"Eat Your Spinach" Nurses: How commonplace?

Nurses General Nursing

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I'm a wannabe, and I had a fascinating conversation with a Nurse this evening. Actually, out of respect, I mainly shut up and listened. I will try to be as even-handed and dispassionate as I can in portraying what I heard:

- I have watched too many people endure real suffering and have watched too many people die to have any patience at all with people whose problems don't begin to compare. I'm not going to hold anybody's hand; I'm going to work my tail off and give them the best care possible, but I won't tolerate their whining when other people have it much worse. I've been through worse, and I took it and encouraged myself. Kids? Totally different. I'll do anything I can for kids. I don't want a Doctor who'll chat with me about the weather. I want him to find the problem, fix it, and move on. -

I have the greatest respect for this person and for what she has accomplished. And I realize it takes every kind of person to make the world complete. Still, what I heard strikes me as a variant of, "Eat your spinach because there are kids starving in (insert country here), and I don't want to hear your whining."

Is this an attitude commonplace - or perhaps necessary for a Nurse's emotional survival? Or did I encounter someone out of the ordinary?

lamazeteacher

2,170 Posts

Specializes in OB, HH, ADMIN, IC, ED, QI.

Different nurses use different styles of communication.

Force feeding and labelling don't happen to be in my repertoir of ways to have a patient who is cooperative and informs me of changes in his/her condition.

Nurses' emotional survival must take place away from the bedside of sick people

for whom they need to provide support, and convey ways they can assist with their treatment. Criticism is not a productive way to do that, other than when nurses vent to each other, away from prying ears.

heron, ASN, RN

4,128 Posts

Specializes in Hospice.

We have a very different perspective on the sufferings of humanity than someone who earns their living as a salesman, for instance.

Our perspective is valid.

As is the emotional callus we form in order to deal with complaints that, from our POV, are fairly trivial in the larger scheme of things.

I doubt that the nurse cited in the OP actually said anything like this to a patient ... if s/he did, s/he must have been pretty p.o.'d

NightNurseRN

116 Posts

As horrible as it may sound, I feel the exact same way sometimes. It just gets irritating afterwhile when I have a pt. in one room dying of cancer with pain all over his/her body and I want to tend to their needs but I have another pt. constantly on the call light whining about her pillow not being soft enough or her ice has all melted and she needs more NOW because she is "suffering horribly". I find I am the same way towards my poor husband, lol. He may have a tummy ache and whine to me about it cuz he wants to be babied but all he gets is a "youll be ok".

Bobylon

232 Posts

Specializes in Coronary Rehab Unit.
I'm a wannabe, and I had a fascinating conversation with a Nurse this evening. Actually, out of respect, I mainly shut up and listened. I will try to be as even-handed and dispassionate as I can in portraying what I heard:

- I have watched too many people endure real suffering and have watched too many people die to have any patience at all with people whose problems don't begin to compare. I'm not going to hold anybody's hand; I'm going to work my tail off and give them the best care possible, but I won't tolerate their whining when other people have it much worse. I've been through worse, and I took it and encouraged myself. Kids? Totally different. I'll do anything I can for kids. I don't want a Doctor who'll chat with me about the weather. I want him to find the problem, fix it, and move on. -

I have the greatest respect for this person and for what she has accomplished. And I realize it takes every kind of person to make the world complete. Still, what I heard strikes me as a variant of, "Eat your spinach because there are kids starving in (insert country here), and I don't want to hear your whining."

Is this an attitude commonplace - or perhaps necessary for a Nurse's emotional survival? Or did I encounter someone out of the ordinary?

Perhaps I missed something ??? I reread and still don't quite get the gist of what was actually said, and in what situation..... details ??? *edit* nevermind .... I understand, now - just woke up after a busy weekend of night shift....brain is craving coffee ;)

is5512

82 Posts

Actually, now that I think back on it, it served as a powerful lesson that I hope I never forget.

If I survive this road (and many good people wash out because they are supposed to be good at something other than Nursing), I will have occasions that many things are happening at once; I will have to choose what to deal with at the given moment.

But if a patient (or the person next to me in line at the grocery store) is hurting, there is no requirement for that person to meet my expectations of what is or is not sufficient cause or acceptable pain before they earn my solicitude. I will have mercy on those who hurt, or I will find something else to do.

miss81, BSN, RN

342 Posts

Specializes in Surgery, Tele, OB, Peds,ED-True Float RN.

IS5512, You have the right attitude to do good in this profession. That said, I also see the point of view of the nurse that you had the conversation with. You have to be able to prioritize and sometimes whining is just that...whining! When one pt wants pain meds, one is short of breath, a family needs comfort as their mother passes away, and another patient wants APPLE JUICE, and is whining about how he asked you for the juice 5 minutes ago, your patience can run pretty thin. Part of being a good nurse is the balancing act between prioritizing these problems and being able to be keep EVERYONE content. Granted that is not always going to happen but if you are professional and assertive but compassionate most of the time patients will respond well to that attitude. Florence Nightingale once said, "The martyr sacrifices themselves entirely in vain. Or rather not in vain; for they make the selfish more selfish, the lazy more lazy, the narrow narrower." So I tend to make it quite clear to my patients (not in these words of course), I'm not your martyr, I'm your nurse... don't be surprised when I HELP you do something but refuse to do it for you...

is5512

82 Posts

and That was great advice, Ma'am; thank you for that.

For whatever it's worth, it was not that long ago I was a patient myself, and I stumbled across The Five Words I could say to almost any Nurse that would guarantee a smooth relationship:

Yes Ma'am; You're In Charge.

Specializes in OB/GYN, Peds, School Nurse, DD.

You know, I went through a time when I was very cynical. I'm a peds nurse and I had to listen to parents complain & whine about their kids with ear infection, foot & mouth disease, pinworms, teething, and many other non-emergent(yawn) things. At the time I was in a near-life-and-death struggle to keep my own very handicapped son alive and I had NO PATIENCE with these parents. How dare they complain about their kid's pinkeye when MY son can't eat without the threat of aspiration, and will never talk or take care of himself. How selfish! But one day I had an epiphany--it doesn't matter what I think. Every parent who loves their child worries and grieves when their child is sick or hurt. There's no prize for the one who has the worst situation--all the situations are concerning to the parent of the suffering child. To some of those parents, ear infections were the worst thing that had ever happened to their child, so OF COURSE they were upset. They just wanted their child to get better, just like I wanted my son to get better. Once I came to understand this very basic wisdom I was able to empathize with parents more. :nurse:

llg, PhD, RN

13,469 Posts

Specializes in Nursing Professional Development.

As I read the OP, I kept thinking ... "OK. When am I going to get to the controversial part that the poster is concerned about." What the nurse told her sounds pretty normal to me.

Yes, I try to be sympathetic to people who make "mountains" out of their minor "molehill" problems because I realize they may have no sense of proportion of how trivial their problems are compared to those of most other people. But in my mind, I do notice that some people's problems are truly big -- and other people's problems are not nearly so big. That's just what happens when you pay attention.

It's the healthcare equivalent of someone making a big deal out of having to wait a little longer that he/she would like at a fancy restaurant for a $300 meal while the waitress they are ranting at is struggling to feed her kids.

Nurses can't be serving everybody at the same time -- meeting every need simultaneiously. Learning how to judge which problems are more important than others is a big part of learning to be a competent nurse. We need to learn to prioritize.

Katie5

1,459 Posts

I love me some Spinach:) yum yum....

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