When it comes to professionalism in the workplace, nurses have it extremely tough, as a general rule. We are put in a sort of middle-man position between physicians and patients, a position which doesn’t allow too much independence or individualism. It can be challenging to work with doctors who don’t respect us and patients who don’t want to follow treatment orders.
The nurse’s station is our home. It is the place where we can sit and get work done, and it should belong completely to us, right? Well, the question I present to you now is: Would you give up your seat in the nurse’s station?
It may sound like a fairly straightforward question, but it’s not as easy to answer as a question about giving up your seat on the bus to a pregnant woman or giving your place in the checkout line to someone who is only purchasing one or two items. No, this question is fraught with meaning and there are a lot of implications surrounding the “seat in the nurse’s station” predicament. Let’s have a look.
Paying it Forward (or Backward)
When asked if they would give up their chair to an assistant nurse, most nurses said no. This didn’t seem to be out of malice, but rather a misguided attempt at fairness. Let me explain.
Think back to the days when you were a CAN or some other kind of “underling” at your facility. Think of the long hours, the difficult patients. Now think of the nurses you worked with. How often were you offered a seat at the nurse’s station? Not very often, probably. Who was sitting there most of the time? That’s right – the RNs.
Most nurses have gone through the experience of not being given a seat, even when they had been on their feet all day long. It’s a strange tradition that nurses knock down the CNAs in an attempt at superiority. And now that you are a nurse and no longer an assistant, you might be tempted to treat assistants the same way you were treated. In fact, that’s the reasoning that most nurses have given when asked if they would give up their chair in the station to an assistant nurse. Essentially, the sentiment is: I was treated awfully when I was a CNA, so now it’s my turn to be the head honcho and make the calls.”
But what does this accomplish? All this mentality does is encourage more and more nurses to treat those under them poorly in an effort of “payback.” If this is your thinking, please remember how you felt when you were denied a chair. Now remember that that is how you are making other assistants feel when you deny them the courtesy of a simple seat at the station.
If you treat them the way you were treated, you can guarantee that they will do the same when they move up. While this sounds fine in the name of tradition or work culture, it very much affects how your colleagues feel about their work, and about you. It’s a much better idea to break the cycle of insulting pseudo-hazing behavior at the nurse’s station.
Stand with Confidence
Giving up your seat to a nursing assistant may feel like an act of charity, even something you can feel good about. After all, you’re doing a good deed for someone else and stopping a toxic cycle of rude work behavior. Great!
But here’s the next question: would you give up your seat to a physician? How about one with whom you do not get along?
This is a much trickier question. It’s easy to do nice things for people we see as beneath us in some way; it’s easy to justify our kindness. But when we are asked to do something for someone who is seen (whether by us, them, or other people) as in a superior position, it can be even more difficult to comply.
Many nurses say that they would not give up their chair to a physician because physicians are already given much more than them and don’t treat them with respect. As with the CNAs, we often feel that those above us don’t show us any respect, so we, in turn, decline respect to those under us. And unfortunately, we are in a unique position as nurses to stop the cycle of this behavior.
Giving up your chair to a physician is a mark of professionalism, not lackey-hood. Regardless of the respect you are given, doing a doctor a professional courtesy of offering them a seat is a respectful and kind action. Whatever happens on the other end of that is not your concern. However, by treating others well and being kind, you are encouraging a friendly and professional atmosphere.
Instead of feeling that physicians or nursing assistants are walking all over you when they have a seat, choose to stand with confidence, knowing that you are helping to create a professional environment that allows others to feel welcome and appreciated. And as you stand, remember that you are an example to other nurses around you and be prepared to see the inevitable positive changes that will occur at your place of work.