Monday, September 26, 2011

Just a thought.

For the past several months my nurse gals and I have been pondering why we feel that patients and their families seem to disrespect us more now than in the past.  I know that personally when I started nursing....way back in 1991.... that patients and their families seemed to hold the nurses in high regard.  I was never sworn at, spit at or called vulgar names, and unfortunately I cannot say the same now.  As I reflected on this problem I started to wonder if our uniforms had anything to do with hold on, just hear me out.  I know that the times are different, people are angrier, money is tighter, and the expectations are different...we are now in "customer service" not "patient care"...  BUT when I started my career the nurses still wore white~  and dresses with white hose, and white shoes...and yes,  a cap!! 
This leads me to a thought.  Yesterday my husband and I were at my mother in laws for lunch, along with my sister in law and her teenage daughters.  We were discussing soccer and softball at the lunch table and the topic of uniforms came up.  My niece Nathalie was excited because the coach for softball told the girls that they were getting new uniforms and that "they are going to be so sharp looking!"  My mother in law chuckled at this and felt that my niece was holding too much value on the uniform.  I disagreed.  I know that when I see a team come out on the field and they have on really nice uniforms, and they all look the same, I view that team as impressive.  I even may feel they are better equipped to win...for whatever reason I tend to view the team with the nicest uniforms as better.  Now I know this isn't the case...but I do feel that those kids in the sharp uniforms feel good about themselves, they hold their heads higher and they may feel they are superior to the other team with less than impressive uniforms on....does anyone recall the movie "the bad news bears"...wasn't there a uniform story in that movie????
So all of that to say this...When I wore my white uniform I felt pride.  I felt professional and I felt important..When I put on that uniform to go to work, it was like putting my nurse on...getting my nurse groove on... and then off I went. I truly feel that the patients and their families viewed me that way as well.  I think so much of that has been lost since we wear uniforms that every other department in the hospital wears...aka housekeeping, laundry and the kitchen staff.   (not that they are less than us... that is NOT what I'm saying.)   
So what are your thoughts fellow nurses??? and friends.


  1. Bobbi you make a great point, during my last visit to the hospital lab I actually did a double take. I was not sure if one of the staff members I was dealing with was in fact a nurse, a worker in housekeeping or a receptionist. All the different colors and footwear was confusing as to who was who. Your opinion is also valid in that I could only imagine the chaos and pandemonium if our military wore different attire each day and had no limitations on footwear.
    I also consider seeing a Maine State Trooper getting out of his cruiser with his hat pulled low over his eyes, dressed precisely in his mandatory blue uniform with black police boots and a shiny badge clearly speaks volumes of common respect and fairness. There is little question of his integrity, professionalism and education simply because of his appearance.
    As wrong as it may be, appearance is everything in society. I believe you are right Bobbi; a nurse dressed in a traditional outfit would be treated with more respect and admiration.

  2. Thank you for your insightful comments...your "adventure" as a patient in regards to knowing who is who by their what I thought it probably was from the patient perspective!

  3. Bobbi, I am saddened to hear that you and your co workers are experiencing such behavior. As a chaplain, I too have been confused when visiting hospitals as to what color scrubs belong to which department, if there even is a color code. I also believe that there is a pride that comes when one earns the right to wear a certain uniform, and that helps self confidence in challenging situations. I do not know if the traditional outfit was comfortable enough or practical in today's medical world, but something beyond scrubs would be valuable. I also believe the decreased time that nurses have to get to know the patients and their families factor in here. YOu are stretched so thinly that you can be perceived as the person who comes to interrupt sleep, poke needles, etc than the compassionate care givers you strive to be. If that perception is reinforced by the doctor not affording the nurse respect as a professional on their visit to the patient, then the patient will almost certainly follow suit.

  4. It really is sad that some patients and their families are so disrepecful and down right mean...or abusive. More patients are thankful and supportive, which is good :) I stand by the opinion that uniforms would make a difference...and your thoughts on how pride in wearing a uniform that you have worked so hard to obtain validates your title...both in your own eyes and in those you serve! your point on the Dr. is valid as well...Most all of our ER docs validate the nurses so yay for that :)
    Thanks for your comments Phil and for going through all the steps it took to leave one!!!!

  5. I agree that in the nursing field there are many ways that we as nurses command respect and our appearance is the first of them. When a nurse appears disheveled or unkempt, that nurse's competency is undermined in the eyes of patients and families. When a nurse is dressed in an unprofessional manner, that nurse again sends the message that he or she does not require respect from patients and families because she may not respect herself.

    Many would be appalled at the lack of professionalism I have heard of or witnessed in regard to attire. A family member of mine who visited the ER in which I work let me know that a nurse caring for her friend had rolled her pants down so low that her pubic hair was visible. Thong underwear, if any at all, is often visible on some nurses who are repeat offenders because no accountability is enforced.

    I think uniformity in color would assist in promoting professionalism although I think that unless a facility purchases the uniforms instead of allowing nurses to purchase their own color, many of the same problems may surface.

  6. Theresa... I have thought on the uniform of color for each that eventually the patients and their families will know that nursing is pink, housekeeping is green..etc and i think that would be as close to solving the problem as we would get now adays... most nurses do not want to wear white, because our jobs are dirty... I will admit that wearing just white seems unrealistic, especially in our work environment!!
    As far as your family members experience~~ oh my gosh....that is gross and soooooooooooooo unprofessional. Ewwwwww.
    Thanks for sharing your thougts!

  7. Hey Bobbi, Thanks for letting me know about your blog... I'm not really a blogger but your uniform issue caught my eye. As much as I hate to admit it (and I definitely hate white!) I do think people have an easier time if all participants on any team wears the same uniform for easy identification. Everyone else had great examples, the OR all in blue is another... BTY I am not a conformer!!! unless it is what is best to help people get better faster:)

    Good luck with your project!

  8. Tammy, I totally appreciate your comment and I hate to give in to conformist attitudes as well~~~ but I just cannot get out of my mind that identification with the nurse has something to do with positive attitudes and better moral, both for patients and nurses...