Nurse Appreciation Week: The Forgotten Ones

Sunday was the first day of Nurse Appreciation Week – a much deserved week of acknowledgement of the country’s nurses and nursing staff.

Nurses are underpaid for the work they do and although we pretend to love them, they aren’t nearly as appreciated as they should be. They deal with the highest rates of workplace violence of any private-sector profession.

As the go-between in the hospital from the doctor to the patient, they are the messengers shot because of bad news. A patient wants something, the doctor won’t allow it, but it’s the nurse who gets yelled at or even physically assaulted.

They work 13 hour shifts multiple days a week. Day after day they arrive with the goal of helping others. It takes a lot to work as a nurse and to keep working as a nurse.

Please know that I understand the plight of nurses in this country and I appreciate them. That said, there are two groups that should be acknowledged, as well, but often aren’t.

Nursing Assistants & Unit Clerks

I’ve talked about this to an extent, but today I’m going to add to it.

I work as a Unit Clerk in a local hospital, so technically I am part of the nursing staff, as are Patient Care Associates (PCA) (our term for nursing assistants). So, this week our hospital holds one event for each profession. I don’t attend them because, if I’m honest, they feel very forced, like the hospital has to do it to be fair.

No one celebrates our jobs the rest of the year. Aside from a handful who often show their appreciation of me, I am treated a lot of the time as if I’m disposable, consistently asked “What do you do all day?” in condescending tones.

PCAs are treated as if they’re disposable, too. Nurses (not all of them – I work with and have worked with some amazing nurses) tend to think that cleaning bodily fluids and changing patients is all the PCA’s job. Often I will tell a nurse who is charting that their patient is in need of something and they will tell me to get the PCA. When I inform them that the PCA is with another patient they say something along the lines of “Well then the patient will just have to wait.”

This leads to me being in the middle of a rock and a hard place. I’m not going to tell the patient that their nurse doesn’t feel like helping them, but I can’t keep telling them that someone’s coming when I know they aren’t.

When you see people talk about nurse’s week on social media, you never see them talk about the support staff that makes the nurse’s jobs easier. Again, I’m not saying that nurses don’t deserve praise – and a lot of it – I’m just saying that we are often forgotten.

PCAs, too, are here 13+ hours a day, multiple days a week. They do back-breaking, dirty work. They are lifting patients, cleaning patients and being abused, as well. The main differences between a PCA and an RN is school, responsibility and the ability to pass medications. Otherwise, they are doing similar jobs. Yet, PCAs make on average at least $10 less an hour than RNs. I’m not saying that they should make the same as RNs; I’m saying that both professions should make more.

I’m here 12+ hours a day a couple of days a week. I am often the go-between for nurses, PCAs and patients. Although I experience less patient-led abuse, I am abused and threatened, too. I’ve been cussed out and threatened with violence too many times to count.

When a patient calls me because they need something and I tell a nurse or PCA and they don’t do it, I’m the one who gets yelled at because the patient assumes that I’m the problem.

Final Thoughts

My job doesn’t deserve the same pay as a nurse, but I do deserve respect. Without me these units would be even more chaotic than they are. The majority of the day I am the only person at this desk answering these phones and patient call lights.

I love what I do and who I work with. Working in a “safety net hospital” means I work with a lot of caring, compassionate and amazing people. The problem is that the administration doesn’t seem to value my position (or PCAs), which leads to the rest of the hospital not valuing it, either.

So, during Nurse Appreciation Week 2019, make sure you show the rest of the nursing staff that they’re appreciated, too. Without us the nurses wouldn’t be able to do their jobs effectively.

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