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'Grumpy Nurse did not tell me her name, smile at me or calm me'

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I realise that there is more to nursing than this, but these are the three topics I had chosen to examine from a Legal, Ethical and Professional point of view and my stance had been that trust was the most important of these qualities.

However, a trip to the Doctors led to a referral and me experiencing life as a patient. I believe that I am trustworthy, compassionate and able to communicate; I believe that these qualities help me in my journey to become a qualified nurse. 

My experience as a patient has taught me that not all nurses have these skills.I was fully aware of what would happen to me when I went for my referral appointment,  I was perhaps a bit more knowledgeable than the average person due to my training, this did not stop me feeling anxious. 

The day of my appointment I had to be nil by mouth.  I tend to continuously drink water throughout the day, I had not realised how hard it is going without a drink for 6 hours.  I suddenly found myself being able to empathise with those patients I had met during my 8 week gastroenterology placement. When it came my turn to be booked in, I was expecting an experience similar to that from my Gastro placement.  I hoped to meet a nice, friendly nurse who would talk me through everything, calm my nerves, answer my questions and generally put me at ease. Instead I got Grumpy Nurse. 

“Grumpy Nurse did not tell me her name, she did not smile at me, and she made no attempt to relax me or calm me”

Grumpy Nurse did not tell me her name, she did not smile at me, and she made no attempt to relax me or calm me. She manhandled me into a machine to take my blood pressure; she took a pinprick sample of blood. She briskly went through my medical history without really listening to my replies. I found myself hoping fervently that this nurse would not be participating in my treatment. Then she told me something that I disagreed with, so I argued with her. Even though I knew I was right, I found myself acquiescing to her because she was in a uniform, because I was nervous and because I just wanted to get away from her. I wondered how many other patients had done the same. I was then sent to another waiting room, the sitting around waiting made me more nervous. 

My name was called and thankfully, it was called by Nice Nurse. Nice Nurse smiled at m,e which instantly relaxed me. She told me her name and then led me into a small changing room.  Nice Nurse went through my details again, she calmed me and told me she would be in the treatment room with me. I cannot explain the relief I felt knowing that someone who was able to communicate with me would be there to hold my hand. I then had to get changed into the obligatory nightgown and wait for someone to come and get me. Never before had I realised how vulnerable you feel when you are not in your own clothes, the alien feel of the hospital apparel and the coldness of the changing room started to make my nerves increase tenfold.

Then Happy Nurse came to take me through to the treatment room.  Happy Nurse was great, I liked her on sight. Happy Nurse also told me her name, made me laugh and introduced me to the Doctor. Happy Nurse and the Doctor talked me through what would happen while Nice Nurse held my hand. These 2 nurses showed me compassion, I was happy to put myself in their hands and trust them to care for me. 

I appreciated that Happy Nurse communicated with me and took the trouble to establish that I understood everything and was happy to proceed.  In recovery I met Super Nurse. There were five of us in recovery, Super Nurse managed not to panic when two patients simultaneously fainted and started throwing up at the same time. Super Nurse took it all in her stride and dealt with it all superbly.  Super Nurse also smiled, told me her name when I was more aware and offered me a drink.  In fact, she ended up making me three cups of coffee, for which I am eternally grateful. Super Nurse came and sat with me and went through everything concerning my discharge and aftercare. She was extremely thorough. I found myself admiring her knowledge and her ability to explain things in layman terms. 

The whole experience has left me hoping I emulate the traits of Super, Happy and Nice Nurse. I would be horrified to discover that I have ever been Grumpy Nurse. I acknowledge that everyone has bad days, but a basic nicety of Nursing is to tell a patient your name. Being a Nurse means being in a position of trust. 

Patients, whether they be in hospital voluntary or involuntary are forced to trust you and expect you to be competent at your job.  I found myself doubting the ability of Grumpy Nurse purely due to the way she treated me.  She could have been a world expert, but her communication skills left me doubting her competence and unwilling to trust my care to her.  

Being a patient has taught me valuable lessons in empathy. I understand the vulnerability in the simple act of relinquishing your clothes to put on a hospital gown. I can write my essay with renewed understanding. 

Communication, compassion and trust are vital elements of nursing, but the ability to communicate is perhaps the most important.

  • Comments (48)

Readers' comments (48)

  • Anonymous

    we have all experienced this kind of treatment. I went to my local regional hospital to have bloods taken and the two nurses that took part in the blood samples never spoke to me but just kept talking to one another about the night before and what a great time they had.They were unaware i was a nurse and when i went home i had a lovely black bruise at the needle site. what an experience indeed.

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  • Having been a patient - on 5 weeks bed rest due to injury, I firmly beleive that all healthcare staff should a patient for at 48hrs, just to see from the patients point of view exactly how it feels.

    This would, i'd hope, alter 'grumpy nurses' perspective.

    Soap and water costs little, good manners cost nowt - as my mother used to remind me

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  • Make sure you read and reference 'the little things that count' going back years and years ago but its still relevant now!

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  • Anonymous

    There is in my own experiance yet another type of nurse the Indifferent nurse. Having had a major op for cancer I ended up in ICU throughout the night I had a delightful mixture of super nurse and happy nurse, however iI was handed over to indifferent nurse. Little direct communication to me spent most of his time talking of his love life with a fellow nurse and in graphic detail. I heard about everything he had done the previous evening. Neither amusing or reassuring! When I wanted to sit up in a chair he helped me somewhat but made it clear by his body language he was not happy about being asked to do something It was even worse 30 minutes later when I was begining to feel unwell when my wife asked him if he could assist me back into bed. My one hope is that nurses reading this aritcle will take heed and realise that nursing is too important to be let down by these attitudes. I have been nursing for 35 years and yes we are professionals and yes we have extended our role yes we need a greater academic background but we need to nurture the caring compassionate side to nursing that is every bit as important if we are to do our jobs propperly.

    I am a man who over 35 years can honestly say that my understanding and compassion had been my main driver

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  • kathryn geisel

    I couldn't agree with you anymore on this topic. Nurses have such a profound impact on people and the way some of them choose to expel themselves is humiliating. I just hope that for every "grumpy" nurse you get, 3 "super" nurses make up for it! This should help shed the light on what "true" nurses stand for, and perhaps if any grumpy nurses are reading this..well shame on you.

    Regards to all,
    Kathryn Geisel

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  • Hi,
    I think I'd like of you as my nurse Katrina! Your articles are very reassuring for the future of nursing.However I sincerely believe that empathy is something that some have and some don't. No amount of 'role-play' training will make any difference either. You can either care enough to put yourself in the place of your patient and behave accordingly or you are indifferent. Unfortunately I have worked with and been cared for by several nurses and other care workers who simply just don't give a damn and I despair of why they are doing this type of work. It is so good to know that there are still people out there who genuinely care for their patients and don't need to be reminded about how to show real interest and commitment.

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  • Anonymous

    This happens too often and he makes me very angry. I sometimes feel like the grumpy nurse had this sort of attitudes in my case because she knew I was a nurse. Even saying sarcastically 'you know all the symptoms'. In another case in a and e no explanationS was given as I was waiting to see a doc. I STRONLY BELIEVE THAT WE SHOULD START HAVING PATIENT SATISFACTION SURVEY AFTER EACH ENCOUNTER WITH A NURSE OR DOCTOR IN FACT (like with my mobile phone company). Nurses would know then that they are watched and their communication skills perfomance monitored. Next time I meet a nurse like this, ill or not I have decided to speak my mind up and risk being told off by 'security! Zero tolerance should be based on nurses not irritating patient by their lack of RESPECT and/or COMMUNICATION SKILLS..'

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  • Anonymous

    As long as there are no consequences for their actions, the grumpy nurse/hsw will still exist. Especially in this economic climate where any job will do. Nurses who lack empathy may be in the wrong job or are desillusioned by certain aspects of the profession/personal life. Nevertheless, no reasons should be an excuse to treat someone who has no involvement in your personal life, with disrespect or lack of empathy.In the private sector where calls are monitored for example, staff who might not like their jobs still performs if they want to keep a meal on the table. Let us be honest here, any type of nursing is tough and challenging but by realising that the well being of patient (emotional,mental,physical...) depends primarily on your communication skills. We should at least try to empathise with the patient. If not a patient should have the right to 'not tolerate' our negative attitude. It appears that grumpiness is more common place nowadays i.e recent encounters with some shop assistants.

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  • I am a theatre nurse when I collect patients be it from a ward or theatre reception I always introduce myself.

    Recently I have been a patient seeing things from a patient's perspective and I can say there was not many nurses/staff who introduced themselves to me or made me feel at ease.

    The most recent was last month after finding out I'd had a missed miscarriage. This was 11 months after having a stillborn baby. The day following my scan (where we found out about the miscarriage) I had to go to the Early Pregnancy Unit. I had a support worker come into the room they had put me in and start asking me questions and doing my blood pressure. She did not introduce herself to me or put me at ease. She then took me to another room to do my bloods but I have rubbish veins so she said Dr could do it. Then she left the room. The sister came into me and asked me if I had thought about how I wanted to manage the miscarriage. However she did not introduce herself.
    The only person who introduced themselves that day was the Dr.

    The next day I went into go to theatre. The sister looking after me on the ward did introduce herself to me. When the theatre staff came to collect me the sister was handing over and was showing the staff something on my notes over me. Felt like I was not there.

    However the Theatre staff were really nice. I was extremely scared being on the receiving end for a change.

    I feel its not a hard thing to do introduce yourself to a patient neither is it making them feel a little more at ease.

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  • The old adage...what goes around comes around. One day, these non smiling, non communicating miserable people (nurses) will be on the receiving end. Lets hope they meet the nice "super nurses" and realise the error of their ways. In the meantime, why do their superiors not intervene, can they really not see what is happening under their noses.

    When I began my training in '69 A senior tutor taught us to treat every patient as though they were a loved one and we would never go wrong in our approach. So very true.
    I think we need to return to the days where "practical training" happened on the wards under the auspices of the formidable ward sister.

    Nurse misery po faced unfriendly would not have lasted five minutes on my ward. Oh how I wish we could turn back the clock.

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