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Provocative Topics
Nurses Are Not Nurse Maids
The fight for more respect.


You’re a nurse. You are educated and work hard but often feel like a second-rate cleaning lady.

You’re not the only one who thinks so. Jerry R. Lucas, RN and owner and publisher of Male Nursing Magazine, believes that it is the responsibility of nurses to make their future better than their past. Lucas is passionately devoted to enticing men and women to the nursing profession. And that’s the key word: “profession.” In this interview, Lucas discusses the mistreatment of nurses, arguing that they are skilled professionals, not nurse maids.

RealityRN: Do doctors treat male nurses differently than female nurses?
Jerry R. Lucas:
Doctors are less likely to disrespect male nurses. I’ve heard doctors on the phone with the female nurses and a few are downright rude. It seems they feel like they can get away with that with the females, but they won’t do that with us, the male nurses, because we won’t take it. We’ll tell them to call back when they settle down, and then we hang up.

Why does this dynamic exist?
The nursing industry is seen as a predominately female environment. Male nurses are still running at about a 6 to 7 percent total. That is, of the 2,564,000 registered nurses in the United States, about 780,000 are men. The medical industry still views nurses as nothing more than nurse maids, bent on obeying the doctor’s will.

Do some nurses consider themselves nurse maids?
Yes, and I have an example. I received a letter from a female RN telling me about a hospital she used to work in. The nurse manager put a sign up dictating that whenever the doctor is present, the nurses are to get up and offer them a seat, get them whatever they need, including the file from the file cabinet right beside the doctor’s arm, and make sure they have a cup of coffee. It wasn’t long after the RN tore down the sign that she was gone from that area.

Do you think this view of nursing can be changed, realistically?
Absolutely. The nurse-maid view of nursing is part of what’s turning people away from the profession, especially men. Who wants to go through all the training to be considered a maid?

We are professionals educated to care for patients. And it’s not easy. After a doctor writes his or her five minutes worth of orders, after he or she spends that whole ten minutes at the bedside, nurses are busy for the next hour making sure that the care is accomplished.

Any solutions to the problem?
As there is more of a balance between males and females within nursing, the stigmatism of the nurse maid may increasingly disappear. Women and men alike will be able to gain more respect, and the effect could be a balanced and raised pay scale.

I also believe that nurses need to stop their mistreatment by standing up to the few doctors who bully them. This goes for both male and female nurses, but I’ve definitely seen that doctors are more polite to the male nurses because they won’t just sit there if they are being treated poorly. Women shouldn’t either. They are trained the same way I am. They do the same things that I do. They should be respected the same way, too.


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24 Responses to “Nurses Are Not Nurse Maids”

  1. Belinda Says:

    Absolutly. I am sick of being the maid…I didn’t train to be a slave for the doctor.
    Thankyou for what you have said.

  2. lookinginotnursing Says:

    plus nurses didn’t go through al that schooling just to become a nurse maid.

  3. Kim Says:

    I think I would fall over dead if anyone ever told me I had to give up my seat and /or serve coffee to a doc. They are our peers, our co-workers, not our masters! And as far as maid duty, I gave up cleaning bed pans a while ago also:).

  4. Lindsey Says:

    I also have a hard time with some of these expectations that the older patient generation has of nurses. They still have this vision of nurse’s caps and nightly back rubs… that is just not the case! I am a senior in nursing school and I am looking forward to the days where I don’t have to be both the nurse AND the CNA.

  5. steubified Says:

    I agree with you Lindsey. I’m in nursing school also, and I think it is terribly confusing and time-consuming to have to play nurse AND do all the aid work–even if it for only one or two patients. I think nursing school should turn more into what nursing in the real world is like. They still have us wearing the white hats in clinical and offer back rubs like you said! I’ve heard from so many nurses that they hated school, but love nursing. They’ve all said “just get through it.” Why does that have to be the case? I’ve seen it turn away so many people who would have been great nurses.

  6. kirineill Says:

    Don’t get nurse “aid” and nurse “maid” confused. Just because you are a nurse does not mean you are above aid work. your purpose is to help the pt. if they need help with a bedpan and the aid is not available, you do it!
    No, we should not wait hand and foot on doctors, patients, or anyone else, however, we are there to help those that cannot help themselves.
    So, if you think once you become a nurse you never have to clean up a patient…you need a reality check!

  7. Mr Ian Says:

    Is it really still as bad as that in some places?

    I have found that:
    1. a sound knowledge
    2. a professional demeanour
    3. a respectful attitude and
    4. a good sense of humour

    have allowed me to enjoy an open and mutual relationship with many medics I work with including consultants.
    I also recognise that, at the end of the inquest, the doctor is the one who has more to answer for than the nurse and I give due recognition to that.
    However, I do agree that some doctors can be patronising, demeaning, or just plain bullying. I would suggest that usually it’s because they’re lacking confidence or, less frequently, have personality issues.
    Medical training still indoctrinates that doctors carry an autonomous responsibility that is superceded by none, and to a large degree, this remains true. I think medics suffer a great amount of ethical as well as professional stress that, in the advent of iatrogenic litigation, they have greater difficulty in dealing with today than they ever did.
    Having said that, it’s no excuse to be rude.

  8. Amanda Says:

    I have been an RN for one year now and I have been working with a few doctors who are very rude and disrespectful of the nursing staff. I do not just sit there and take it, I told one doctor the other day “there is no need to be ugly or rude” The doctor refused to answer a question about his patient who was experiencing sustained tachycardia, diophoretic and complainging of chest pain. I was written up by a female PA, because I was not sure if I could take a phone order from a PA and because I am to the point and am nowhere near the bubbly type of personality, so she was offended and wrote me up as being unprofessional. My patient’s blood pressure was sky high and I had paged and paged the doctor, our hospital operator finally got in touch with the PA from his office and my only concern was getting my patient the medication he needed at that point, so I guess I would rather have a bitter PA write me up for “unprofessional conduct” than to lose my license. Sometimes I regret going to school for four years to be treated like a piece of crap by so many. There is not appreciation out there for what we put up with and go through…..

  9. n00bienurse Says:

    Amanda,

    Reading your post regarding this topic made me wonder if the attitude issue isn’t wholely one-sided. “There is no need to be ugly or rude” is not exactly professional and isn’t going to help any attempt at effective communication and is not going to help the situation – ESPECIALLY if your patient is in such a bad condition.

    Yes, there is no need to be rude or disrespectful, and there are times that I just have had it up to here with the situation, but I a deep breath and a swig of orange juice before I attempt further communication.

    While I was on orientation, our Clinical Nurse Specialist told me that there were times that I needed to step back and think about how I come off to some people. Apparently when I get overwhelmed, I get snippy and abrasive. I had never really stepped back to look at that and when I did, I noticed how it impeded my communication. I also noticed that I hadn’t eaten in a while and needed an OJ/snack/pee break when I was like that.

    I’m not a bubbly-type person (or at least I don’t think so) but I try my darnest to come off as a *professional* – it definitely seems to help.

    But by no means am I suggesting that you go grab a cup of coffee and a chair for the attending or resident next time they walk in. Just keep any attitude in check and you’ll be amazed at how much better they’ll keep thiers in check.

    If the issue continues to where the doctor or PA is blatantly rude to you and it is damaging to the care of your patient, talk to your charge nurse and follow chain of command to have the issue rectified ASAP.

    Also see the “Learn My Name, Doc!” article.
    http://www.realityrn.com/blogroll/rookie-wit-and-wisdom/%e2%80%9clearn-my-name-doc%e2%80%9d/492/#comment-4071

  10. Charles Says:

    n00bienurse,

    I agree with you 100%. There are times that we as nurses need to think first about the patient and our feelings second.

    We are not doormats, but we may have to direct everyones thinking to the patient. Whether transferring a patient to the floor from the ER(and med/surg nurse) and the nurses think we just want to give them patients. What about the patient on the stretcher in a noisy ER? It is about the patient.

  11. Paula Says:

    Oh my reading this really gave me some things to chew on. First of all I have to make a comment to those who think once they have RN behind their name that they will never clean another bedpan.Well……I have been a nurse for 25 years and I have cleaned plenty of bedpans. I do everything my aides do and it is all for the benefit of the patient. If you are not interested in patient care then you might want to step back and think about what nurses do. You will not be highly admired by your staff if you refuse to do what care you consider to be beneath you. And now for the meat of the question….I think for the most part if you show respect you will get respect in return. You have to talk to the doctors the way you would want one of them to talk to you. And that doesn’t mean giving himyour chair or fetching his coffee…although I have done both for a tired and overworked doc who has spent part of the night on my unit with a very sick patient….Just because he is a doctor does not mean he is God but he is another part of the health team and if you respect him you will get respect back.

  12. Lindsey Says:

    I guess I should have been more clear… I will never be above doing “aid” work because we are all a team to help our patients. If I can meet a patient’s need, then I will do it. Whether it’s cleaning a bedpan or mopping up urine off the floor… we are there to help our patients heal and I will never be above anything that will accomplish that goal!

  13. Roberta Says:

    As I approach finishing my first year as an RN my thinking about doing the “aid” work has evolved. Certainly I will always do whatever is needed for good patient care. That said, sometimes a few of the CNA’s I work with spend much of the shift on the internet, playing puzzles, games, and watching Youtube rather than rounding on the patients. Not all patients are quick to hit the call light when they want ice chips or to get on a bedpan; some are actually quite hesitant to do so and wait for the opportunity to ask for several things whenever anyone comes into the room. That would be me to hang an antibiotic, change a heparin drip rate, do a Q2 neuro or vascular check, etc. If I am not occupied with anything more pressing such as getting medications to another patient or paging the Dr. because this patient’s assessment warrants it or some labs came back in a dangerous range then I will certainly put them on a bedpan or go get them apple juice or ice chips; whatever.

    One shift at around 6 months on the job I had been racing around getting patients all this stuff (before I finally got good at prioritizing and delegating), and almost made a very serious med error because I was so frazzled, exhausted, and overwhelmed. Meanwhile the CNA was having her usual great time on the internet. Needless to say, all that stopped after that night and now I will call for the CNA to do whatever task is requested by a patient IF I have something more pressing to do that only an RN can. I will not harm a patient, lose my job, or lose my license because I became exhausted doing what the CNA’s should have been doing.

    Safety in patient care is number 1, and I sure didn’t go through all I went through to get my BSN and study so hard in order to let others be lazy and to endanger my patients because I am overworked and overwhelmed. Prioritize and delegate is my advice to all new grads, and then be ready, willing, and able to help with every kind of patient care when it is safe, when there is nothing more serious pressing for your time, and when it is needed.

    And I agree with those who said that in order for the Dr’s to treat you with respect you need to demand it of them. I am glad that one nurse tore down that ridiculous sign about giving up your chair and getting the Drs coffee and then left that unit. They don’t deserve to keep that nurse.

  14. PaulaJ Says:

    Yes! As well as not being people’s maids, Please join me in my personal quest on “Nurses aren’t angels”. The image of Florence with a lamp has got to go… or “I will wipe your butt but I won’t kiss it”…

  15. cali Says:

    Professions change, actually, and to say : well nurses should do aid work because historically thats what they do… that is NURSING.
    Actually, no. Things change. You dont need to pay a college educated person to do hygeine, vitals, etc.
    That IS WHY they hired the AIDS. NO DISRESPECT at all to aids, I was one for four years.
    And I DID my job because I understood the nurse was doing all the other things I could not do: assessing, monitoring,giving meds, etc. I agree completely with the nurse who made the med error and wont hesitate to ask for help when she needs it. IT IS about the patient and the patients safety.

  16. StephanieRN Says:

    For some of those that have posted that are still in nursing school, please don’t get tainted!! I have been a nurse for 6 months and was a tech before. Don’t think that your nurse aid days are over!! It isn’t about what is a nurse’s job and what is a tech’s job, it is about the PATIENT!! Besides, if you do what you consider “tech work” while working along side other techs, they are going to respect you soooooo much more. Utilize them by DELEGATING task not just assuming it’s thier job. Do what will make your patient most comfortable. It wont kill you to take 45 seconds of your day to empty a bedpan 😉 Don’t forget the importance of HOLISTIC CARE!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. CJM Says:

    Mind over matter. I do not feel like a maid although I get treated as such sometimes. I don’t let it bother me because I am a educated, intelligent professional. It is the other person’s problem when they treat me otherwise.

    At some point in my career, I finally developed this mindset and I found with time, people treated me differently. I am not to proud to clean up a nasty mess with the CNA or even housekeeping, yet I can titrate vasopressors and such with the knowledge base of a doctor. I do not go running to the boss or our QM department unless it is a patient safety issue that does not improve with retraining (of the problem staff). If I have a problem with a doctor, I discuss the issue with them first. If that doesn’t work, then I will go up the chain.

    It is really a mindset. No, it doesn’t make the treatment go away, but if you develop a way to make the person treating you like a hand-maiden feel like an idiot in a way that maintains your professionalism, it is priceless and will get the respect that is deserved. 🙂

  18. CJM Says:

    PS – If I EVER had that kind of sign at work, I wouldn’t be there for long. Probably fired because I flung it at the person who put it up. That being said, if a doctor comes up that needs a computer and I’m not working or doing something that can wait, I will offer as a professional courtesy, not of subservience. If I am documenting, they can find their own computer somewhere else. I have my own story about that, LOL.

  19. CJM Says:

    @Roberta, I feel for you. I am much more fortunate. Our CNAs work like dogs. I feel very blessed to have them. That being said when they or the secretary are doing other stuff besides working, I have no qualms about interrupting them to do something that is needed like put in an order for me or helping someone to the commode. Fortunately, that doesn’t happen too often. If they are busy, I will do it myself.

  20. rondodondo Says:

    Maid work: making beds, filling water pitchers, taking dinner to them, clearing their tray when they are done, putting on their slippers/socks, fluffing their pillows, getting more blankets, helping them with their bath etc etc.. Nurse work: making beds, filling water pitchers, taking dinner to them, clearing their tray when they are done, fluffing their pillow, getting more balnkets, helping with their bath etc etc. Sound familiar……? Nurse=Maid

  21. Gramasally Says:

    The nurse as handmaid tale has been told as long as I have been a nurse (since 1973). The problem is that we, as nurses, do not stand up as a group and demand, yes…DEMAND…respect. I had thought as men joined our ranks this would have changed, but it did not. Now, it’s time to unionize, and make our demands know. For crying out loud, I don’t want my daughters having to put up with what I did, like having housekeeping eliminated in my hospital, and making the RN’s do it. I did not attend 4 years of college to scrub toilets, wash instruments, etc. When we, as nurses, wake up and realize that we are important enough to unionize, and collectively bargain for staffing ratios and the like, we will have made a start in the right direction.

  22. Rose Says:

    I sometimes feel like a “maid” to a certain degree. I do some of the nurse aides job like taking the food tray out, bringing in water pitcher because it’s been empty and I can’t give po meds without water and the nurse aid probably been busy or whatever, straightening the room a bit just because I can’t work around clutters. Yes, it slows me down. My take is when you get in the room, and the patient needs something like water or needs assistance toileting, you can not just say “Wait, I’ll call an aid”. I say to some degree, because I will not scrub the toilet! I will help my nurses aides and other nurses within my capacity and the time I have. I set my own priorities as a nurse. The sad reality is there are those who are just lazy and have the “don’t care attitude”.

  23. Name change Says:

    Change the occupation name from nurse to something else. What is the definition of “nurse”? Exactly. That is why this stereotype will never end. Change the occupation name! The word nurse for this processional is extremely out of date and misleading.

  24. Retired nurse Says:

    Nursing is a calling, and its all about patient..Whether you hold the masters or PHD your still a nurse and must be there for your patient even if he or she needed assistance to use the bathroom… If you can’t stand nursing duties, or can’t stand a physician or a PA, your welcome to go into a different profession afterall life is once, do what pleases you, do what makes you happy and what makes you find peace. If you enter into nursing because of the money and the job growth, you might regret later..Nursing= holistic + total patient care.

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