Commanding respect from the disrespectful

Jacqueline Vance, RNC, CDONA/LTC
Jacqueline Vance, RNC, CDONA/LTC

I started my nursing career in a very busy teaching-hospital operating room. I loved the excitement, the anticipation of the surgeon's needs. (It was kind of like having ESP — knowing what they would need before they needed it). I reveled in the life-and-death situations, seeing the healing and repair right before my eyes. 

But what I didn't love was the utter disrespect many (but not all) of the surgeons had for the nursing staff. I mean, outright rude, demeaning, demoralizing and sometimes downright abusive behavior.

Some of these guys (and they were predominantly guys) acted as if they were demigods and we peons were there for their amusement and service.

We had surgeons who bumped other cases from a room because they were ready to operate NOW and the other surgeon wasn't on the floor yet. You would have already set up for the first case and were desperately trying to take that set-up down and set up their complicated set in the one minute they invaded the operating room while they were screaming at you for not having the precognitive ability to anticipate that they were magically changing the schedule. 

We had surgeons throw amputated limbs at us because we weren't fast enough jumping to their side to grab them. Let me tell you, it is no small feat to catch a flying limb!

Then the surgical residents learned from their mentors and treated the nurses the same way. (Great professional socialization, guys! That is, the role of modelling behavior from leaders in transmitting appropriate professional values from one generation to the next.)  This behavior was allowed.

So where am I going with all of this? Well, on to “Option No. 2.” I thought my first job (we'll call it Option No. 1) was the norm. But after my daughter was born, I wanted to work part time for a while and a part-time position was not available with my then-current employer (Option No. 1). I was, however, able to get a part-time position at another hospital (Option 2). Lo and behold, the surgeons treated the nurses with the utmost respect and kindness. 

The operating room director of nursing at Option 2 was an old Army nurse. While she was very strict and to-the-code with every minute detail — from dress code to scheduling to storage — she commanded team respect.

She would not stand for anyone disrespecting any member on the team. No nurses eating their young, no surgeons believing it was their privilege to treat non-surgeons as lesser human beings.

It all came down to leadership.

Imagine that: One person with the strength to model behavior to create a strong, cohesive team, where appreciation for one's contribution to the “community” was paramount.

Anyway, that was my first glimpse into a gifted leader, one who applies the same accountability to all, who fosters a community spirit, and where the value of people, their knowledge, experience and skills is central.  You can learn a lot from a leader good or bad.

I just hope if you're a leader, you chose Option 2 because that leadership style creates loyalty and strong professional growth. Option 1 just leads to unbelievable stories around the dinner table!

Just keeping it real,

Nurse Jackie 

The Real Nurse Jackie is written by Jacqueline Vance, RNC, CDONA/LTC, a 2012 APEX Award of Excellence winner for Blog Writing. Vance is a real life long-term care nurse. A nationally respected nurse educator and past national LTC Nurse Administrator of the Year, she also is an accomplished stand-up comedienne. She has not starred in her own national television series — yet. The opinions supplied here are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of her employer or her professional affiliates.

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The Real Nurse Jackie

The Real Nurse Jackie is written by Jacqueline Vance, RNC, CDONA/LTC, a 2012 APEX Award of Excellence winner for Blog Writing. Vance is a real life long-term care nurse. A nationally respected nurse educator and past national LTC Nurse Administrator of the Year, she also is an accomplished stand-up comedienne. The opinions supplied here are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of her employer or her professional affiliates.

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