Thursday, December 14, 2017

Nursing Awards - Emmitt Knows Where They Belong

Proud winners of a nursing award. At least
their trophy has relevance-looks like a bath basin.
When Emmitt Smith, the hall of fame running back for the Dallas  Cowboys received the"Galloping Gobbler" award from John Madden, he knew what to do with it. No pretentious acceptance speeches or bubbly gratitude for a meaningless award.  When Emmitt thought he was off camera that pointless award was unceremoniously deposited in it's rightful place, the garbage can.

It's too bad that some nurses lack Emmitt's judgment and discretion regarding meaningless, phoney baloney awards worth their weight in wormwood. Hospitals of today often have a shrine-like  area where garish gold plaques are displayed honoring a select group of nurses. Nothing wrong with this concept if it gives recognition to deserving nurses who have honed their technical skills to help patients, but frequently the awarding entity is far removed from patient care and  has little insight into bedside nursing excellence or comforting patients. Physicians, administrative nurses (if you could even call them nurses,) insurance companies, and the nurse academic/ office sitter complex all have very minimal working knowledge of what makes a good bedside nurse. Doctors just love nurses who know their rightful place and never question orders or call them up in the middle of the night. Administrative types view nursing through the distorted lens of corporate goals and please don't get me started on office sitters of any permutation. Discretion is the better part of valor, I keep muttering to myself. Sometimes it's better to keep my foolish mouth shut.

We certainly had nothing like this when I was a nurse. Our instructors and mentors (if you could call them that) always stressed that the satisfaction of helping patients recover from injury or ailment had to come from within. If a trauma patient walked out the door or a patient's pain was relieved, you did a good job and that was your reward.  In their mind nursing was a calling and required self motivation which was also a good reason for paying nurses a poverty wage. If you are looking for good time Charley back slapping rewards or big money you are in the wrong profession.

As a public service the OFRN institute for nursing practice is going to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to awards for nurses. If you notice any of the following words or combination of words in the criteria or award title, its of  dubious distinction: influential, pinnacle, showcase,  emerging, distinguished, rising star, engagement, transformational, breakthrough,  paradigm, cameo, illustrious, or eminent. It's time to go above and beyond or even eschew these  nonsensical awards. It's time to take a lesson from Emmitt Smith and deposit these chucklehead awards in their rightful place.

Here are a few worthy nursing awards that have straightforward criteria and reflect nursing as it's clinically practiced, untainted from pie-in-the-sky bafflegab.

The Last Nurse Standing Award... An endurance award of sorts to the scrub nurse that can hang in there on one of those knee aching  surgeries that start before sunrise and end after sunset and I'm talking about Chicago - not the Arctic circle. My personal best is close to 8 hours on a complex trauma and that's not even worth mentioning because  my mentor Nancy went for close to 12 hours on a Whipple with complications. She deserves a standing ovation and a well deserved trip to the bathroom.

The Stink Finger Statue... Goes to the nurse who never shied away from any mess-you name the body excretion and this nurse gets down to business, sans gloves. I really admired this nurse because almost everyone has an Achilles heal when it comes to messes, mine was that gooey blood/bone chip slurry mess left on the floor of the ortho room after a long,  messy case. problem, bone problem, but mix them together and the resultant ooze-like  combo brought me to my knees every time. Thanks to Colleen and Gail for bailing me out on this one. You deserve this and remember to refrain from sniffing those fingers.

Venous Access King or Queen...goes to the best IV starter. Bring me your hypovolemic, phlebotic and sclerotic patient and I'll slide that angio cath in faster than you can say central line.

The Sailor Award...goes to the most fluent user of off color language. I usually avoided this one because it resulted in much childhood unpleasantness if caught uttering swearwords, but I  some how felt a sense of relief when others spouted out colorful descriptive language. Nurse  Felix deserves this award for coming up with the u;timate inclusive cuss word (sh++t,f**k.G++d**n it) all in one breath. What more can I say?

Most Likely to Cry...I always admired nurses that could do this. It's better than alcohol or drugs at diffusing sadness. The most I could come up with were a couple of stray tears, but at least I tried.

Most Kind nurse...We all know one of these. This nurse is nice to everyone and always sports an infectious smile that's even visible under a mask. As nurses age this trait seems to decline although I have met a couple of these angels in white who were well into their 60s. Rita you deserve this award if you can stop puffing on that Winston long enough to claim it.

The Walking Wounded...These tough nosed, hardened nurses can work through bone on bone hip joints, unremitting Crohns Disease, or even while on chemo for aggressive cancers. Tough as nails; the primary objective is to die at the bedside with their Clinic Shoes on. I did manage to scrub on a case one day after having impacted wisdom teeth removed and I was never so grateful that it did not involve oral surgery. The pain sharpened my senses, but I would not never,  ever want anyone to work for this award.

A really good nurse will do whatever it takes to help a patient in need not because it's about award procurement, but because it's the right thing to do. The fact that the obsessive pursuit of awards leaves profound deficits in other areas of direct  nursing care is a definite reality. Emmitt got it right.


  1. Amen!! And don't even get me started on all the "Nurses' Day" B.S. ~ Manglement is good to us one day a year, and then treats us like sh*t the other 364 of the year.

  2. Indeed nursing was considered very much a vocation when I trained. We were told our pride and satisfaction lay in always delivering the best nursing care we could. Should a patient in our care develop, say, a decubitus ulcer, we were told that was poor nursing care and we were to be ASHAMED.

    Over the years I realised how much the high standards impressed on my young self as a student nurse had formed me. I was always intolerant of anything not done to the standard I expected. I guess looking back it made me pretty tough on those who didn't quite think the same way.

    It took a while until I realised I owed much to those sometimes fierce and exacting but highly skilled nurses who trained me - they demanded the best from us and would accept nothing less.

    I don't know what nursing awards they have now and perhaps it's better I don't know! When I nursed the only award was a much-coveted gold hospital badge bestowed on any nurse who managed topped the State Final Examinations to be admitted as a State Registered Nurse (against all other training hospitals in the state). During my three years of training I only saw ever saw one nurse wearing such a badge and I still remember it, it made such an impression on me.

    The major hospital training schools back them competed to recruit the best trainees - getting a nurse to top the State Finals was a sign that their training hospital was among the best. So it made the hospitals compete for the highest standards of training.

    I think I'm glad I left when I did... Thanks for the article OFRN I can so relate to what you say!

  3. Thanks for your keen insights, Anonymous. Receiving a nursing pin was indeed the highest honor a 3 year diploma school nurse could receive-better than money or the pie in the sky self-serving awards offered by the various office sitters of today.

    We were definitely trained to all think alike because any deviance was dealt with very harshly. This approach worked well with the technology of yesteryear, but I'm thinking that cognitive diversity and different approaches of a younger generation has produced some dramatic breakthroughs.

    I'm in total awe of laproscopic procedures and the lack of trauma they inflict compared to the big open surgeries of my generation. They were big and colorful and kept a scrub nurse hopping, but weren't much fun for poor patients on the receiving end.

    I too am very pleased to have left when I did. Visitng a modern hospital seem like a visit to a foreign country. Electronic doo-dads in every corner really creep me put. At my alma matter, someone had the nerve to convert a very useful sluice room into a computer room. What a waste of resources.

    1. I've only just realised how many typos I made in my previous post, please excuse them - I should always type with my reading glasses on! I was too lazy earlier and just used my long distance glasses. Oh dear! Another good reason not to be a nurse any longer...

      You make very good points about the technological changes etc. Also nurses now have to deal with far more litigation issues and diverse cultural issues than we did. I agree about the improved laparoscopic procedures - when I remember what a patient having an abdominal aortic aneurysm repair had to go through post op compared to now it is beyond words so much better.

      It worries me that when I read accounts of World War One nurses I feel I have more in common with them than with current nurses!

      I don't know if I would nurse now - I suspect I would go into another field entirely. Nursing when I trained was a different world but I'm glad I saw it before it disappeared. I often follow the blog of dovegreyreader scribbles (whist mostly about books/quilting she also has a nursing section) - who trained in my era in London - and she has the same thoughts. Australian nurses very much followed the tradition of training and uniforms in the United Kingdom. I recently read a book called "Bedpans and Bobby Socks"(dreadful title I know) about four British nurses in the 1950s who travelled around the United States and they found fascinating differences in nursing in the US compared to the UK even back then.

      Anyway I am raving on. Yes I feel strange when I enter hospitals now it is all so different. You might enjoy a glance at the dovegreyreader blog - just type "nursing" into the search rectangle on the right and up will come all her recollections of hospital and community nursing in the 1970s in the UK.

      Sorry to be anonymous - I don't have a Google account. My name's Sue. And if we don't post again in the meantime, my very best wishes for the Christmas season!

  4. Sorry, having just checked it's better if you type in "student nurse" on that blog site. It's all under "Sufferings of a Student Nurse". It's very British but I think you might enjoy some of her memories, as do I! Cheers, S.
    Oh and thanks for the link to the DrGrumpy blog - I did have a laugh!

  5. Thanks Sue, Sue for your insights. I too, am a terrible proof reader. It's paradoxical, but whenever I make "corrections" things get worse.

    I will check out that blog. I love old nursing tales and so many of my co-workers have gone on to their great reward that the internet is the only vehicle left to reminisce.

    Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and yours!

  6. Hi Oldfoolrn. My name is Karen and I am a nursing student. My classmates and I really enjoy all your insights. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

  7. Thanks for the kind words, Karen, and especially for upgrading my foolishness to "insights." Best of luck to you and your classmates in your studies. It really is a wonderful time to enter nursing and when you graduate, you have so many more career venues to choose from-all my classmates went right to hospital bedside nursing and stayed there until they went on to their great reward. Merry Christmas to you and your classmates!

  8. Oh I loved this so much! I wish we could hand out every one of your awards to the deserving nurses out there!

  9. The reward always means so much more when it's you own blood that was spilled for it - something office sitters are totally clueless about as a result of their isolation from the bedside.