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Something Smells (And It's Not the Roses)


In the race to snag more patients, corporate bigwigs sometimes come up with cheesy magic tricks designed to make their facility look better than the competition. But does this mindset work? And if so, at what cost?

Something Smells (And It's Not the Roses)

In my job as a postpartum nurse, I take care of moms and newborns. This is a happy place to work. The rooms are filled with proud parents, beautiful infants, and picture-snapping relatives. Cute Onesies lie on the table, and helium balloons decorated with bears and baby footprints hover near the ceiling. Then there are the flowers. Carnations. Miniature mums. But mostly roses. Lots and lots of roses.

Over the years, I've noticed a change in those roses. That luscious crushed raspberry smell I remember from my younger years has all but disappeared. Oversized blooms in pastels and jewel tones float above their vases in photogenic perfection. But in the name of achieving that magazine-quality appearance, nature's perfume has been bred right out of them. They smell like nothing.

I fear the same thing may be happening with nurses.

My employer is a reasonable one, but based on stories from many of my colleagues, there's an "image-is-everything" mindset running amok in hospital management, a move that ends up short-changing both patients and staff.

Corporate wisdom is sometimes an oxymoron, but never more so than when coming up with ways to make their company outshine the competition. Survey scores drop down a notch? Then whenever nurses ask patients if there is anything else they need, let's add a meaningless (and usually false) tagline. "I have the time."

If patients complain that their nurses seem rushed (despite "having the time"), don't bother increasing staffing to a manageable level. Instead, have the nurses take an hour out of their already too-busy schedule to attend a seminar on the importance of smiling and offering cheerful words.

Take away individual scrubs and put all of the nurses in the same color. Notify everyone a month before the change and don't offer to pony up for anything. This, despite research that says patients and visitors rarely understand the color coding (the same colors can be worn by opposite disciplines at the hospital down the street) and they still don't know who the nurse is. Never mind that the most important thing a nurse can do to eliminate confusion is to introduce herself and write her name on the dry erase board. And also disregard that, while a few nurses may need to be reined in on their appearance, for many this little bit of individuality means a lot (not to mention that it's already paid for).

If patient rating scores are really low, make that mandatory color white, so nurses will look even nursier. Take a picture and hang it in a prominent place where patients and visitors can see just how jolly the hospital/unit is. Insist that the nurses grin and not grimace over missing lunch to get the picture taken. And give demerits for complaints about how easily white stains.

Have nurses wear pins telling people to ask if they've washed their hands. Some hospitals post signs that say it's okay to ask the staff (including lab techs and even docs) if they've washed, but the pins kick it up a notch in intensity to the point where it's almost confrontational. And besides, they look a little silly. Maybe that's why the docs don't have to wear them.

If the competition rolls out persuasive commercials, give your nurses buttons with the a new and improved slogan. Compose scripting that isn't just an example or a jumping off point, but a message they have to regurgitate word-for-word every chance they get. If patients start saying that the nurses sound like robots, give yourselves a corporate attaboy (and a bonus, too!) for a job well done. Remind the nurses that, due to the cost of the buttons and the script training, there will be no pay raise this year

Stress uniformity and the need to exceed expectations. It may be statistically impossible for everyone to be well above average, but on paper it looks too good to pass up.

If the nurses lose their identity, if they feel devalued and diminished by the gimmicks and the catch-phrases, if they give up their zip and their passion for patient care, and if they no longer "have the time" to do anything that isn't preordained and scripted, just remind them that they are replaceable.

This should produce a bumper crop of "picture perfect roses"--the kind that look great but no longer seem real because their scent--their humanity--has been stripped away.

Management that lacks respect for both nurses and patients? Now there's something that really smells.

Mom&Mima 2 many

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35 Comment(s)

VivaLasViejas, ASN, RN

Specializes in LTC, assisted living, med-surg, psych. Has 20 years experience.

me (jumping up and down and pumping fist in the air): yesssssssssss!!!!!:yeah::yelclap::dancgrp:


Specializes in PCU. Has 10 years experience.

Loving it! So true!:yeah::dncgcpd:

Like i said there's a place in hell just for rotten mgt. Make it xtra hot-pls!:madface::dncgcpd:

tntrn, ASN, RN

Specializes in L & D; Postpartum. Has 34 years experience.

And our place just decided nurse would start wearing white......I guess our scores are lower than they are telling us. Of course, the bargaining unit, and I participate on the bargaining committee, said "no way, no how." The nurses did a little vote and Navy was the chosen color. Okay, but even after we pointed out to them that patients still don't know who the nurses are, it's a done deal, I think.

And we are hearing rumors that our hospital is for sale. Well, that wouldn't be the end of the world. I can think of a couple of groups around that have happy employees. Also hearing the rumor that our OB unit is not long for this world. My retirement plans are perfectly timed, I think. But I worry and fret over my co-workers who still need and want to work....some are young and have decades ahead of them.

Our nurse manager of less than 18 months just resigned her position effective 12-31 and will take a med-surg staff position.....we are wondering if that is another indication that big changes are afoot.

brandy1017, ASN, RN

Specializes in Critical Care.

Leave it to corporate healthcare to create the PR solution, the perfect stepford nurse, ready to clone as needed whenever, wherever!


Specializes in critical care.

I love a meaningful article that is also WELL WRITTEN!!

DixieRedHead, ASN, RN

Specializes in ED/ICU/TELEMETRY/LTC. Has 20 years experience.

And all this policy written by those who do not wear uniforms.

nerdtonurse?, BSN, RN

Specializes in ICU, Telemetry.

----and wouldn't know what to do in a code if someone's life depended on it...oh, wait, it does. Oh, you're the ACLS certified code team leader but you're not in white? Well, let's get the person who wore white but is so new they can't spell ACLS to run the code....


Specializes in burn ICU, SICU, ER, Traum Rapid Response. Has 16 years experience.

"In the race to snag more patients, corporate bigwigs sometimes come up with cheesy magic tricks designed to make their facility look better than the competition."

*** Ya like Magnet.

Edited by rn/writer

ebear, BSN, RN

Specializes in Med-Surg/Peds/O.R./Legal/cardiology. Has 37 years experience.

OH! Would I love to send a copy of this to corporate! THANK YOU, rn/writer.

Remember this isn't about Healthcare anymore, it's about who is the best regardless of the care given and who can offer the cheapest price. That is where the smoke and mirrors come into play !

This is one of the best articles I've read on here. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry while reading it, because it is so right on. When I went into nursing, I was so idealistic and ready to help the world! However I learned very quickly that the powers-that-be have a different mindset. Nursing is regarded (at least by most of the public) as a very noble profession. I am often told that I'm a hero, an angel. And although those are nice things to hear, I find myself biting my tongue more and more because I want to go on a tangent about the realities of nursing. Most of the general population has no idea about the truth behind the slogans, smiling faces, fancy fountains in the entryway, and flashy ads.

Thanks for writing this. I wish I had some fantastic idea about how to change this corporate mentality in health care, but all I can do is re-read your article and cry (and laugh) a little bit more.


Specializes in Oncology; med/surg; geriatric; OB; CM. Has 25 years experience.

You must work at MY hospital.....very well done!!! :yeah:

Its called marketing and it is based on the American system of competiton. Unfortunately it is the only information some people have to base their healthcare decisions on.