I have struggled for years with the idea that nursing is in a decline. I’ve used phrases like ‘transitional stage of development’ and ‘transforming professionalism’ to explain away the troubling gaps in practice observed. Or I have ascribed it to one-offs, not representative of the profession as a whole.
No more. Two events have opened my eyes to the devolution and destruction of a once valued and respected profession.
Event one: I visited someone in an acute care hospital recently. Someone who obviously needed to be hospitalized for close nursing care – because that is the only reason to BE hospitalized. On the first visit I was slightly dismayed at the disorder around the bedside, but the patient appeared clean and was improving. The next time I visited I found a someone in, analgesic and medical respiratory distress and pain, in need of mouth care, analgesic and intervention. The NAT retrieved the RN to see about pain for the patient, and I was given the opportunity to see first hand how vital signs are taken.
A dynamap. Yes, that’s it. A patient in respiratory distress, no stethoscope, no touch of fingers on a pulse, no nursing. A automated BP cuff reading, a HR of 105 and a saturation reading of 87% and oh, let’s turn up the O2 and look 90%, that’s better, do you have a puffer?
Why are you even in this room? You don’t know what medications the patient has except to tell her that the morphine has been cut off despite the diagnosis of pancreatitis. You didn’t listen to her chest. You didn’t assess her perfusion and her ability to compensate with this health challenge. Just the numbers Mam. You charted on the wrong chart and you didn’t wash your hands, neither did the NAT. You didn’t do a proper pain assessment. In fact you were useless.
A second event of a elicited a different type of disgust. A co-worker put in many hours creating a fun poster to bring awareness to a patient care improvement project. The poster encouraged other staff to add to it, creating a sense of engagement and just a little fun in a deadly serious work place. Many people were adding their thoughts to the poster until suddenly, someone decided that they had the right to tear it down and destroy it.
Yes, an individual, took it upon themselves to destroy the project work of another staff member.
Before 8 am I was ready to quit. People scattered as I stalked down the hallway looking for someone to provide me with answers. I want names. I want punishment and I want that toxic troll removed from the work place. Union be damned, I will find a way.
And there it is. A sad slip into disrepute, nursing slowly becomes the used car salesman of healthcare. Bullying is accepted – the nurses I talked to about the event routinely prefaced their comments with, ‘ it’s just …’
No, it’s not ‘just’ anything. This unprofessional, dishonourable action and behaviour must no longer be excused. We cannot afford to continue to look the other way, or shrug when a co-worker acts less than we expect of a professional. We must stand up to the bully and no longer support them by not speaking up. Every eye roll, every dismissive comment, every unwashed hand must be monitored for and responded to.
Nursing used to be a career you could be proud to say you belonged to. No, that is wrong – it is still to be proud of, but unless we take a stand now, immediately, we will be seeing the last days. Too soon the nurse will be seen in the same light as a physician of old – a bringer of death with unwashed hands and dubious skill. A slattern, typhoid Mary to be avoided at all costs.
My anger and disgust is morphing into a mission. A purging of the ills…and then I read the RN magazine and the multitude of disciplinary hearings for unprofessional behaviour and the ‘punishment’ of having to review 8 modules on code of ethics or some such nonsense. No wonder we are in such a state….