Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Nurse Claims She Was Reprimanded for Not Readily Giving Ice Cream to Diabetic Patient

Wow, I hope this story isn't true.

To give some background: for the last few years, there has been a big push by hospital administrators for staff to think of patients more like customers and to provide customer service along with health care. This goes beyond simply being polite and courteous; it entails ideas borrowed from the hospitality industry such as leaving a fancy note card in a patient's room after performing a service like drawing blood stating "Your phlebotomist today was Susan. I hope I exceeded your expectations and provided you with excellent care. Thank you for choosing City Hospital". The hospital will then give out questionnaires asking patients to rate their customer service experience and the hospital will use the results (if they're good of course) in advertising. I think they may even be required to report the results to some kind of governing body, but I could be wrong on that.

I was surfing the internet yesterday and happened upon a thread at allnurses.com titled Customer Service ... Yay or Nay?  In it, a nurse described a situation in which she was reprimanded by her superior for not providing good customer service because she was trying to discourage a diabetic patient from eating ice cream.  In her own words:

"I agree with everything said. I have worked in many aspects and in many settings of healthcare for 35 years. Most recently I've been an LPN for the last 12 years and I have found that the "customers" have finally completely burned me out. I am supposed to renew my license in the next 5 days and quite frankly I don't want to. If I am going to give people what they want with a smile instead of what they need with understanding and caring, then I'll flip burgers. I have ALWAYS greeted my patients (yes patients) with a smile, a caring hand on the shoulder if they allow and carefully explained what, why, and how. Lately I leave a bedside with confidence that while not pleased with their situation, they are comfortable with it. An hour later I'm being called into the charge nurse's office being chewed out for being mean and/or rude to the patient and/or the family! I did my nursing duty, I brought them that extra helping of ice cream with a teaching that this may not be their best choice for a diabetic and perhaps they would do better with the apple slices or sugar free cake I also brought along. But how rude of me to suggest such things! The "client" knows what is best for them, I'm told. I have seen nurses lose their jobs for consistently doing their job in just this way. I believe in doing everything and anything within the confines of the healthcare process to make a patient happy and comfortable but this customer satisfaction has come to a place where healthcare is no longer part of the process."
OK, maybe I'm just tired and not thinking straight, but isn't a nurse supposed to discourage a diabetic patient from eating a bunch of sugar?  She's not a waitress in a restaurant trying to ensure herself a hefty tip, she's a healthcare professional trying to see to her patient's best interest.  The patient may get annoyed but so what?  "I'm here to save your ass, not kiss it" is an old nursing adage.  Too bad this particular hospital's administrators seemed to have forgotten it.


Paul Jaminet said...

Hi LynMarie,

I love your blog which is always fascinating but have to disagree a bit with your take on this situation. See my comment here:


The problem is that the well-intentioned nurse's proposed foods are worse than the patient's!

Best, Paul

LynMarie Daye said...

LOL Paul, I knew someone was going to bring this up (and thank you for doing so)!

I agree with you, the alternate food items she brought the patient were not good. As I'm sure you realize, my main point was about the nurse being scolded for being more concerned about the patient's health than customer satisfaction scores. Even if this nurse offered the patient some string cheese or, God forbid, asked him if he was really hungry and not just bored or anxious, she still may have offended that patient and received a reprimand for not giving him what he wanted (although actually she did give him what he wanted; I guess he didn't like the "teaching" that went along with it). So, even if healthcare providers learn the proper way to feed diabetics, what will it matter if they are not permitted to do so?