Why Are Nurses Special?

What makes nurses special?  Today I was speaking with a patient's family member about discharge instructions for her mother.  During the discussion she mentioned that her daughter wanted to be a nurse, but she was discouraging her from applying for nursing school because she felt that nurses have a false sense of entitlement, and she couldn't understand why anyone would want to be a nurse.  She also stated that she believed nurses are just glorified waitresses. 

Hmmm, wow! My head was spinning, and it was everything I could do not to lash out with the little devil that was sitting on my shoulder. But, I knew that if it took the low-road, it would just give her more ammunition to support her distorted view of nurses.  

So, I decided to take the high-road with this hateful woman and use her ignorant comments as an excellent opportunity to teach and educate her about nurses, something she obviously didn't have a clue about.  

I finished giving her the discharge instructions that were necessary for her to take care of her mother at home and then I invited her to take a seat in one of the available conference rooms on the floor. 

She agreed to take the time to have a little "discussion" with me regarding her feelings about nurses, although she seemed somewhat confused that I would ask her to devote some time to a lowly nurse.  

I told her that while I appreciated her view of nurses that I would like to make a few things clear.  I went on to tell her that nurses are not waitresses.  "While it may seem that way when all you see is us serving you coffee and being at your every beckon call.  But nurses are behind the scenes more that you can ever imagine."

"We are the last person to view the physician's orders before we administer treatment. Doctors make mistakes, and nurses are trained to catch those errors and in doing so, they save lives.  They serve you coffee, popsicles, and snacks as a courtesy and at times it's not convenient or appropriate for you to be asking us to bring you some ice cream. While your loved one is sitting up in bed watching soap operas and hitting the call-bell for every silly little want and need, I may be in a life-or-death situation with the patient next door.  Usually not a dilemma that waitresses face."

"When it comes to your opinion of our "sense of entitlement" I would like to let you know that nurses often go without a potty break for 12 hours during a shift. We frequently go without eating so we can serve you your sixth cup of coffee.  The first thing we are taught in nursing school is that we are the patient's advocate. Do you think your doctor is taught this?  Who do you think is on the telephone at 3 am trying to contact your physician who is playing golf, about your morphine infusion that's making you violently ill and needs to be changed."

"As far as your daughter is concerned, we need more nurses in this world. Once again we are facing a nursing shortage and advising your daughter to choose a different career is a bit inappropriate.  Nursing isn't a job; it's a calling. Those who elect to nurse for the wrong reasons will quickly realize that it's not for them.  We don't choose nursing for the money or the sense of entitlement you feel it may give us. It's not a glamorous job; it's a career that can be exhausting and we often take our job home.  We worry about patients and frequently grill ourselves, wondering if we could have done things differently would there have been a different outcome."

Nurses are not thanked much for a job well done, and that's okay. We don't need constant pats-on-the-back. But on the odd occasion that a patient thanks us, it makes our job worthwhile, and we do a little happy dance inside when this happens.  When a patient walks out of the hospital, and they're doing well, this is all the gratification we need.  It's the reason we love nursing."

"Do me a favor when you go home. Talk to your daughter and help and support her with her dreams. If she wants to be a nurse, help her. Hopefully you'll never need the care of a nurse in your lifetime.  But, until you do you'll never understand or appreciate what we do.."Even then you don't see what transpires behind the scenes. Nurses dedicate years to educating themselves on how to care for sick patients So, to compare us to waitresses is slightly condescending."

"Nursing is a noble and excellent career choice, and we appreciate you recognizing that nurses are dedicated to their patients and deserve recognition for everything they do.  If that's what you consider a 'sense of entitlement" then so-be-it, we're guilty as charged."

"Have a nice day Ma'am." 

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