Recently the show 20/20 on ABC TV did an expose on the secrets of nursing. The show wasn’t very pretty, but was it honest? I know plenty of nurses who were offended by it. Here is my assessment of the themes they hit on:
PATIENTS CAN BE VIOLENT TOWARD NURSES.
Yes, this is true. I have been bruised, hit, spit at, and once was threatened by a patient holding a fire extinguisher and wielding it as a weapon. I have also been verbally abused by patients and family members. While this is no longer my daily experience, for nurses in psychiatry, geriatrics or the emergency department, this is very much a reality for them.
CODE RED, CODE BLUE, CODE PITA (pain in the ass)
I’ve never heard of PITA before. The nurses I know just say it like it is and they don’t need a code. Obviously this is not something said at the bedside. It is unrealistic to think that nurses can tolerate extremely demanding patients and not vent to coworkers about it.
HOW TO SURVIVE A HOSPITAL VISIT
Can’t argue with the advice to avoid the elective admission on July 1. If you can’t avoid it, just know there are plenty of nurses on the ball guiding the newbies. If you are really unhappy with your nurse, request a new one. It is important for a patient to feel safe in the hospital and with their medical care.
GIVE ME THE ENERGETIC NEWBIE – not so much
While I certainly don’t want a burned out nurse, I would take an experienced, critical thinking nurse any day over a new graduate, no matter how much the newbie smiled. This is not a ding against new nurses, rather emphasizing the value of experience.
HAZING/BULLYING IS A REAL PROBLEM
For the nurses that argued this point, know that this is alive and well and the biggest dirty secret in nursing. The American Nurses Association and The Joint Commission of Accreditation of Hospitals (JCAHO) have both made a stand on this issue. Unless you are a perfect unit in a fantasy hospital, bullying is an everyday occurrence. For the last 13 years, Gallup polls have voted nurses the most honest and ethical profession in America. Perhaps if nurses were less concerned about our perfect image and more concerned about the truth of how we actually treat each other, bullying would not be impacting the mental health of nurses.
DO YOU NEED TO BE NICE TO YOUR NURSE TO GET GOOD CARE?
Absolutely not, but remembering that they are human beings can’t hurt either. I’m sure those nurses in the interview were not implying patients needed to behave a certain way to get good care, rather they were likely responding to a leading question we were not privy to in the news clip.
DO YOU HAVE TO WORRY THAT YOUR NURSE IS TAKING YOUR PAIN MEDICATIONS?
No. Thank you ABC for overdramatizing that. Is there a Nurse Jackie on every unit? No, but narcotic use and addiction exists among nurses and physicians, particularly those with easy access to meds, such as nurse anesthetists and anesthesiologists. The bigger question is what can hospitals do to support nurses and physicians in self-care so they don’t need to self-medicate?
Author ALEXANDRA ROBBINS’ BOOK THE NURSES: A Year Of Secrets, Drama, and Miracles With The Heroes Of The Hospital will be released tomorrow 4/14. You can get a 20% discount here when you use the code HEROES. I read every page of the book and honestly, I had some concerns about what the public would think of nurse bullying and addiction problems. While I know the addiction problem is a real issue, I think it was overemphasized in the book. What truly is a public health crisis is the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health of all healthcare workers. Workplace toxicity and bullying have a direct contribution to ill health and the departure of nurses from the profession.
Alexandra Robbin's insightful new book is a must read for all patients, family members, hospital administrators, policy makers and healthcare providers. She highlights the price nurses pay by remaining in the profession despite toxic workplaces, bullying and lack of self-care. As baby boomers reach the age of greatest healthcare needs, many nurses will be retiring. If you are not concerned now, you might change your mind when you are hospitalized.