Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Bonnaroo Effect

Pity the poor Head Nurse, or Nurse Manager or Associate Manager or whatever we call them these days. He or she has no easy job. What a temptation it must be to hide in the office, dodging e-mails and phone calls and pretending not to be inside when the pounding starts on the door.

Perhaps six of your nurses are pregnant. They will be on family leave over Christmas. You cannot fill their slots. Perhaps thirteen of your nurses are divorcing. That means bad moods, bad attitudes, court dates, husbands taking off with the kids, personal days, sick time- No wonder managers dream of opening a bed and breakfast or buying a winery.

And those new graduates you hired last year? The ones who did not get accepted by nurse anesthetist school? They are quitting. To go "prn". "I want to work when I want to work", they tell their nurse manager defiantly. They are young. They can buy their own insurance , they say. Why work for a lousy $25 an hour when they can make $35 prn. And next year when summer rolls around they will be able to do what they want with their friends.

I call this "The Bonnaroo Effect".

It happens in the first year of practice when new nurses learn that they are now expected to put the patient and the hospital's needs above their own. On holidays. On weekends. They will not be going to the Country Music Awards. They are not going to Bonnaroo. They are not even going to get to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. This they find out eight months in advance when the Nurse Manager posts the holiday rotation. And this will not be just for the next year. It will be for as long as they stay a hospital nurse full time.

So- many quit, line up three PRN jobs and flit from shift to shift, hospital to hospital. Disengaged mercenaries. Guns for hire dressed in scrubs. "I don't give a damn", they say " I am just prn".

And so it goes.

I understand this. I have had the same feelings myself. But I, after 40 years, have earned the right to work when I want. Have these young people? Why did they choose nursing, a calling that demands human sacrifice? Did they not know what they were getting into? Did they think the sick go into suspended animation at night and over Thanksgiving?

I guess there are some things they do not teach in nursing school anymore.

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