Shayne on You: Treat your nurse with respect

Dear Maggie,

I’m a registered nurse, and I love my job. I love being able to help people, I love being the patient’s advocate while they’re hospitalized, I love knowing how to do what’s needed. But I’ve noticed that I, and most of me colleagues, tend to change jobs within the field fairly often, and the other day we were discussing why that is. “We burn out fast” was the consensus. But why do we burn out so fast? Because our jobs are completely and utterly selfless. We spend our entire at work giving our full attention to the comfort and needs of others. And because, in return for that, we often get treated pretty badly by those same others. Patients buzz us constantly, treating us like waitresses or hotel maids. They complain loudly if we don’t get to their bedside immediately, never stopping to think we might be busy saving someone’s life while they’re hitting their buzzer for a some fresh ice in their water glass. They shout at us if they don’t like the decisions of their doctors. They can be demanding, abusive, and cruel. I honestly believe that people inside hospitals treat nurses in a way they would never dream of treating a stranger they met on the street. And I know that’s because they’re not at their best – they’re sick, or they wouldn’t be there. But I don’t know too many illness that have as one of their side-effects, the power to take away someone’s common courtesy, decency or good manners. And I think there would be a lot more nurses on the job providing excellent care, if there were some kind of public education program to teach people that good manners apply to everyone. Even the lowly nurse who might very well save your life before you see her again.

Sick & Tired RN

Dear RN,

I don’t even think you need any advice from me. OK, maybe just a few drops of the kind of Pollyanna platitudes that make people want to slap me. Remember that if your happiness depends on anything outside you, you’re in trouble. When it gets crappy, you have to find your connection to Source and your higher self to shift your focus away from the crappiness and toward the good stuff. The lives you save, the lives you change, the people you help, the knowledge you possess. There are a lot of good things in your career, or you wouldn’t be doing it, right? So try to keep the balance of your focus tipped toward the good, and away from the bad.

But the real advice in this column has to go out to patients. Your nurse, people, is the one person who’s getting the most vital information from you, to your doctor. Doctors are great, but let’s face it, they’re in and out of your room within fifteen minutes, twice a day while you’re hospitalized. Your nurses are with you all day. They keep track of every ache and pain and symptom, they chart how much you eat, and how much you eliminate, they keep track of your temp and blood pressure all day and all night. When something goes wrong, when something new creeps up, nine times out of ten (and I wouldn’t be surprised if it were 10 times out of 10) it’s the nurse who notices it the signs, and points it out to the doc and pesters him about it again, if he doesn’t follow up the first time. She’s your number one caregiver.

These are highly trained woman and men who save lives and give excellent health care. They have to maintain their supportive, nurturing demeanor even when some idiot is throwing a bedpan across the room at their heads or screaming insults at them.

They’re not there to fetch you extra ketchup for your fries or adjust your curtains, though they do all those things constantly. They’re there to save your lives and see to your health.

So next time you’re spending time in a hospital, look at your nurse and see a human being, a woman (or man) with a family and a home, who probably just came from another patient who treated her like an indentured servant and insulted and abused her. Look at her and see a woman (or man) who has chosen a to make a career of taking care of other people. People like you. Look at her and see a woman (or man) who has probably saved someone’s live within the past week. See a hero. Because that was every nurse is.

Treat your nurses with respect, and don’t forget to thank them for all they do, before you leave that hospital.

Good manners don’t vanish just because you get sick. You also might want to keep in mind that the person you’re hurling abuse at today, might be the one doing CPR on you tomorrow. Food for thought, no? (I know, no real nurse would ever let patient-abuse have any bearing on the level of care that patient received when the stuff hit the fan later on. Which is why I’m not a nurse, ‘cause I’d be in the corner filing my nails, waiting to see just how blue you could turn before I finished.)


Dear Maggie,

I’m an interfaith minister, and I have a question for you. Your help would be greatly appreciated. I know that you’ve written a few books. I’m in the process of writing a book on my life, ministry and teachings. Could you tell me how to publish a book?

Thank you,

And May you walk in Beauty

Dear Reverend,

Since this is a question I answered in a very recent column, I don’t want to bore our readers by reiterating everything I already said, so I’m going to write you privately with a lot more detail. In the meantime, though, remember to avoid any publishers who want you to pay them. They pay you. That’s how it works. Avoid literary agents who charge fees. They only get paid they sell your book for you, 15% of the advance being the standard charge. Look for books that are like the book you want to write – look in bookstores and in libraries. When you find them, other memoirs with a spiritual angle, check out the copyright page for the name and address of the publishing company. Then write them (or go online) and ask for their writers’ guidelines or tip sheets. And then take it from there.

I’ll be in touch directly. In the meantime, good luck with this project! I’d love to hear more about it, so do keep me posted.



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