I've had a lot of long days at work recently. Thankfully, this weekend wasn't too bad. It's nice when there's enough work to keep me busy, but not so much as to send me round the bend, or make me feel like I haven't been able to do the best job possible.
So, I'll share a little secret: Nurses are people. We're human beings with actual feelings. Granted, when we walk into a patient's room, we do our best to set aside our own prejudices and judgments and become advocates for the people who depend on us. That's something I take very seriously considering my patient population is largely made up of vulnerable adults. But just because we're professional doesn't mean we can't be hurt.
Nurses put so much of themselves into their work. It's not just a job for the vast majority of us. So, when we're abused by our patients, especially when patients pepper that abuse with insinuations about the quality of care we're providing, it tends to sting.
A long time ago I learned to put my foot down. I'm there to help, and I will do everything in my power to try to meet the needs of my patients. But I draw the line at becoming their whipping girl. It's not that I don't understand that they may be frustrated or upset. I truly do! But that doesn't mean I should allow it to continue when they take it out on me.
This weekend when one of the best nurses aids I work with ended up in tears because of a patient's repeated verbal lashing, I talked to her about it. I explained to her that just as she expects to not be mistreated by the staff, we also expect to not be mistreated by her. I informed her that she'd made my aide cry and I left her to think about it. Had the patient continued to berate the aide, I would have changed her assignment. I really will not allow myself or my staff to be treated that way.
I was really happy to find that she later apologized to my staff member. She explained that she's (understandably) angry about a number of changes that will affect where she lives. I get her frustration. In fact, some of the staff are frustrated with those changes as well. When she opened up to talk about it, she found that the staff was actually really understanding and supportive.
There's something truly satisfying about being able to be assertive and actually achieving some kind of understanding. We all have bad days. It's just that we're there to help! We're on their side. And that's so much easier when we're not treated like the enemy.