Monday, January 11, 2010

The Nurse as Darth Vader

Every time we speak she has a horror story to share about yet another incompetent nurse who has crossed her path.  I dread these encounters. When the conversation heads down this particular path I want to start breathing like the Dark Lord himself …’yes, the nurse as Darth Vader, card carrying member of the Dark Side, ready to do harm at any moment of an 8, 10, 12 or 16 hour shift!’.  It is an impossibly immature response and I do not give in to it but I WANT to do so!  Not because I believe that there is 'no such thing as an incompetent nurse' but because I know there is a mix in each professional group: exceptional, average, and yes, poor to incompetent ~ nurses, doctors, pharmacists etc...  Long Term Care is a particular struggle.  Long Term Care manages in part because most of the personal care (which is most of the hard physical work) is done by nursing assistants and nurses are relegated  passing meds, doing some treatment and documenting care.  Those nurses have patient loads of 20 to 30 patients (double and triple that of their acute care counter parts) and manage the nursing assistants as well as the patients, their families and medical staff.  Many, if not most, of the nurses are LPNs.  Most would say that staff management is not a large part of the curriculum for LPN’s (nor is it for many RNs for that matter).  So, I ask, is anyone out there ready to pay more for the care of elders, more for on-going staff development? Are stock-holders ready to give up investment money for the same thing?  My gut tells me the answer is a resounding “NO”. In the mean time, 1000's of nurses will do the best they can given the limitations of time, money and resourses to fulfill their duties.

If she is right about the lack of competency ~ the next time you visit a loved one in a nursing home…watch out for weird breathing coming from the nurse!

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