"Warm and fuzzy" nurses

  1. I thought this was well-written and ugh... saw some of myself in the article. I used to think I could save the world but am now happy to say I've shed that delusion. Now I'm just an old nurse b*tch, so to speak.


    Howling at the moon
    Warm and fuzzy no more: It's time for nurses to use their clout

    By Mark Jorgensen, RN
    July 18, 2001

    It has been refreshing for a change to read some readers' opinions that were not from 21-year-old new grads, or those eternally "warm and fuzzy" types. We've read enough "save the world and pamper your patient" opinions to choke a moose. It's high time nurses address the real issues with real clout.

    We can maintain the desire to be quality nurses concurrent with taking a hard stand regarding income, staffing and working conditions. First, however, nurses need to be brave and accept some of the psychological reasons why we make peanuts in relation to our education. An honest understanding of the actual barriers to what nurses want is essential if real gains are to be made.

    I have not seen anyone courageously address one of the major problems we face as nurses: our own psychological persona as a group. There are exceptions to the rule in nursing, just not enough. Choosing not to address this facet of our professional lives will ensure that our dilemma will continue until foreign nurses, or a new type of nurse, replace us.

    It's time nurses cared for themselves just as MDs, pilots, electricians and other professionals do. That's not selfish, it's common sense. This is especially important for single-income nursing households.

    I won't go over much of the available data as to why we are in the predicament we're in, but a cursory review reveals that nurses in the workplace are overly passive, tend to not work well together, have a difficult time agreeing on a course of action and, at times, seem capable of standing up for themselves only in the break room and not the boardroom.

    The "let's save the world" warm-and-fuzzy nurses who refuse to stand up for themselves are part of the problem, not part of the solution. They can save the world and get paid what they're worth if they would join the fight and assist the rest of us to make our careers more fulfilling. Nursing will never improve unless a unified and forceful voice in your facility emerges. Until that time, we're howling at the moon.

    Don't kid yourself for a second: Hospital and other facility CEOs are fully aware psychologically of why and how they can manipulate nurses to maintain their profit margin. Their lip service does not pay your bills, nor improve your career satisfaction. The occasional pizza and doughnuts are appreciated but do not substitute for better conditions or higher pay. It's time nurses see beyond these distractions.

    While we struggle, CEOs are buying new beach houses in Costa Rica from the bonuses they received for keeping the largest expense in check. They know how far nurses are willing to go to make their point before they retreat. They are experts at making nurses feel guilty by implying they do not have the resources to improve the nursing world, when in fact they could find a way--even if it means increasing the cost of some services.

    Do you think any Delta pilots are losing sleep because their pay raises may slightly increase airfare? I am generally not a union supporter, but this is why unions can be important for nurses. Generally speaking, nurses need someone to organize and focus on the goals necessary to improve our career satisfaction. Nurses themselves do not get it done.

    The warm-and-fuzzy crowd says, "It's not right for nurses to unionize or strike," even though MDs are joining unions like lemmings. If your facility's nurses can stick together and bypass unions, all the better. But let's be serious and use real-world examples.

    How far do you think an employer could push a steamfitters, electricians, teamsters or rail union? Not far and not for long. Are you sensing a trend here? These job fields are primarily male-dominated. Groups of men simply will not accept no for an answer for long. Nurses are 95 percent female. Generally speaking, nurses have accepted no for an answer for all of my 20-plus years in the field. This partly is related to the idea that for a sizable number of nurses, it's "just a job," "extra income" to augment the husband's salary, or a job one may leave for a pregnancy and return to later.

    Too many nurses are content to allow burnout to complete its cycle, or to simply leave the field rather than fight to improve job satisfaction. What a waste of our time and money for our education!

    Another reality check is that a person who has enough of an IQ to complete a quality course in nursing is likely capable of being successful in other fields. How many engineers are forced to regularly work rotating shifts, forced overtime, forced to work holidays, and on ad infinitum?

    A self-made multimillionaire acquaintance, who is familiar with what it takes to be a good and educated nurse, has said that nurses rightfully should make about $75,000 a year given the stress, exposure to disease, cost of education, working conditions, hours and the serious responsibilities of the career. He lists numerous business executives who make six figures with a mere fraction of the responsibility of a floor nurse!

    Only a handful of career fields affect our fellow humans as intimately as a nurse. A brief lapse of focus may result not only in someone's death, but also the termination of your means of making a living via license revocation. Civil penalties in court also can follow. Yes, one lapse can cost you the tremendous time and expense you expended to complete your education. Bet you can't name too many other occupations where this potential exists.

    Obviously, nursing is a serious business; we are just not reimbursed congruent with this fact.

    If you are a nurse because your subconscious mind "needs" positive reinforcement from nurturing, or you are seriously codependent and nursing is another outlet, you would benefit all nurses by doing some serious self-inventory and growing beyond those frailties. If you went into nursing to make ends meet and help people, try thinking of a nursing world where you were reimbursed congruent with the job's demands.

    Dance around the issues as you prefer, but these are the realities of our situation. There are not many real leaders in nursing, and those few are getting tired of dragging dead horses to the trough.

    So decide: Are you part of the problem, or part of the solution? Now is the time to act during a nursing shortage to maximize the volume of your voices, as well as the hearing acuity of your CEO or administrator. Get activated yourself, and energize those comatose nurses around you as well.

    And remember to "get it in writing." Speak now or forever hold your peace.
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  3. by   donmurray
    Excellent! Globally accurate analysis.
  4. by   Level2Trauma
    You could take this message; place it on a bulletin board on the side of roads in all the states, and there would me the majority that stll "JUST DON'T GET IT". Excellent post!!!
  5. by   fiestynurse
    I thought most of Mark Jorgensen's article was right on! However, I did not agree with his comment that:

    "Too many nurses are content to allow burnout to complete its cycle, or to simply leave the field rather than fight to improve job satisfaction. What a waste of our time and money for our education!"

    It is a nurse's "discontent" that causes them to burn-out and leave nursing. It is the really good nurses that truly care about their patients and can no longer keep up with the increasing work loads heaped upon them that tire out. It is not an easy decision. Some, after many years of fighting to improve job satisfaction, must move-on to take care of themselves. Mark makes it sound like they are weak and abandoning their fellow nurses. This is so far from the truth. Many become major nurse activists. They finally feel they can speak-up without fear of losing their jobs. Most enter other fields of work, such as law, where they can still utilize their nursing education and fight for better health care rights and improved working conditions for nurses.

    It is my feeling that, maybe, the general public will learn to appreciate nurses when there aren't any. Absence makes the heart grow fonder!
  6. by   SharonH, RN
    What a fantastic article. Thise author really nailed it to the wall.
  7. by   debbyed
    WARM and FUZZY those are two of the most dreaded words that I hear. After being an ER nurse for the last 20 plus years the last thing I am is warm and fuzzy. But guess what!!! That new Customer Service kick that the hospitals are on begins with the words Warm and Fuzzy.

    For the first time in my career this summer I was given a written warning for customer service because I had three patients complain that I wasn't nice to them. Of course; one was a psych. patient who had been petitioned and also was under arrest for attempting to injure a police officer (he was sent back to jail), One was a known drug seeker who refused to leave the ER after she was given 4 Percocets but no Rx and one was a family member who had to be escorted out of the ER by security because he was interferring with the patients care.
    The multiple Thank-you's that I received from "real patients" didn't count and I was told that by my statment about "real patients" it showed I don't treat all patients equally. Well you know what, They're right. The truely sick, injured and dying patients get most of my attention, and I don't think that is wrong. My Nurse manager actually told me that I needed to become "Warm and Fuzzy" to all patients. I always thought it was possible to teach an old dog new tricks, but I'm beginning to wonder if you can ever teach this old dog to be warm and fuzzy to everyone equally. Than again I've been in this particular ER for 6 years, maybe it's time for a change. I'd probably make a darned good military nurse if I wasn't so old.
  8. by   misti_z
    excellent article :d

    printed it out and am going to take it to work, tonight.
    it belongs on the bulliten board!!!
  9. by   Jenny P
    Debbyed, If your new Customer Service Policy does start with "warm and fuzzy," then you need to copy this and post it in your breakroom at work. I'm sure it will start some good discussions (okay, you may get in trouble for it, too!).
    The idea of a Customer Service Policy listing that in it! I'm sure the CEO and the Board of Directors aren't being warm and fuzzy-- and neither is the billing department! This has to be some sort of ploy to keep us nurses "in our places!" How disgusting!
    Why is it that you get reprimanded for the few times you are not warm and fuzzy and no one notices the other 99.98% of your work?

    This article is terrific, it really gives one food for thought.
  10. by   Dplear
    Hey now I am a warm and fuzzy nurse.....actually I am warm because I have a fever...and still working... and I am fuzzy cuz that darn athletes foot again....LOL....nothing like a fungal fuzzy........
    Last edit by Dplear on Jul 30, '01
  11. by   debbyed
    Our Customer service Policy doesn't really start with the words Warm and Fuzzy. It is actually a customer service contract that all employee's have to sign. When you sign you acknowledge that a customer service violation can be considered a Class 1 violation and that you can be terminated with the first offence. The staff routinely refer to it as the "Warm and Fuzzy" contract. I guess it just makes it easier to terminate those people that they don't want anyway but can't get sufficient documentation any other way. Apparently they didn't particularily want to get rid of me, they just wanted to let me know they had the power to. Two weeks later I was given a customer service award because of a good letter from a patient. Who knows??? There's enough jobs out there that if things are too bad you can always go somewhere else. From a lot of what I have read on these boards I don't have it so bad.
  12. by   MollyJ
    Originally posted by debbyed
    ...For the first time in my career this summer I was given a written warning for customer service because I had three patients complain that I wasn't nice to them. Of course; one was a psych. patient who had been petitioned and also was under arrest for attempting to injure a police officer (he was sent back to jail), One was a known drug seeker who refused to leave the ER after she was given 4 Percocets but no Rx and one was a family member who had to be escorted out of the ER by security because he was interferring with the patients care.

    It has always bothered me that customer service people DO NOT understand that what is popular is not always therapeutic . To play into these folks delusions/denial/non-adaptive living patterns is not therapeutic. Now I don't think we should get verbally abusive or rude that (and I don't necessarily see that you did) but anything but "Here is your RX for Percocet #60 with infinite refills" isn't going to make patient #2 happy. And sometimes the only thing you can say is, "I'm sorry. It's time for you to go."
  13. by   fiestynurse
    At the last facility that I worked at, they had a job description for a registered nurse, which included the requirements that she/he have a "CHEERFUL DISPOSITION" Nurses are asked to be warm, fuzzy, cheerful, happy, positive, smiley, and all this while saving people's lives. Sounds like they want a Stepford nurse!!
    Last edit by fiestynurse on Aug 1, '01
  14. by   Jenny P
    Fiestynurse, I must be getting old and cranky: unless that former employer of yours had "CHEERFUL DISPOSITION" into EVERY job description throughout the whole facility (and I mean everyone from the CEO to the laundry and housekeeping depts. to the security and clerical staffs; that REEKS of sexual discrimination and possibly sexual harassment if someone was written up under it. I have a problem with this. Please, everyone, tell me why do we put up with this kind of stuff? There isn't another profession or even a white collar job that would have that written in a job description-- "good people skills" yes, "cheerful disposition," no. I'm sorry, it just perpetuates the idea of nursing being a female occupation.
    I know my mind may be warped at times, but to me a "cheerful disposition" envisions perky "Nancy Nurse" in her short starched white uniform (with cap) smiling and telling patient John Doe's family (in a high perky voice):"Oh I'm sorry, we just did CPR but John was stubborn, and he's dead now (flips hair, ajusts uniform and giggles), care for some tea?!" There is no way I would ever resort to having that in a job description! I'm sure many of the guys I work with would probably react even worse to that as part of a job description.