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And now, a good word for nurses.

At the risk of jeopardizing my short career as an MLO columnist--but in the true spirit of journalistic freedom--I'd like to make a controversial statement.

I like nurses.

Now that you've resisted the temptation to throw your copy of this journal against the nearest wall, let me explain.

Like many of you, I didn't always have a high regard for the nursing profession. To me, the typical nurse often seemed like a cross between a female prison guard and my old seventh-grade nun. Abrupt manners in person or on the phone, along with unkind comments about the lab, did little to endear these descendants of Florence Nightingale to me.

In my early days as a bench technologist in a small one-shift laboratory, the sight of a nurse walking into the lab at 4:45 p.m. was bad news. Undoubtedly, she would be dropping off preop test requests for patients who were "just admitted" (three hours ago), or carrying a tray of urine specimens from patients who had "just voided." (Statistically. I wondered, what were the odds that 10 people in the same nursing unit would have identical bladder habits?)

Many was the time I had to drop everything to perform a Stat test, only to learn later that it was no life-and-death situation, but rather a nurse trying to speed up the analysis of a routine test she forgot to order that morning. I'm sure most of you have your own favorite nurse/technologist incidents.

My interaction with the nursing profession took place before the national nursing shortage. Today. rifts between nursing and the laboratory are widened by the growing salary differential between our two fields and by the attitude of some hospital administrators that nurses are a precious commodity to be handled with kid gloves.

What changed my attitude toward nurses? It's simple--I married one. Some heated discussions with my spouse about our respective roles, combined with first-hand observations, eventually led to the realization that nurses do much more than deal with the laboratory. In addition to working with the laboratory and other ancillary departments, they must decipher physician orders from the chart, order and administer medication, give baths, change dressings, respond to patient and family inquiries, and perform a variety of other duties I wouldn't trade places for.

At the forefront of patient care, nurses are subject to at least as much stress as we in the lab. Quite often, their abruptness on the telephone carries over from face-to-face encounters with an equally abrupt and demanding physician, patient, or family member.

Working in a department that by its nature has little or no patient contact, we may have trouble appreciating the frequently emotional incidents that can take a toll on nurses as they witness medicine's inevitable failure with terminally ill patients.

In this era of prospective payment, cooperation between all of us is a must. The experts agree that hospitals must reduce length of stay in order to survive under the new system. To reach this goal, there must be coordinated efforts in patient admission, diagnosis, and treatment. Departments such as the laboratory will have to work more closely than ever with nursing to assure timely and accurate test ordering, specimen collection, analysis, and delivery of reports.

This joint effort starts with a basic understanding and respect for each other's duties and responsibilities. You don't have to go as far as I did in behavior modification (to the altar) to change your opinion of nursing. Simple gestures during blood collection rounds, or genuine concern over the statas of a patient with abnormal test results, can help instill a feeling of teamwork between our two professions.

On a more formal basis, perhaps a laboratory/nursing service committee would help improve channels of communication and understanding. Events like National Medical Laboratory Week and National Nursing Week provide opportunities to keep each other better informed about our different roles in health care delivery.

The main issue is that nursing, the laboratory, and for that matter all hospital departments need to put aside petty differences, not only for our benefit, but for that of the entire hospital and especially the patient. If we laboratory professionals must take the first step, so be it.

Try it; it won't hurt. And who knows? Maybe you'll soon pick up a nursing journal and find an article stating that laboratory technologists aren't such bad guys after all.
COPYRIGHT 1984 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Maratea, James M.
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Article Type:column
Date:Mar 1, 1984
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