Friday, May 07, 2010

Yeah, yeah, Nurses' Week. Whatever. Blow me.

It's National Nurses' Week! Everybody get down! Celebrate! Wahooo!

They're celebrating Nurses' Week (an aside: why is it that, after nearly ten years as one, I still type "nurse" as "nruse"? Damn) at Sunnydale right now. Matter of fact, it's being celebrated all over the country, by gum, as the hospital- and clinic- and school-going public bows in honor of our awesomeness.

Mostly, NW at Sunnydale is being celebrated with food. Yep. Potlucks ("Happy Nurses' Week! Bring your own food!"), ice cream socials, breakfasts, snack times. A couple years ago, we celebrated with food. Last year, food. And massages, which were nice.

I propose a different sort of Nurses' Week observation for next year.

For Nurses' Week 2011, let's start paying nursing professors what they're worth. Let's make their wages better than those earned by the most entry-level nurses at the bedside, for starters. When I graduated with a two-year degree and started working at the bedside, I was immediately earning thirty percent more than my highest-paid professor, who had a PhD.

Paying nursing professors fairly would bring people who really want to teach into the field. Right now, they look at the starvation wages, long hours, and piles of paperwork and decide to bag it and stay at the bedside. That's led to the shortage of class space and contributed to the nursing shortage--plus, it shows how little we really value a good nursing education.

For Nurses' Week 2011, I want a commitment that hospitals in particular will be safe, healthy places to work. Too many nurses and ancillary folks are subjected to the sort of abuse from patients and family members that would get you thrown out of the skankiest bar in Bigtown.

I've had problems personally with patient-on-nurse violence, and it raised its head again a couple of weeks ago, when a patient's family member got up in a colleague's face. She did what I'd told her would work: called 911, turned the family member over to the cops, and then filed charges. That made Manglement pay attention and deal with the situation, but it should not have to go that far. I want a commitment from managers all over the country that nurses should not have to make a federal case of violence and threats to get relief.

For Nurses' Week 2011, how 'bout we quit cutting budgets for support staff, too? The patient care techs and housekeepers and lab staff and radiology folks are all vital to the jobs we do. I can't monitor a patient with a bleeding problem if I'm busy cleaning a room for an emergent admit. Likewise, sometimes it's better to have a tech bathing patients than a nurse, because--frankly--not only are the techs better and faster at it than I am, but they're likely to learn something from the patient that the patient won't tell me.

We do incredibly important things, but those important things are dependent on the work that the invisible people in the hospital do. Let's bring those invisible people out into the spotlight for once, and make it clear how much we depend on them.

And finally, for Nurses' Week 2011, let's you and me talk about what we actually do as nurses, and get the word out.

We dare to care, yes. I don't know about you, but I personally also dare to interpret lab values, take calls from pathologists, arrange meetings between family members and doctors, push the occasional dose of epinephrine, hug people, wipe ass (yes), act as a care coordinator, take responsibility for my own and others' fuckups, and generally herd cats.

We're not just warm and fuzzy: we're scientists, we're social workers, we're personal counsellors. If we can give the people we talk to about nursing a complete picture of what it is we do--rather than focusing on things like nurses eating their young, or crappy doctors, or how fulfilling it is to wash a back at three a.m.--we're likely to find many more smart, motivated people who are suddenly interested in becoming nurses.

I wish you all a very happy Nurses' Week 2010: old nurses, new nurses, nursing students, nursing professors, ancillary staff, respiratory techs, radiology guys, the dude who deals with the red-bagged stuff, unit secretaries, transporters, EMTs. I'll bring the queso and chips; the rest of the feast is up to you.

For Nurses' Week 2011, though, let's plan a real celebration and appreciation of nurses. Let's plan something meaningful and push for changes that'll really make a difference for us and for our patients.

And let's all get massages. That was really, really nice.


bobbie said...


It has always pissed me off that one day of the year they make such a fuss about us; yet the rest of the year, they treat us like shit...

Molly said...

Amen to that.

messymimi said...

I agree. Especially in a hospital setting, the doctor sees the patient for about 15 minutes a day. He is counting on the nurses to keep his arse out of a sling the other 23 hours and 45 minutes of the day. You deserve to be treated like it.

The Future Missy Prissy RN said...

You are speaking the truth!!!! Aye Aye!

NPO said...

We are maids, waitresses and servants, that is what patients think these days anyway. Call light can you get me another pillow, or I need more ice. Forget that post-op patient in pain I want my lunch warmed up, or I will tell the patient advocate.

City Girl Marj said...

GREAT POST!!! I'm with ya, sister!

Matt T. said...

Im a new follower of your blog and have been recruiting fellow nursing students to it as well. Reading through your posts give me inspiration to get through nursing school and fantastic insight into the field. I just want to say thanks and keep up the good work and keep on blogging. I agree, nursing professors should be much more compensated for the work they do. They are doing a great service, teach us, caring, and saving lives. Thanks, Matt

Heidi said...

You're absolutely right. It was learning about nursing from smart, motivated people (mostly nurse bloggers), that got me into it.

Penny Mitchell said...

Dear World,

Please listen to Nurse Jo. Otherwise I'm too terrified to start nursing school.

Thanks bunches,

Doctor D said...

For some reason I constantly type "doctor" as "docotr." Without inscrutable handwriting doctors have no way to hide our ignorance.

For deciphering my handwriting an a hundred other thankless tasks you deserve a happy nurses week!

Jeff said...

What a wonderful amalgamation of experience talking, here.

Since I don't start my program proper until Fall 2011 (damn pre-req's and military stuff getting in the way), I'll live vicariously through you wonderful folks and learn what I can from those in the trenches.

Looking forward to joining you all, there! :)

the Muse,RN said...


Lena said...

lmfao. !!!!!!!!!