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ADVANCE Perspective: Nurses

Customer Service Challenge for Nurses

Published March 14, 2011 10:35 AM by Guest Blogger
By Diane M. Goodman, MSN-C, APRN, CCRN, CNRN

There is no quicker method to increase anxiety among a group of nurses than to inform them they are scheduled for mandatory meetings related to improving customer service. Mumbling, side conversations and uneasy looks rapidly replace the typical caffeine-driven eagerness to "get on with their day" that demonstrates the work of nursing on a busy hospital unit.

Why are nurses so provoked by words that are commonplace in business and industry? Most nurses, when queried, find the need for coaching on customer service to be insulting or, even worse, unnecessary. When did the concept of customer service become inflammatory? Have nurses always felt this way or has the tension increased over recent years?

Nurses strongly feel the need to be autonomous and be allowed to "do their jobs," whether that be rapidly triaging a critically ill patient in the emergency department, or soothing a confused geriatric patient on a med/surg unit. The less interference in this role, they believe, the better. How could anyone else possibly know what the nurse does, or tell them how to do their work "better" or "differently" to manipulate numbers related to patient satisfaction?

What nurses have yet to realize is that true customer service need not be an opponent. When befriended, customer service allows the nurse to showcase her role and skill, and to bond more closely with the patient's extended family members, who may have witnessed few of her best nursing actions. A lengthy assessment of vital signs, skin temperature, functionality and patient progress may have taken place hours before the family awakened at home. How would they recognize the trust and caring exhibited by the nurse as she discussed the patient's discomfort if they hadn't been near the bedside?

In comparison, would Angelina Jolie or Brad Pitt expect fans to understand the scope of their charitable work if publicists were not available to provide photos, sound bytes and, ultimately, constant exposure to the world? Nurses need to learn how to accept being stars in their own world and toot their own horns while keeping busy "saving lives." The most charitable act of kindness could easily go unrecognized in a busy, routine hospital environment.

How often do we see nurses postpone dinner or an urgent need for a bathroom break to grab a pain medication for a patient who is in pain? That's customer service at its finest, and the act should be applauded and recognized. Unfortunately, it usually isn't, because the star of this action/drama is off to the next patient, and the precision has become an expectation, not seen as a professional or personal sacrifice.

Nurses have had a tough time understanding that a hospital environment is a business community. We desperately need to showcase our "stars," while providing reassurance that saving lives and customer service do not have to be adversarial. Only when this message is perceived accurately by nurses will we see customer satisfaction scores soar. Heroes do walk among us, quietly and busily doing their best work, usually in supporting roles.

Discuss this topic with other nurses in ADVANCE's Forum.



Not eating and not being able to pee is "customer service at its best". Get off your soapbox and enter the real world.

Getagrip July 30, 2014 1:41 PM

'customet service challenges ' %0d%0a%0d%0athe definition covers this topics .what i mean here as customer need comes st before probably have realised that everytimes when customer satiesfied they draw a beautifull smile and give us honest approach of " thank you " yet we might get some demanding customer or morelike young and have not much experience on nursing custome service but believe me when i said my mistakes was great teacher whereby even demanding custome or patient will pleased or satiesfied in your care if you do it with love.Lastly please dont see nursing as work ornot you will endup missing the sweet moment inside it.

joe nathan, health - student nurse April 10, 2013 5:38 AM
malaysia IT

Customer for "always" How about profit sharing and bonuses...that may get us truly into the business world. I shudder at the suggestion of pleasing both patient and family when they have jsut delivered a 24 week infant. NOT POSSIBLE

Sandy , RN April 26, 2012 2:00 AM

Hmmm. Covertly hidden among the praise are statements like: "Only when this message is perceived accurately by nurses..." blaming Nurses' perception instead of the presentation or presentors... and using the Brangelina analogy...why can't employers act as publicists for their Nurses and brag about them rather than some new piece of equipment? When Nurses are happy, patients are happy. Period. The majority may continue to reject the idea of hospitals being business communities, because they want it to remain a healing community. The two schools of thought do not seem to co-habitate well at all. And for the record? It IS insulting to have perpetual meetings on a kindergarten subject, in my opinion.

Patty March 14, 2011 7:03 PM
Baltimore MD

Nurses will never be happy with the customer servie programs pressed onto them, especially as they've been presented in my facility. We are college educated professionals but administration acts as though we are bank tellers or drive thru food servers! I am at work to make patients WELL, NOT HAPPY! If that turns out to be the same thing, then great, but if not, I DON'T CARE! I care more about my patient's health than their food tray, blankets, etc.

april, staff rn March 14, 2011 1:14 PM
philadelphia PA

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