Through our work with patients at Guardian Nurses, my team and I have interacted with thousands of healthcare professionals over 15 years.  And people being people, we occasionally run into a rotten apple, someone who has a sour attitude or is dismissive or confrontational.  But this week, one of our nurses shared a story about meeting one of the least compassionate nurses I’ve ever heard about.

In anticipating her patient’s discharge after several days in the hospital, Peggy called the nursing unit to check in and speak with the patient’s nurse.  Peg asked the nurse to check to see whether a specific discharge order had been included in the discharge orders.  It hadn’t, so Peg asked the nurse to follow up and the nurse responded, “Not my monkeys, not my circus.”  Stunned at first by hearing this callous response, Peg quickly got her wits about her and successfully convinced the nurse that this patient WAS in fact her monkey and until her shift ended at 7PM, it WAS her circus.

When I read the email about this interaction, I was incredulous.  I immediately called Peggy to confirm and as she shared with me the details, I thought, “Why is this nurse—with an awful attitude like that—still employed?”  I have heard some awful remarks from physicians, nurses, technicians, etc., but this was the worst. How dare this woman call herself a nurse!  How dare she accept responsibility for the care of a patient with such a cold, heartless, and cruel approach to her job!  Time to call it quits.  Patients need nurses who actually DO care and who WILL be the ring master of the hospital circus.  Because if not nurses, then who?

As I draft my letter to the Chief Nursing Officer at the hospital, copying the Chief Medical Officer, I fear that this nurse’s behavior will not matter.  And that, Dear Virginia, is why patients will always need Guardian Nurses.