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The Disrespect Of Nurses

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TheCommuter has 14 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych.

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Why is nursing the most trusted profession while the most disrespected??

The nursing profession might be the most trusted according to surveys and polls, but it is certainly not the most respected by a long shot. The intended purpose of this article is to further explore the rampant disrespect of nurses in American society.

The Disrespect Of Nurses
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I was at my workplace earlier this month when my supervisor told me about a volatile situation that was unfolding on a different floor between another nurse and a verbally abusive family member. This particular family member was at the bedside for twelve hours straight and refused to leave when gently prompted. She was confrontational, hollering, taking pictures with her cellular phone, and interfering with procedures that needed to be performed on the patient. Nothing seemed to please her.

And guess what? The verbally abusive family member was coddled by management and allowed to stay well beyond the visiting hours that other visitors are expected to follow. I suppose the old saying applies in this situation: "The squeaky wheel gets the grease." Too many members of the public know that they can act like loudmouthed fools, behave disrespectfully toward nursing staff, and basically get away with it.

I clearly recall another instance of blatant disrespect at the same workplace. A group of surly family members were yelling obscenities and threats at the floor nurse and supervisor after being informed that the patient contracted a urinary tract infection: "You haven't seen crazy until you've seen me!" "I will put my foot up your ***!" "You'd better get my mother out of this place before I get you out of the way!" To keep a long story short, the patient was sent to another hospital to receive the same intravenous antibiotics that my workplace had been providing.

These same instances of disrespect would be totally nipped in the bud at other places of business. For instance, the frustrated traveler who attempts to enter the cockpit and give the airline pilot a 'piece of his mind' will be jumped on by the air marshall. If I start acting out irrationally and refuse to leave the local new car dealership once closing time has arrived, the workers will call law enforcement to physically force me off the property. The customer who threatens the safety of the teller at the credit union will be escorted to the parking lot by security guards. If any of you try to walk to the back of the bakery to harass the staff and take pictures of the employees and equipment with your cell phone, you will not be in the bakery for very long.

According to polls, nursing is the most trusted profession. For the 12th year, nurses were voted the most trusted profession in America in Gallup's annual survey that ranks professions based on their honesty and ethical standards (American Nurses Association, 2012). However, trust must not be confused with respect. While nurses are certainly trusted, we are not respected by the public, management, or administration.

Although it is generally not constructive to babble about a problem without offering possible resolutions, I do not pretend to know of any solutions to this complex problem. For starters, it would be nice if we had the backing of management more often. Do you have any real life tales of disrespect from patients, visitors, families, or other members of the public? If the answer if yes, please share. And most importantly, please stay safe!

References

The American Nurse. (February 7, 2012). Retrieved October 26, 2012

TheCommuter, BSN, RN, CRRN is a longtime physical rehabilitation nurse who has varied experiences upon which to draw for her articles. She was an LPN/LVN for more than four years prior to becoming a Registered Nurse.

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1,735 Posts; 17,960 Profile Views

While it may be appropriate to involve management with rude, nasty people, this is not the case if you are threatened.

If you are threatened, call security. If they are unable to deal with it, call the police.

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1,026 Posts; 16,669 Profile Views

I do not yet have that kind of experience, although I have read an article about nurses suffering violence from patients themselves. Nursing is indeed a very difficult job.

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CrunchRN has 25 years experience as a ADN, RN and specializes in Clinical Research, Outpt Women's Health.

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There is no excuse for that kind of behavior and management enabling it.

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192 Posts; 6,090 Profile Views

It's all about the patient satisfaction surveys.

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uRNmyway is a ASN, RN and specializes in Med-Surg.

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I think one of the problems with the lack of support might be satisfaction based reimbursement for services. If you know that getting paid for what you do depends on high satisfaction scores, then you are going to coddle and kiss butt no matter what the patient/family behavior is. Because lets face it, nurses are a dime a dozen right now. Its a lot easier to have to fire a nurse/deal with one who quits, have to advertise for a replacement, and even train a new nurse to the floor than it is to have to deal with the potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars that might be lost if someone expresses displeasure with their treatment.

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TheCommuter has 14 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych.

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hherrn said:
If you are threatened, call security. If they are unable to deal with it, call the police.

I'm just stirring up the inkwell here. . .

What if the threatened nurse works at a facility where management and administration implicitly discourage getting local law enforcement involved when crazy patients, families, or visitors step out of line?

I know for a fact that many managers and people who work in marketing actively discourage healthcare workers from calling law enforcement on the nutcases because they want the hospital to be viewed as a 'safe haven' and not a place where the police regularly visit.

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This is one of the many reasons that i am rethinking nursing school...have been working on pre reqs one class at a time while working full time and raising two kids for 5 years and now thinking maybe nursing is not where i want to be...so sad!!

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monkeybug has 15 years experience and specializes in Public Health, L&D, NICU.

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When I was pregnant, huge, and hormonal, I had a very similar issue. Our L&D had a strict 3-visitors-at-a-time rule. The doctors asked for, and received, this change in policy. Our manager hammered it to us that we were to enforce this, period. I had a rather trashy family one day (think the Honey Boo Boos without any of the charm) that had given me heck all day long. I had asked, begged, pleaded, reminded, about the rule, and gotten no where. When it came time for the patient to push, I had had all I could stand. 4 people really was too many once the delivery table, nursery nurse, and doctor came in for delivery. I told the family someone was going to have to leave. The patient's father, a huge guy, got about 6 inches from me and screamed in my face, threatened me, and cursed at me. I went to get my manager. Before she entered the room, I told her that I feared for my safety, that I wanted them out, now. I used those words, so there was no question about the way I felt. She went in and totally undermined me, and of course, allowed them to stay. I had very little respect for her before that, and this issue ended any trust or respect I ever had.

The manager even called the doctor and asked her opinion, and the doctor said she wanted them out. Still, the family got to stay. I got in a lot of trouble over it later, because at the next staff meeting, when we were reminded about the policy, I flat out told her I didn't care if they invited the marching band of the local university in to view the delivery, I wasn't asking any one to leave because I knew she would throw me under the bus. Appparently my situation had been brought up in the earlier meeting that day, because she blew up and accused me of lying. "You never told me you were scared." Fine, whatever. None of the nurses ever really enforced the policy again, and it was made clear why they weren't. We might ask once, but if they refused, fine. And the doctors understood this, and they all knew what happened, so often they would step in and enforce it. Fine with the nurses, we liked limited visitation, we just weren't going to get in any confrontations knowing we had no one at all to back us up.

In hindsight, I wish I had just called security.

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I don't think people realize that dangerous situations for nurses can mean a dangerous situation for anyone at the hospital, including patients and visitors. What if someone is physically abusing a nurse and in the process someone else gets hurt as well?

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TheCommuter said:
I'm just stirring up the inkwell here. . .

What if the threatened nurse works at a facility where management and administration implicitly discourage getting local law enforcement involved when crazy patients, families, or visitors step out of line?

I know for a fact that many managers and people who work in marketing actively discourage healthcare workers from calling law enforcement on the nutcases because they want the hospital to be viewed as a 'safe haven' and not a place where the police regularly visit.

Simple: If you are threatened, call the police. Their number is 911.

Nursing is a job. Like many jobs, occasionally management will put the bottom line ahead of worker safety. A worker who takes steps to create a safe work environment may be seen as rocking the boat.

Imagine having this discussion in any other field: " I work as an accountant, and we have a client who is threatening me. The head accountant insists I call him, rather than the police"..

Being a nurse does not preclude you from having the same rights to safety as the rest of the workforce.

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I had a patient get in my face and yell at me about the fact that his room did not have an in-room shower (the shower for his room was down the hall about 20ft). He stated that staff in the ED assured him there'd be a shower when he was admitted, and was irate when I told him he could use the one down the hall or wait until another room opened up. The guy (big 6'3"+ 250lbs+) never touched me, but there were moments I thought he might.

Of course, the resident who arrived in his white coat promptly commanded respect, and the patient toned down, backed up and started prefacing his complaints with things like "I don't mean to be disrespectful but..." and used more deferential body gestures like looking down and to the side.

Another incident I know of involved a nurse who got body slammed and put in choke hold. When I heard about it, I started wondering about the possibility of calling police, pressing charges, etc. That patient would've been apprehended and arrested if that incident had occurred anywhere else, but not in the hospital. If people know they can come to the hospital and not be held responsible for their violent actions, will that make them more likely to be violent??

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