A Salute to Nurses

I really think nurses deserve more recognition (and maybe, a higher salary too) for what they do in the hospitals.

It’s bad enough that they have to do a lot of unpleasant things which we wouldn’t usually do, e.g. clean up patients who can’t clean themselves, dispose of their excretions, clean up their vomit and blood, etc.

It’s worse that they have to work long hours and are pretty stretched due to the high volume of patients under their care (especially for public hospitals). I can just imagine the kind of stress that they have to undergo.

Perhaps worst of all, they have to endure the unnecessary abuses from horrible patients under their care!

Just the other day, I went back to the National University Hospital (NUH) for a follow-up. While waiting to see the doctor, I witnessed a patient verbally abusing one of the nurses at the counter. In fact, it was so bad, she ended up crying. But since she was stationed at the front counter, you could see that she was trying her best not to cry.

In fact, the nurse didn’t warrant any scolding at all. What happened was that this patient was confused about which counter to go to. He complained about how he had to walk around the hospital and he was tired and fed up about it. The patient was just too much. He was angry and he needed to vent it out on someone. Unfortunately, the nurse was the poor victim who happened to be there.

It’s really unfortunate.

Of course, this was not the only incident I encountered. Many weeks back, I was at the hospital for another follow-up appointment. The nurse assisting the doctor came out of his room. At that point, a patient came forward to ask about his turn. This was when things turned ugly. When several other patients saw that, they felt that they too should interrogate the nurse about their turn. In an instant, there was an unhappy mob of about six people surrounding the nurse demanding to see the doctor immediately. One of them was so annoyed that he wasn’t going to be called immediately, that he went to the registration counter to kick up a fuss!

Seriously… What’s wrong with these people? Is this problem isolated to this country? It seems to be the case, because so many people online have been complaining that the problem with Singaporeans is that we feel entitled to every single thing. As a paying customer, as a citizen, he/she somehow feels that one has a right to the best services, the right to comfort, etc… Basically, there’s this odd sense that one has a right to everything as long as one is paying money for it (it doesn’t matter how much, as long as money is involved, the ridiculously high sense of entitlement is there).

And if the Singaporean paying customer doesn’t get what he/she wants, he/she will harass and even scold the service personnel. I’ve seen this phenomenon happening so many times, not just in the hospital, but in so many other places as well. It has nothing to do with whether the person is highly educated or not, nor does it have to do with age. Young or old, rich or poor, educated or illiterate, I’ve seen this happening over and over again. There is an unrealistic expectation for the best service with the shortest waiting time possible. And if this is not met, suddenly one feels a sense of rage and takes it out upon the service personnel.

It’s disgusting!

And it’s just disgusting that people – patients, or just the relatives or friends of the patient – feel that it’s perfectly fine to verbally abuse or to harass the nurses. Some of them feel it necessary to do it. They even have the nerve to say: “You have to scold them, they’re just lazy!”

Where on earth did this assumption come from?

They’re not lazy! They’re tired! They’re overworked! And the last thing they need is verbal abuse or to be stressed out even more.

I really think hospitals should have some kind of measure or policy in place that will protect nurses from such verbal abuses or harassment – perhaps something similar to the move that was made to protect bus drivers from physical abuse.

I don’t know enough about the system to comment more about it.

But what I’ll say is, please treat nurses better.

To all the nurses out there, and especially the ones in the National University Hospital (NUH) who have treated me, here’s what I have to say:

Thank you for staying in this profession despite the emotional turmoil that some patients can inflict upon you. I admire your courage in joining this profession; but more so, I admire the great strength of will that you have to carry on and to endure the nonsense that come from horrendous patients. No one deserves to be harassed or verbally abused. But you’ve endured such nonsense, on top of a hectic schedule with tasks that can also be unpleasant. I don’t know how you do it, but it’s amazing that you are able to do it. It’s rare to come across such moral saints with such a high degree of patience and a big heart. It is indeed inspiring.

I salute you because you are living examples of patience, courage, endurance, and compassion. Should people lose their faith in humanity because of all the terrible experiences they have had with other people, I have only to point them to you, nurses, and show how you’ve stayed on to care for your patients despite the hell you may receive from them. And I am sure that they will regain their faith in humanity once again by your example.

I do hope that there can be better measures in place to protect you from such unruly and inconsiderate patients. In the mean time, please keep it up! And more importantly, please stay strong! =)