‘National Nurses Week honors those who serve others’

That’s the headline on chron.com summing up the “customer service” contribution nurses make to comfort and care for their patients. In a profession where “healthscaring” has supplanted healthcaring as the order of the day, nurses have become a default source of much-needed bedside manner.

An article in toughnickel.com sums it up:

“Nurses play an important customer service role for hospitals, doctors offices and other medical facilities. Nurses are the ones with the most frequent, direct patient interaction. They act as [liaisons] between [doctors] and patients and leave lasting impressions. Providing excellent customer service to patients will increase customer satisfaction. In recent years, hospitals have begun to focus on this aspect in Healthcare and have implemented training programs for their employees.”

Despite the obviously important role of nurses in patient care, healthcare also is abuzz with complaints lodged by the “caring corps” over how much is too much. Some nurses are upset over what they perceive as being unconditional customer service—such as when a patient is rude, inappropriate or throwing temper tantrums. There also is buzz about the phony customer service-oriented jargon used to meet and greet patients.

I’ve long advocated for customer service limits. Sometimes, you gotta call them out when respect and decorum go out the window. I’m also a big opponent of the insincere “have a nice day” and “I apologize” rhetoric making the rounds in customer service circles.

An Americannursetoday.com article entitled “Nurses and customer service: A new annoyance or an old standard?” addresses both issues, along with the overarching importance of providing top-notch customer service to patients. Notes the article,

I recently overheard a nurse bitterly complaining about the staff on her unit being asked by their manager to address patients by name each time they enter the patient’s room and asking them, while there, if they needed anything else…this is not the first time I have heard a nurse bristle at any hint of what could be labeled ‘customer service’ strategies.”

The article continues,

“When I was in nursing school we talked at length about developing a therapeutic relationship with patients and family members and making sure that they were as comfortable as possible at all times. We learned how hospitalized patients feel scared, powerless, intimidated and often disoriented. We discussed the importance of acknowledging people, addressing them by name, empowering them by encouraging them to ask questions and so on…All of this was “customer service” even though we didn’t call it that back then. We did realize that these things were a necessary part of empowering patients and their family members to feel safe, calm, comfortable and more in control. It’s something we often referred to as ‘bedside manner.’”

The toughnickel article adds:

“Providing exceptional customer service is the responsibility of everyone in a healthcare setting. Whether you are a volunteer, admitting clerk, receptionist, security, guard, nurse, doctor, lab technician, environmental service worker, or in dietary; customer service begins as soon as a patient enters the facility.”

Comments on the Americannursetoday.com article site offered insights on customer service problems. One states:

“The people I take care of as a nurse are not my customers, they are my patients. I am not a customer service rep, I am a professional. I am not a whipping boy for [patients] to take out their power-fulfilment needs on, nor am I there to serve as the focus of [relatives’] temper tantrums which they throw to prove to the [patients] how much they really love them.”

Another points out:

“The problem was not that the nurse dreaded using the [patient’s] name and asking if they needed anything else etc…it’s this movement to force a scripted sterile interaction to our profession like so many other [businesses].”

These negatives were balanced with this:

“I discovered by myself in practice that ‘making friends’ with my patients made my day more pleasant, and more importantly, it opened the door for conversation and deeper levels of sharing. If your patients are your friends for the day, they trust you, and will confide things that might otherwise remain unspoken about their feelings, pain, beliefs about their condition etc. Thus: treating people with true friendliness begets greater communication leading to more intelligent care.”

Here are the takeaways from all:

  • Good customer service includes boundaries. The “customer is always right” philosophy doesn’t apply to customers (patients) who clearly abuse those trying to serve them;
  • Sterile, insincere greetings and phraseology are ridiculous because most of us discern the difference between real caring and play acting;
  • Nurses are a cornerstone of caring customer service in a healthcare environment where “impersonality” too often is practiced. Their willingness and ability to provide bedside manner—within limits—is more important now than ever.

Here’s to nurses everywhere!

###

Mark Lusky is a veteran writer, storyteller and author, with 40+ years of public relations, advertising, marketing and journalism experience.

Author of A Wandering Wondering Jew… and co-author of Don’t Get Mad, Get Leverage,  Mark (aka The Happy Curmudgeon) is the owner of a Denver-based marketing communications firm.

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