Nursing Voices

Monday, August 28, 2006

I Want My Silver Wings

Did you know that the first flight attendances were nurses? Yep, it’s true, the women in these pictures are nurses. Nurses use to pour coffee from sterling silver coffeepots and serve sandwiches, as airline customers sat back and gazed at the clouds drifting by. We were the queens of good customer service. The American public viewed nurses as sweet and kind, as well as great little handmaidens.

Fast forward to 2006. My boss pulls me into her office to tell me that a family member of one of my patients registered a complaint against me. The individual was upset because I told them that if they didn’t stop threatening to meet me in the parking lot after my shift to beat me up, I was going to call the police. The incident revolved around my refusal to disclose confidential psychiatric information to this individual. My boss told me that my comments were an example of “poor customer service,” and I needed to be more like an “airline stewardess.” I was politely asked not to “incite” my patients or their family members anymore and to please remember that customer service is my first priority. I sat in boss’s office in shock and disbelief, and then I started laughing. I thanked my boss for her feedback, told her I thought she was nuts, and left her office.

If bedside nurses are airline stewardesses, someone forgot to give us our silver wings. I’m all for customer service, but the day I’m required to take a beating in the parking lot for sake of good customer service is the day I tear up my nursing license and get a job at Borders Books.

I’m a nurse, not punching bag.


Blogger Janet said...

Good Grief!!!!
You were nicer to your boss than I would have been. Is your boss a nurse? If so, she has sold out.

10:38 PM  
Blogger Mother Jones RN said...

Hi Janet,

Yep, my boss is a nurse. We get along with each most of the time because we agree to disagree on things going on in the hospital.

She said she would like to see me go on in management, but it's not in my nature to screw people over.

1:22 AM  
Blogger NeoNurseChic said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

2:16 AM  
Blogger kario said...

speaking as a patient, I will say that I prefer my nurses to be smart, witty, and somewhat bossy (so that I know what they think is best for me). "Customer service" for you means service to your patient and their best interests, not the interests of their family or friends.

12:19 PM  
Blogger scalpel said...

Airline stewardesses don't have to take that sort of nonsense either. Nobody does.

Threats like that need to be taken seriously, and I don't understand why you even bothered to warn that person at all, particularly if it was a pattern of repeated threats. One threat of physical harm would justify filing a police report and having the offender escorted off the premises.

Your supervisor is wrong.

8:25 AM  
Anonymous Mimi said...

Customer service, it sounds like they are running a deli not a hospital.


7:53 PM  
Anonymous Kim said...

I thought I had heard it all.
And then I read this!

Hey, did you ever read the "Vicki Barr, Flight Stewardess" series. Written by Helen Wells, if I am not mistaken. Vicki had to get special permission to be a stewardess because she was NOT a nurse.

1:08 PM  
Blogger Jo said...

Oh geez. Wow. I'm speechless.

I appreciate my manager so much more now.

My manager would have told that family member to go take a flying a polite way of course.

I think that's the difference when working in a charity hospital. It's less about money then ergo less about "customer service".

10:42 AM  
Anonymous Kim said...

Just thought of something else -

Your supervisor needs some classes in how to be politically correct.

(1) The appropriate term is now "flight attendant" and

(2) Those flight attendants are responsible for our safety 30000 feet up in the air, even as they pass our coffee.

I heard an insult to nurses AND flight attendants in that article.

Never did take much to Vicki Barr, anyway. She had to get special dispensation to be a "stewardess" and NOT a nurse. The books were both written by Helen Wells and I guess she wanted to give all the good stories to Cherry Ames.....

11:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the ICCU where I used to work, a psycho man threatened the ICU nurses (one floor above us) that he would be back with a gun if they "let" his (96 year old, demented and vented) mother die while he was gone. He was in the process of being removed from the unit by Security for the fifth time that week after making similar statements whenever the nurses came in the room to care for the patient. Another patient's family overheard this and were so freaked out that they called the police, who picked him up in the hospital parking lot. He continued to make threats of killing his mother's nurses while the police tried to calm him down, so they took him into protective custody for the night. When he was released from jail the next morning and came back to the hospital, he told the unit manager that the nurses had had him arrested so that they could kill his mother without him seeing. A critical care dept. staff meeting was called, which included my unit, the ICU and ED nurses (all of us had dealt with this particular psycho over the weeks that his mother had been in the hospital). We assumed that a procedure had been developed to deal with this very scary man, but instead we were told that hospital policy allows family to be present with their critically ill relatives any time they wish, and that having this "gentleman" removed by security when he posed no immediate threat to anyone was a violation of his rights. Three days later, his mother (finally, mercifully) died. As crazy man left the hospital, he very quietly told the unit secretary that he would be back. She called the police, who went to his home. They came in to talk to the unit manager. The next day, keypad locks were installed on all of the critical care unit doors.

1:02 PM  
Blogger universal health said...

We all must hang together, or assuredly, we will all hang separately, has been how nursing administration has driven apart (pretty successfully) nurses and used a divide and conquer strategy to keep nurses disempowered.

First off, no one - nurse or otherwise, is compelled to suffer abuse and threats of any nature.

Secondly, every person has the right to call the police when threatened or after suffering an assult.

Third, nurses will find a way to re-unite all in order to take back professional power.

I blogged about it in a post called Nurses: Prostituting for the Healthcare System Pimp on Universal Health.

Good for you for standing up to the manager.

3:39 PM  
Blogger Jo said...

I think you and I work at the same hospital. "Customer Service" is now the number-one priority for management, so much so that the hospital offers more courses on CS than it does continuing education classes.

And yep, your professionalism and dignity are often sold out to meet those customer service standards.

I 'magine the tide will start to turn in a few years, back to a patient-care focus. I wonder how many nurses we'll lose in the meantime, though.

7:23 PM  
Anonymous Susan RN said...

That's a load of crap. If I were you, I'd tell my story to human resources, just so they have it on file.

Jeez, if your supervisor isn't on your side, who is?

7:28 PM  
Blogger just4ofus said...

I feel you! I sit in some meetings at the hospital and think... WHAT? Where did patient care go? Do I work at Wendy's or as a nurse? Customer Service has taken OVER our hospital, forget the patients best interest. Instead of Customer Service, we call it Family Centered Care.

8:48 PM  
Blogger The Platypus said...

About ten years ago a family member, angry at the death of their loved one and set on revenge against the responsible physicians, returned with a gun and murdered two people. They weren't the responsible physicians; just the first white coats that person saw. These things do happen, and still people wonder why we have armed security police patrolling the campus and metal detectors in the ED entrance.

9:57 PM  
Blogger JustCallMeJo said...


I think I might have laughed, too.

Would you like some fries with that?
/jo, rolling her eyes

12:27 PM  
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9:52 AM  

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