Flight Attendant Syndrome

Gradually over the years I have noticed an increase in what I term “Flight Attendant Syndrome” within the walls of the hospital.  On an airplane we put our lives in the  experienced and capable hands of the pilots and flight attendants. While the pilots are up in the cockpit, the flight attendants are in the main cabin to ensure our safety and comfort- safety being primary of course. They are the people who are familiar with the operations and functions of an airplane;  the layout and the logistics, the location of safety equipment, and are trained to react appropriately during an emergency. They are valuable individuals for a successful flight and their job is reduced down to that little beverage cart.

As an RN in an ICU, recently, I have felt as appreciated as a flight attendant with the beverage cart. As an ICU nurse I am very proud of the knowledge, experience, and training I have had. I am proud of my ability to respond in a critical situation. I am proud of my decision-making and critical-thinking abilities when the care and outcomes of my patient are at stake. So frequently- patients and families still look to the doctor for all the answers.

Of course medical questions regarding diagnosis, disease process, prognosis, and if surgical intervention is needed, are questions that are of course expected to be answered by the doctor. But questions regarding hospital course, care, treatment, and plan while hospitalized are nursing managed issues and the answers should be nursing driven.

Many nurses I work with will not do anything above what is ordered by the MD. There are a few that really let the care be driven by physicians- and I think families really pick up on that. We are doing our patients a great disservice by not being the energy behind changes in the plan of care. While its easier to come in for your 12 hour shift, do the work that is ordered by the physician, and go home- it is in the small initiatives that make huge improvements for patients. Things such as making them get out of bed 1 more time, ambulate a little bit further, or even turn them a bit more frequently make such a difference. While these things seem small; it is in small things that we find success or failure.  All it takes is a few nurses; over just a few shifts; skipping a few turns and a patient will develop a pressure ulcer.

As a patient your overall hospital outcome can be made or broken by the quality of nursing care received in the hospital.

I wish it didn’t take the incidences of poor nursing care for families to appreciate expert skill and dedication. I’m not sure where to start with changing the culture.

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