Although the nursing profession is the most trusted, polls and surveys prove that it is definitely not the most respected profession. Nurses suffer disrespect from physicians, patients, visitors, family members, colleagues, and even the hospital administrators. The saddest part of it all is that disrespect has been a tolerated culture in the medical profession by the management, administrators, and the public. In healthcare, disrespectful behavior can result in medical errors, increased healthcare costs and endangering patients’ safety (Johnstone 2016).This essay will explore how nurses are disrespected in their work places.
The role of nurses has changed overtime- from subordinate role to that of independent stakeholders in the delivery of health care. The aim of this significant change is to improve on service delivery. Despite these significant changes in the healthcare delivery, there still exists the mindset and negative public perception on nurses causing them to be undervalued and disrespected. In most cases, nurses become easy targets of blaming and shaming for ineffective practice, which can be blame on dysfunctional and failing system. Based on this fact, nurses face disrespect in the course of their work. For instance, nurses are widely disrespected by their patients. When addressing or asking for assistance from nurses, patients order them around and very few remember to use the words “please” and “thank you.” One nurse claims that patients yell at her all the time for things that are completely out of her control. For instance, there was an incident whereby a male patient rang the bell and when she came around to see what he wanted, he screamed at her ordering her to switch off his light. The nurse responded by calmly telling, the patient that she would do so if he used the word “pleases” (Clearly, Hunt &Horsfall 2015).
In addition, family members of patients fail to show respect towards nurses. An instance of outrageous disrespect was witnessed when family members were yelling threats to a floor nurse when the supervisor informed them that the patient had contracted a bacterial infection. They were quoted saying,
“You haven’t seen crazy until you’ve seen me! You’d better get my mother out of this hospital before I get you out of the way” (Johnstone 2015).
The patient was taken to another hospital where she continued being given the same antibiotics as she was getting from the previous hospital. Another nurse reported that a daughter of one of her patients went off at her because her father, who had dementia, did not get the usual meal as he had chosen what he got. She yelled hatefully,
“You will address me with yes ma’am and that is all, do you understand me?”(Randle 2016). Such attitude towards nurses can affect delivery of healthcare, which can lead to unfavorable clinical outcome.
Additionally, there have also been cases of lack of respect for the nurses themselves. Many may not know this but it is a prevalent behavior in nursing that destroys and discourages teamwork. A certain nurse told her colleague that she could not take extra days to cover for her vacation because she was also feeling a little bit burnt out. The result was that she got her hair pulled thrice during her shift for failing to cover her colleague. In another case, when a fellow nurse asked for assistance the colleague rolled her eyes, folded her arms and walked away. Another ICU nurse had her patient crashing and when she asked for help, her coworker refused to say that she was going for her smoke break and had no time for incompetent nurses (Vagharseyyedin 2016).The most known cases of workplace disrespect experienced nurses are said to be “hazing” the new nurses. In one occasion, Cathy enquired about a certain medication from three experienced nurses standing by and she ended up wishing that she had not. The nurses openly laughed at her and started talking about her from a distance. She could hear them say that she was stupid and it was ridiculous for her to ask such a question. Incidences have been reported whereby a new nurse is assigned to the most difficult patient so that the rest can test her as if it is a rite of passage. However, the younger nurses are sometimes rude to the elderly nurses who may be having difficulty adapting to new technology. Some newer nurses pick on the older nurses for being slow; this can inhibit cooperation amongst nurses and thus preventing effective service delivery. They have the minimal experience yet they dictate to the defenseless older nurses claiming that they are now old and should retire (Hutchinson, Vickers, Wilkes, and Jackson 2014).
Further, another common type of disrespect experienced by nurses is from the physicians. For a long time, nurses have been on the receiving end of extremely tempered doctors and have been treated with disrespect. Most of them have encountered doctors who are reluctant or entirely refuse to return their calls or answer their questions. Reports have been made of doctors scolding nurses, hurling demeaning insults and comments, threatening and even assaulting them physically. Others go as low as spreading malicious rumors to shame and humiliate nurses (Hayward, Bungay, Wolff, and MacDonald 2016). A journal reported that physicians roughly push nurses away in the operating room, throwing surgical instruments, pens, scissors, and stethoscopes at them. For instance, a surgeon threw a scalpel at a nurse out of anger because the nurse did not have a rare medical gadget that he needed. He ended up endangering the nurse and many other people including a weak patient by throwing a tantrum. Anesthesiologists told a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist that he could teach a monkey to do her job. Another surgeon was reported for throwing a bloody sponge at a nurse and yelling at her asking,
“Are you stupid or something?” (Stevens 2017).
In another incident, a nurse informed the physician that the patient was extremely anxious and was experiencing shortness of breath. Dismissively, the doctor instructed the nurse to give the patient some anti-anxiety drug and to take some of them herself. Later in the evening, the patient was rushed to the intensive care unit due to congestive heart failure. This would have been avoided if the doctor had examined the patient instead of being rude. Another nurse reported that the sponge count after an operation was inconsistent. The physician sarcastically said that an expensive x-ray would be done since the nurse was suffering from the obsessive-compulsive disorder. When the x-ray was carried out, the sponge was found inside the patient. Clearly, such nurses are in a hostile working environment while fearing for their well-being (Hendricks and Cope 2016).
Such cases should be reported to the hospital administrators even if they appear to be trivial. However, this is often not the case, because the nurses are afraid that the administration will fail to punish doctors who generate income or garner media approval. They even fear that they might lose their jobs as retaliation from the involved physicians. Additionally, they worry that their colleagues will see them as whistleblowers or snitches. These fears are somehow justified due to the kind of double standards that protect the physicians and render nurses vulnerable. It has been reported that there are hospitals that have fired nurses who reported disrespectful doctors who endangered patients (Simons and Mawn 2014). In a certain instant, an ER doctor refused to try to save a man whose heart had stopped and the nurses reported the female doctor to the director. The director dismissed their complaints in an insulting way saying,
“You’re just jealous because the doctor is young and pretty” (Davey 2015).
Hospital administrators have been reported to disrespect nurses and instead of seeing them as the heroes they are, they view them as servants. In a certain undisclosed medical center, the administrators were trying to cut costs and they forced nurses to perform house-keeping chores. They risked cross-contamination by having the nurses handle patients and carry out duties such as emptying litter cans, sweeping, changing linens, and mopping (Winch, Henderson, Kay, Burridge, Livesay, and Sinnot 2014). In another hospital, nurses reported that they are charged for parking yet the physicians and technicians park for free. Some nurses have made complaints of managers who constantly criticize their work and humiliate them. Others have complained of being shouted at or marginalized. All this happens despite the fact that nurses are skilled and educated professionals and human beings who deserve appreciation and respect (Ebrahimi, Hassankhani, Crowley, Negarandeh, Sadeghian and Azizi 2016).
Disrespectful gestures such as eye rolling, arms crossing, sarcasm, clicking, or raising eyebrows affect teamwork and are a source of conflict. Sometimes the disrespectful behavior is more direct and may involve name-calling, spitting, hitting, or making sexually inappropriate remarks. All this has a negative impact on patient safety and healthcare cost. The nurses who fall victim to such behavior end up being detached, they second-guess their qualifications and fail to be productive at work (Allen, Holland, and Reynolds 2015). Many healthcare managers ignore such conflicts among colleagues because they see them as time-consuming and exhausting. Administrators often view this as minor issues that should be dealt with by the Human Resource Department. Nurse to nurse conflict is rarely solved and instead, it runs underneath, undermining healthy relationships (Winch, Henderson, Kay, Burridge, Livesay and Sinnot 2014).
A study conducted by Davey (2015) explained that a number of things could cause disrespect and rudeness among the hospital workforce. Some of the causes are excessive workload, lack of support, hierarchy, and culture. New nurses are the most vulnerable to this disruptive culture and 60% of them quit their positions within the first six months. The medical setting is one characterized by a lot of pressure but it is always important to mind the other person’s feelings and show respect. The nursing profession particularly is a stressful one, since nurses are held accountable for all outcomes and are paid by the hour (Winch, Henderson, Kay, Burridge, Livesay, and Sinnot 2014). Additionally, they are given minimal or no representation when it comes to decision-making platforms. The feelings of frustration accompanied by an increasingly stressful and complex job can create situations whereby nurses project it to each other. Despite extensive research and creation of awareness of the disrespectful culture, nurses are still not accorded the level of respect that they deserve (Johnson 2013).
The consequences of failing to show respect to nurses are seen in the negative impact this has on the staff’s well-being, safety, provision of quality care and retention. Nurses are dissatisfied with their jobs and they end up leaving their positions and taking early retirement causing a shortage of nurses. Therefore, it is important that all the healthcare members get an understanding of the causes and effects of lack of respect towards nurses. There should be strategies to reduce cases of disrespect such as having code words among the hospital faculty. For instance, there are hospitals who use the code words “code white” or “code pink” to stop a coworker who may be about to be disrespectful (D’ambra, Amanda, and Diane 2015).
In conclusion, it is evident that nurses are not shown respect in the operating rooms, emergency department, and floor nursing, in ICUs and in nursing homes. Physicians belittle and put them down with demeaning remarks, insults, and gestures. Hospital directors and managers turn their back on nurses when they report such cases and they show disrespect to them by viewing them as mere servants. Family members and patients rudely address the nurses and put the baseless blame on them when things go wrong. Among the nurses, the younger and veteran nurses both show each other disrespect on some level. This serves as a distraction to nurses, which can lead to an unfavorable clinical outcome. Nurses deserve respect for optimal provision of health care services; this can be achieved through public education on the role of nurses in healthcare and the need to change the negative perception on nurses.
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