally escort a visitor when they asked directions. There was to be no "pointing" the way.....you TAKE them there. Gee whiz what about the 1-15 patients you leave alone so someone can find the gift shop.
  4. by   Gomer
    Healthcare is a business pure and simple. Competition is everywhere and if you don't have good customer service from all the employees; you wont have customers. Ergo, you wont be in business long.

    Think of it this way, you treat your patients/patient's family/co-workers/etc (customers) as you wish to be treated. This is nothing new, our health system has been practicing on-going customer service for the last 20 years.
  5. by   ?burntout
    The hospital I work at is VERY into "customer service." We have even had a 4 HOUR class on customer service

    I do what it takes to make my patients happy and comfortable, within reason, to help them heal. But we are providing care in a HOSPITAL, not the Four Seasons. :spin:

    I am more than happy to help someone find the gift shop, cafeteria, etc. if I am not busy with my patients.

    There is my $0.02....
    Last edit by ?burntout on Apr 23, '03
  6. by   Shamrock
    As much as we may not like it, I think Gomer is
    right!
  7. by   Shae
    As in any business, the customer is considered ALWAYS right; even when they are wrong. The comments the patients/family make about the nursing staff can make you or break you. Yes, patients do have rights; and considered customers; but there are times that the patient/family member go overboard with their demands. Most patients/family members forget that they are not the "only one" needing care. We try to give all our patients the best of care and it is difficult when one wants you at their side the whole time they are there.
  8. by   kitty=^..^=cat
    In the past ten years or so, my aunt has had a number of procedures done as the result of an accident. Some of her procedures have been done at a major medical center that's only about twenty miles from where she lives. The others have been done at a community hospital that's about twenty miles from where she lives in the opposite direction. When given a choice, she ALWAYS picks the community hospital. Why? Because the nurses are nicer and more polite. When she's admitted, someone asks if she prefers to be called by her first name or Mrs. Harrison (she actually prefers Dollie, which is neither!!) and she is addressed that way throughout her hospitalization. The "little things"...

    About four years ago, she had some infection-related complications and other problems after a procedure at the smaller facility that I believe were due, in part, to the nursing care she received (or didn't receive, as the case may be). She recovered and held no ill feelings toward the hospital or the nursing staff -- number one, because she's a bigger person than her niece was, and number two, because the staff there has consistently provided customer-centered care. She still goes to the community hospital when given a choice, and thankfully, the quality of care there has vastly improved.
  9. by   debbyed
    If you want to work in a hospital, you need to get used to hearing "Customer Service". On evaluations, at our facility, customer service is worth more points than competency.

    In their favor, the facility, has been rated one of the top 100 hospitals in America. They even have mystery shoppers come through starting in the ER and Outpatient and progressing through inpatient. You never know who these people are and they report everything they hear and see whether good or bad. I think in the last couple years more people have lost their jobs R/T customer service problems than for any other reason.

    Because of their customer Service, the facility also continues to make a profit every year which they pass along to the staff in the form of end of the year bonuses, raises and increased benefits.

    When it comes right down to it..."It's not what your say, It's how you say it"
  10. by   MICU RN
    Food for thought:

    With the big push on customer service and the ever increasing acuity of the pt. population. Why don't we let the nurses focus on providing health care and hire a separate waiting staff? This staff could attend to every whim the pt. or family members may have.
    I am just kidding of course, the hospital admin. will never go for that, it would cost to much and why should they? They will just pressure the nuses to provide that kind of service while we also do the rest of our work.
    Bedside nurses are expected to wear way to many hats and that is one the primary reasons I am trying get into an advance practice role ( crna) so I can focus on prmary care and not have to worry about also waiting on people non stop. I believe we should treat everyone with respect and be polite, but the new trend of customer service is out of hand.
    I work in an ICU an have experienced the pt.'s and or family members getting aggrivated with me when I can't run to the bedside every time they want something. When I try to explain that the other pt I am responsible for is very critical at this point and I must be at his/her bedside in order to help them possible survive they sometimes get it and some times don't.
    And while we are on the subject of improving customer satisfaction and it has become a national trend in every industry. I feel that it is good to a point, some industries really needed to improve in this area, however, I feel we are creating a spoiled culture who expects to be treated like a king or queen just because they are a customer. I see it every day in different ways. It is a entitlement attitude that allows them to rationalize being rude and nasty just because the service is not perfect. I have watched in area of business from fastfood to high end stores. We live in a fastfood culture, everything now and my way and if it is not, I can act anyway I want because I am the customer. What a crock of crap, where is the civilty and politeness in our society? Peoples expectations are out of hand in many cases and it is no where more prevalent than in healthcare, many feel if they can just get to the ER they will be fixed and if not they are ready to sue. I see it all the time, you know the types they are walking time bombs ( many under lying pathologies) but continue to not make any life style changes and then expect the doctors to fix them perfectly when they get to the hospital. Medicine is not a perfect science and we rarely can guarantee any outcome especially with really sick people.
    Last edit by MICU RN on Apr 23, '03
  11. by   EmeraldNYL
    Originally posted by MICU RN
    Food for thougt:

    And while we are on the subject of improving customer satisfaction and it has become a national trend in evry industry. I feel that it is good to a point, some industries really needed to improve in this area, however, I feel we are creating a spoiled culture who expects to be treated like a king or queen just because they are a customer. I see it every day in different ways. It is a entitlement attitude that allows them to rationalize being rude and nasty just because the service is not perfect. I have watched in area of business from fastfood to highend stores. We live in a fastfood culture, everything now and my way and if it is not, I can act anyway I want because I am the customer. What a crock of crap, where is the civilty and politeness in our society?
    Excellent post, I totally agree. I feel it's important to treat all patients and their families with dignity and respect, but where do you draw the line when they have such a sense of entitlement and think the hospital is really the Hilton? How do you experienced nurses out there deal with overly demanding/needy patients? What do you do when a patient or one of their family members complains about you to administration?
  12. by   SharonH, RN
    What really frosts me about the old "customer service" game is that in a lot of ways, patient care is irrevelant. It doesn't really matter how competent of a nurse you are if you don't schmooze very well with your patients. We went to a class on customer service and the hospital talked about meeting several goals in order to make the hospital number one. Patient care was mentioned briefly. But we spent one whole hour on customer service, discussing the suggestions they learned from the people at Ritz-Carlton and Nordstrom's. Gomer is right, healthcare is now a business pure and simple and as a nurse I have a hard time with that because business has nothing to do with what I do. And besides, customer service has always been a part of my job. I just resent the heck out of being told that I am expected to recite a "script", speak to everyone who comes within 12 feet of me, etc and a whole bunch of other garbage.
  13. by   Furball
    One of the best nurses in my ICU has the personality of plain tofu...if she were an EKG tracing it would be flatline, never up, never down....but man, if I were in the ICU crapping out I would rather have her at my bedside than "Ms/Mr personailty" anyday.

    PS She's had a few complaints from pts families that she was cool, not mean or nasty....just cool
    to them.....never mind that she saved their loved ones lives on several occassions...ridiculous!
  14. by   SmilingBluEyes
    Originally posted by Furball
    One of the best nurses in my ICU has the personality of plain tofu...if she were an EKG tracing it would be flatline, never up, never down....but man, if I were in the ICU crapping out I would rather have her at my bedside than "Ms/Mr personailty" anyday.

    PS She's had a few complaints from pts families that she was cool, not mean or nasty....just cool
    to them.....never mind that she saved their loved ones lives on several occassions...ridiculous!
    I work with a lot of these types myself. And same thing. EXTREMELY COMPETENT but very flat.

    It will take the hospitals getting more and more desperate for nurses before they realize we are NOT waitstaff/butlers/maids, etc. (they get a real bang for their buck, I would say, smart business even if you ARE screwing the nurses).

    And even THEN, don't hold your breath, because before they beg for nurses back, they will beg, borrow or steal every last nurse they can grab up from other countries---- nurses who WILL put up the garbage and lousy pay on top of it. Yes, they will do that LONG before they will realize our value ANY time soon. So like it or not, like stated above, you are in the customer service business or you get out and find some other opportunity as a nurse. it won't change any time soon.
    Last edit by SmilingBluEyes on Apr 23, '03

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