Some Days, You're The Pigeon...(Part I)

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    ......and of course, on other days you're the statue. Here are some of the hard truths about nursing that few people outside of it ever consider when asking what it is we do all day.....that is, between our makeout sessions in the locker room with handsome doctors, our long coffee breaks, and our pillow-fluffing rounds.

    After seventeen years in health care, I've come to the conclusion that nurses are the baggage handlers of the industry: we move folks here and there, we make sure the manifest is correct and the right passengers' suitcases are on the right airplane, we try NOT to be too rough lest we damage something.....and as comedian Bill Engvall puts it, we catch crap all day just for doing our jobs.

    I'm no statistician, but I estimate that we spend perhaps 20% of the time using actual nursing skills, and the other 80% just trying to get along with people. Patients. Families. Co-workers. Physicians and other practitioners. Administration. Middle management. Vendors. Discharge planners. Therapists. And of course, the general public, which has no idea whatsoever what nurses really do and seems to believe healthcare costs are so high because facilities have to pay nurses the "big bucks".

    Now as members of a helping profession, we know that customer service is today's watchword, and this philosophy of health care isn't going anywhere anytime soon. Indeed, most of us went into nursing to be of service to our fellow man (and yes, to make some pretty decent wages while doing it). But NOBODY signs on to be blamed for every petty thing that goes wrong in a facility, e.g. bad food, missing laundry, poor TV reception ("Sure, I'll jump right on that---just let me go up on the roof and adjust the dish for ya!"), billing issues, cancelled activities, and late-evening fire drills.

    Nor do we become nurses so we can be belittled.......harassed........screamed at.......threatened..........hit/kicked/bitten/spat upon/thrown across the room. All of these acts and more have been borne by nurses throughout the land, and all too often without recourse, as we are routinely discouraged from pursuing legal action against the perpetrator (who is not always a patient or family member!).

    As an OB tech, I was once confronted by an armed, intoxicated, and very angry baby-daddy who threatened to kill everyone there unless we allowed him to see his newborn son. Since there was a restraining order prohibiting him from doing so because of his violent history toward the mother, I hit the panic button, which summoned Security and the police. While waiting for them to arrive, I tried to calm the distraught man down so he wouldn't shoot me. But what did they do but take him into an empty room, talk to him for about 20 minutes, and then let him go on his word that he wouldn't return. Really!?

    I sometimes wonder whether he would have been dealt with more harshly had he threatened a group of physicians. The hospital never held a debriefing session; neither was counseling offered to those of us who'd been at the scene of what could have been a massacre. As it was, I had nightmares for weeks afterwards, and the incident was still being discussed during new employee orientation three years later when I returned to work there as an RN. But even though I've never gone out of my way to claim victimhood in this or any other occurrence, I think the way it was handled demonstrated how very far nurses have to go in being taken seriously.

    Admiration, we have (if you believe the Johnson & Johnson campaign); it's respect that's lacking, and it all boils down to this: because we are viewed as expendable, we can be treated abominably and expected to suck it up. Why? Because there are a gazillion unemployed nurses out there who'll take our place if we don't.

    In my next essay, I'll discuss reality checks for both nursing management and the public, and what nurses can do to further the cause of achieving parity with other healthcare professions.
    Last edit by Joe V on Jul 9, '12
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    IowaKaren, steffuturelpn, KelRN215, and 19 others like this.

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  2. Visit  VivaLasViejas profile page

    About VivaLasViejas , ASN, RN

    VivaLasViejas has '17' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'LTC, assisted living, geriatrics, psych'. From 'The Great Northwest'; 56 Years Old; Joined Sep '02; Posts: 25,498; Likes: 37,957.

    Read My Articles

    12 Comments so far...

  3. Visit  TheCommuter profile page
    17
    Quote from VivaLasViejas
    I sometimes wonder whether he would have been dealt with more harshly had he threatened a group of physicians.
    He would have been punished more harshly if he had threatened a bank teller, airline pilot, deputy sheriff, physician, or hospital administrator. Heck, management would have called the police if he had threatened the chef at Saltgrass Steakhouse.

    However, society expects the nurse to deal with threats, violence, and incivility because our so-called 'customers' and their visitors are under stress. I call shenanigans. It is time for people to be held accountable for their repulsive behavior.
    Sailnskinurse, NocturneNrse, Tarabara, and 14 others like this.
  4. Visit  amoLucia profile page
    5
    Some very terrific articles being written for spot lately. Kudos to the talented authors!
  5. Visit  GitanoRN profile page
    1
    i'll 2nd. that emotion~
    VivaLasViejas likes this.
  6. Visit  RDRN5 profile page
    1
    Could you anonymously have tried to call 911 (pretend you're going to the bathroom) and get him arrested for death threats?

    Has anyone been in a similar situation where they called outside police (not the hospital police) because they felt like hospital police wouldn't do much and can't make any arrests (they can't, right? ), and then have management try to find out who it was? Or it turned out fine? Sadly, there is the worry that management would then go after the staff member who called the outside police, even though it was in the interest of everyone's safety.

    Any input on this? Thanks!
    VivaLasViejas likes this.
  7. Visit  VivaLasViejas profile page
    0
    I don't know, because things never went that far. I couldn't dial 911 because he was waving a pistol around and I was standing there with my hands in the air, trying desperately to talk some sense into him. Thankfully the Code 5 (violent patient/visitor) button was right there and I hit it when the guy turned away to yell at a nurse to go get his baby. Anyway, the campus police and Security were there within a minute. I always wondered how I'd handle it if anyone ever pointed a firearm at me; I figured they wouldn't have to shoot because I'd drop dead from fright. But I didn't, and life went on. We made the late news, though.....
  8. Visit  beckster_01 profile page
    3
    Yet another awesome article, this is something that is always on my mind; especially after a staff meeting where we got yet another lecture on our HCAPS surveys...or whatever they are called. I am very sorry that the patient did not perceive their room as "clean," despite housekeeping making rounds several times a day. Now they have to tell the patient "your room has now been sanitized" every time they mop the floor. I ask patients about their pain every time I walk into the room, yet according to the surveys, our patient's pain control is inadequate.

    Commuter has an excellent point. Can you imagine waving a gun at a bank teller? You would be arrested on the spot, with every news channel on the scene within the hour.
  9. Visit  TopazLover profile page
    3
    Viva, wonderful work, as usual. Can't wait for the next installment.
    IowaKaren, amoLucia, and VivaLasViejas like this.
  10. Visit  That Guy profile page
    3
    Quote from RDRN5
    Could you anonymously have tried to call 911 (pretend you're going to the bathroom) and get him arrested for death threats?

    Has anyone been in a similar situation where they called outside police (not the hospital police) because they felt like hospital police wouldn't do much and can't make any arrests (they can't, right? ), and then have management try to find out who it was? Or it turned out fine? Sadly, there is the worry that management would then go after the staff member who called the outside police, even though it was in the interest of everyone's safety.

    Any input on this? Thanks!
    I have had a family member arrested and removed from the facility in handcuffs because they were a threat to me, the patient and other members of the staff. I did not feel one ounce of guilt doing it either and I stand by it that I made the right decision. It was only a matter of time before he went off his rocker and injured someone.

    Later found out he had warrants for his arrest and was detained for several months.
    tvmw, VivaLasViejas, and TopazLover like this.
  11. Visit  Ruby Vee profile page
    5
    years ago, i had a patient's husband threaten to "fix everyone's problem with one of these" as he held up a 9mm semi-automatic hand gun. campus security was called, they called the police and the guy was taken into custody. he had a trunk full of long guns and the coffee mug that he carried around all day contained straight jack daniels. he was arrested at midnight and was back visiting by 0600 because "he says he won't do anything, and we have his guns." interestingly, he had a revolver when he came back to visit. our manager said, and i'm paraphrasing here, "it's different because he's from montana. everyone in montana carries guns."

    my friend ernie was a nursing supervisor, and was called to the med/surg floor to talk to a patient who was upset about his insurance coverage. when ernie got shot in the posterior, it rated a half paragraph in an inside page of the newspaper.

    when a physician was shot at johns hopkins a couple of years ago, it was "breaking news". regular programming was interrupted and it was all over the internet, radio and television. it was front page news in national newspapers. ernie was an rn. look how different it is when an md gets shot.
    IowaKaren, tvmw, KelRN215, and 2 others like this.
  12. Visit  GrnTea profile page
    3
    waitaminnit...hunky doctors, long coffee breaks, big bucks? where? where?

    sheesh, i knew i shoulda interviewed at more hospitals.

    though i did get to make out with a hot xray transport guy when i was a cna one summer. does that count?
  13. Visit  Syrenia profile page
    1
    So true. And if you say anything to administration, like maybe this resident needs a psych ward and not a nursing home, well..."it's all in your approach." Until they smack the social services person and then they end up placed elsewhere. Makes you kinda feel like the nursing staff doesn't matter.
    VivaLasViejas likes this.
  14. Visit  adventure780 profile page
    1
    our alarm system in our facility along with our call bells have been down for about a month, so much for safety being first priority. If the employees aren't safe how are we supposed to protect our residents and do our regular duties?
    VivaLasViejas likes this.


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