Flattery Will Get You Everywhere

It’s been a tough couple of weeks for Team TorontoEmerg. First, I’ve been working like a rented mule, and secondly, a colleague whom I trusted and respected sandbagged me with a nasty and embarrassing (and devastating) personal attack, which frankly put me in a bit of a tailspin. How bad was it? Think about being whacked hard across the face a couple of times with a 1″ bamboo pole, and you might get the idea.* I mention this not to whine — believe me, Mr. J. Doe has heard plenty of that — but merely to point out that life in the ED is tough enough. I mean it’s enough to face barking physicians, nurse managers who call us to their office only to reprimand, educators lying in wait to point out the merest flaw in our professional practice, not to mention the general opprobrium of our nurse-colleagues eager to pounce on any failure, without dealing with craptastic personal attacks as well.

Yes, today I truly love my profession. If I tell myself that enough, will it make it true?

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On the other hand, I got three compliments in the last two days, and if you’re an emergency nurse, you know that compliments from anywhere are as sweet as rainfall in a desert. First was  personal. A conversation I had with a patient during one of the rare days I actually was doing something clinical:

Patient: I’ve been coming to this hospital, I’ll bet, since before you were born.

Me: (fiddling with an IV) When did you start coming to Acme Regional?

Patient: 1971.

Me: Hehehehe.

Okay, silly and obvious. But oh-so-welcome. And then another patient told me flat out my care was exceptional. And then a management muckety-muck told me my name had come up during a meeting of even higher muckety-mucks. I am, apparently, attracting attention in a positive way in relation to the administrative secondment I’ve been doing. All of which takes away the sourness of the above. A little, anyway.

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I work with a nurse who in nearly every respect is a superb nurse. She’s clinically smart, knows her theory, advocates for her patient and provides excellent care. I was getting report from her the other day, and she was griping how this nurse didn’t do that and that nurse didn’t do this, and it occurred to me she has never, in my experience or hearing, said anything kind about any other nurse. Not ever. It’s almost pathological. I always come back to this question: how can nurses give exceptional care to their patients and then turn around to model themselves as fine examples of human malice? Does anyone have an answer that doesn’t involve a disquisition on horizontal violence and unequal power relationships in hierarchies?

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To my nursing colleagues, I have one request. Next time you’re on duty, or if you’re on duty as you’re reading me, go compliment one of your colleagues. Praise a difficult IV start or a successful catheter placement or some little piece of good nursing care. Do it. Right now. Trust me: by this one small act you’ll improve our profession immensely.

And then when you open your mouth to criticize or find fault with a colleague, find something else to say. Preferably something nice. Really. It’s not that hard. Remember how you felt when you were last sandbagged? And also, you’ll find here the difference between being a good or even superb nurse, and being an exceptional nurse —- and who doesn’t want to be exceptional?


*So nasty, in fact, I’m seriously considering leaving Acme Regional. Why do I want to work within twenty miles of this person? The emotional response, I suppose, but one which is honestly how I feel, right now. Ask me again in two weeks.


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  1. #1 by The Nerdy Nurse on Sunday 31 July 2011 - 0452

    I’m sorry.

    It’s horrible that nurses do this to one another. I really wish we would apply the care we give to our patients to our colleagues as well.
    It’s unfortunate that many people, nurses included, put others down in order to build themselves up. IT takes away from anything positive they do contribute.
    I hope you went to administration about this. I know no one wants to be a tattle, but people need to be held accountable for their actions and words are included in this. It is not appropriate or fair for you to have been made to feel so poorly and that person just be allowed to continue with their merry existence.
    You’re too talented and passionate a nurse to let them steal your sunshine.

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