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EDITOR’S VIEW

'It’s time to tell the public that nurses are not maids'

  • 48 Comments

The implications of the health bill, and the public mauling-by-media the profession seems to endure on a regular basis are putting nursing under a fair bit of pressure.

But the thing keeping most of you awake at night is the fear that you cannot meet the expectations of patients and carers using your existing resources. In our exclusive survey last week more than half of you (55%) said this was your biggest concern.

Workforce cuts are piling the pressure on an already stretched profession, but the public’s expectations are adding to that stress.

Let’s not suggest that any patient or carer should ever tolerate the poor care we saw documented in last year’s Care Quality Commission and ombudsman reports. Drinks and food left out of reach and blatant disregard of dignity are totally unacceptable. But some patients are unrealistic about what a nurse’s role really is.

Nurses have told me that some patients use their call bell to get them to change the television channel, pour water or recline their beds – all reasonable requests, except the patients in question were extremely mobile and well enough to do these tasks themselves.

There will always be awkward patients and nurses are usually resilient at dealing with them. But the lack of appreciation for nurses, respect or understanding for the job they are being paid to do is leading to increased frustration – among nurses and patients.

Buoyed by the review website culture, where the customer is always right, some seem to believe a stay in hospital should be like a stay in a hotel. While of course feedback should be analysed to make healthcare improvements, patients need to realise that nurses are not maids. They must learn that nursing requires a broad range of skills – and unquestioning servitude is not in the job description.

  • 48 Comments

Readers' comments (48)

  • michael stone

    'They must learn that nursing requires a broad range of skills – and unquestioning servitude is not in the job description.'

    How many patients do think 'unquestioning servitude' is in the job description ? As opposed to wishing to be treated as an ill person, rather than as a collection of clinical problems ?

    I don't know - has anybody got the evidence, in an 'evidence-based' sense, about how many patients do believe that nurses are 'room service' ?

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  • very little seems to be understood of the work of nurses and the wide range of skills required to do the job and all the health risks involved and there are many misperceptions. However, I also know very little of all the details of other jobs I have no experience of.

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  • In the States, the much of the public believes that you can't get a good CEO without throwing millions of dollars at them, but that nurses make too much money for what they do. Yes, I'd say we have an image problem.

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  • Alice P | 21-Feb-2012 12:50 pm
    from Anonymous | 21-Feb-2012 11:44 am

    It's strange that if people get poor nursing and medical care they may not fare so well yet they do not put great store by nursing, which reflects in attitudes towards them and how they are treated and paid.

    I have heard HCAs telling independent patients who expect to be served by them that they are not maids. Perhaps we should all be a bit firmer and make this perfectly clear.

    The way some patients wish to offer tips also seems to show a lack of understanding.

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  • Wow, tips? The only tips I hear about involved a lot of swearing and anatomically impossible instructions - usually given when they recieve £1.70 bus fare to get home from hospital instead of the generous taxi fare or train fare they hoped to get in cash! Either that or we are the visible target for their frustrations when they dont get the admission/scan/sick note they want. Doctors get the thanks, nurses often get the anger, it has been that way as long as I can remember but I also try and remember that it is only a small proportion of patients/public that do behave this way.

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  • "They must learn that nursing requires a broad range of skills – and unquestioning servitude is not in the job description."

    How are they going to learn this? Who is going to teach them? ...and how? Who is going to provide some effective suggestions and solutions?

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  • michael stone

    I have no doubt, at all, that nursing requires a broad range of skills. But I'm still unclear, if Jenni is quoting 'an evidence base' here ?

    Asking nurses 'Do you think a lot of patients treat you as if you were 'room service' ?' could elicit a 'yes', but at the same time perhaps asking patients 'Do you think a lot of nurses ignore your needs ?' might also elicit a yes.

    So, where is the evidence base for the assertion ? Is there one, or is this just based on a perception within nursing (I'm not saying that a lot of patients do not treat nurses as if they were 'maids' {I simply don't know} - I'm just saying, do we have the equivalent of 'a double blind methodology' here, or not ?).

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  • Little One

    I regularly find the attitude of patients is that I am there to do absolutely everything for them as they lie in bed 'getting better' and find myself telling patients that they will not 'get better' just by lying there, and whilst they have two good arms and legs they should use them.

    I don't think it comes across as rude, it is about making the patient aware that we are promoting their independence, not being nasty, and that if they truly need help they will receive it but that I am not prepared to bend to their every whim and hold the glass to their mouth as they drink because they are too lazy to do it themselves, and they think that is entirely what my job consists of.

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  • michael stone

    'and find myself telling patients that they will not 'get better' just by lying there, and whilst they have two good arms and legs they should use them.'

    Little one, just to check something. So your hospital encourages patients who can walk, to walk around and do things for themselves, and to 'socialise with each other' if they wish to, etc ? I agree with what you say, but if you want patients to somehow 'be tied to their bed', that isn't true 'independence', is it ?

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  • Michael Stone:
    Your use of quotation marks baffles me, are these your random musings or those you have heard spoken by nurses? Do you do the little" " motion with the fingers when you talk?
    I'm a nurse, and was told that I was an arsehole by a patient because I wouldn't pull his blanket up over his feet when he was cold. He was cold after a walk outside for a fag...

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