I suspect that the reason nurses generally aren't very big on medical students is that as nurses, they take so much crap from doctors whom they can't fight much, so they might as well get us BEFORE we outrank them. This phenomenon isn't exactly restricted to the UK; nurses the world over pretty much have the same complaints. Only in the United States have I ever heard about nurse unions managing to make any real progress through strikes. (And if you guessed that my source of US healthcare news is the ever-reliable and extremely accurate Grey's Anatomy, then ding ding, you're right again! What are you, psychic?--Ed.)
Today, while I was mucking about with some poor guinea-pig's intestine trying to smooth-talk it into contracting for me, a friend of mine who is a graduate medical student started telling me about her clinical rotation at Addenbrooke's Hospital here in Cambridge. On her first day, upon walking into the wards:
Angry Overworked Nurse #1: Who're you?!
Medic: I'm...I'm supposed to start my clinical rota--
Angry Overworked Nurse #1: Where's your ID tag?!
Medic: Oh, uhm, it's in here...lemme fish it ou--
Angry Overworked Nurse #1: Why aren't you wearing it? You were TOLD to wear it at all times! Oi Angry Overworked Nurse #2, c'mere. Take this medic to Dr Snobbish Surgical Chief.
Angry Overworked Nurse #2: What? But--but she's a MEDIC. Why do I get her?
Angry Overworked Nurse #1: Because I said so! I've got lots of work here. I hate doctors anyway. Take her!
Angry Overworked Nurse #2: And you think I don't?! Right, you, follow me. And keep that bloody tag on!
Now I know that sounds like an exaggeration, but it's not that far off. My friend said that not only did the nurses hate her, they were also very open about WHY they hated her. They informed her in no uncertain terms about their disdain for doctors and openly bitched about them. Of course, my friend being the smart and sensitive person she is, recognised this bitterness for what it was, and eventually made friends with the nurses on her wards. But I was reminded of her when I came across this article in the Times, which got me chuckling.
King’s College hospital NHS Trust in London is offering nurses free cappuccinos and chocolate chip biscuits to encourage them to smile at patients. They introduced the reward scheme after surveys raised concerns that nurses were not being nice enough to the sick.Any old idiot can see there's no shortage of material here to make fun of. In fact I'm quite sure several blogs have picked up on it and done exactly that (but no, I haven't found them yet, hence the absence of links --Ed).
But I'm not gonna do that today. That'd be a cheap shot. In fact, I rather agree with this method of reward. The article isn't pretentious about WHY the hospital has started doing this. It says quite plainly,
Trusts are introducing new initiatives to improve their “customer services” because, under government reforms, hospitals now need to compete for patients.No beating around the bush there. Government numbnuts mess up the system enough to make hospitals compete for patients, but out of the whole hulking mess comes something that finally benefits the patient (that's you and me, folks. --Ed). According to the article,
Matrons at King’s College hospital hand special thank-you cards to nurses who are seen smiling at patients or relatives, chatting with patients, having a positive attitude or doing something to make someone’s day better. Selina Truman, head of nursing in general medicine at the trust, said “This scheme is very motivating because matrons and ward sisters praise the nurses directly. It has put patients back at the centre of our work.”Believe it or not, folks, competition's actually made things better for the patients. Anyone who's ever been in a hospital will tell you that the attitude of the attending nurses makes a huge difference in the quality of your stay. And while offering nurses free coffee and biscuits may seem like a cheap way of getting them to clean up their act, it's actually workable. It's one of those 'little things that matter' that everyone seems to go on about (married people will understand. --Ed) and, as everyone knows (including the nurses themselves! --Ed) nurses really could use some coffee.
But what move like this could stand without naysayers? Lo, already they appear on the horizon:
However, an editorial in Nursing Times magazine said nurses did not need bribes to be helpful and pleasant to patients. It said: “Excessive workloads and paperwork prevent nurses from spending time with their patients and caring for them properly. This is a fundamental problem that can never be rectified with a hot drink and a biscuit, or other such imports from industry.”That's true, Mr Anonymous-Editor-Hiding-Behind-Anonymity-To- Avoid-Being-Skewered-By-Fantastic-Wits-Like-Mine, but it's a step in the right direction. I'm assuming the editor of the Nursing Times has been a nurse him/herself at one point, and I challenge them to find a single nurse who WOULD mind a free coffee and biscuits in return for ignoring their insanely depressing workloads long enough to flash a smile and a kind word at a patient.
Still, though, all's not well that ends well in this light-hearted tale. The article gives a taste of a more serious issue brewing:
Nurses who think above their stations. *gasp* Can it be? Are nurses becoming too highly trained to perform basic nursing care? Is this phenomenon unique to first-world Britain, which is so saddled with political correctness and human rights that nurses are no longer fit to nurse? Is this a good thing, giving nurses rights and powers without having them undergo further education, or is it a recipe for disaster?
In recent years there have been growing concerns about nurses who are “too posh to wash” and prefer to spend their time on administrative and technical tasks rather than basic care.Two years ago a resolution at the annual congress of the Royal College of Nursing proposed that nurses were now “too clever to care” and suggested that the compassionate part of their job should be delegated to healthcare assistants.
We may never know. Or we may find out someday. But when we do, I only pray that it isn't too late to salvage the National Health Service.