UK Nurses tested for clinical competency,
August 16, 2002 10:19 AM   Subscribe

UK Nurses tested for clinical competency, but not for English language skills. So when a surgeon has to halt an operation because the nurses can't understand his instructions, does that make him a racist?
posted by Oriole Adams (11 comments total)
que pasa?
posted by quonsar at 10:23 AM on August 16, 2002

Why would you hire someone who couldn't speak the same language as the doctor?
posted by insomnyuk at 10:32 AM on August 16, 2002

Hooray for this doctor!
posted by bingo at 10:51 AM on August 16, 2002

In actuality, it's the people hiring the nurses who are racist. I unfortunately can't provide a link, because the online archive doesn't go back far enough, but the Chicago edition of the magazine Nursing Spectrum ran an article in 1998 which crowed about how great Filipina nurses were because they were "respectful", "compliant" and "not insubordinate" like their white or black colleagues.
My wife is a nurse, and it's become clear that the healthcare industry is trying to downgrade nursing into a blue-collar job. It used to be that if an intelligent woman wanted work, nursig was one of only a few options. Now though, middle class American women now have many other options open to them and those who choose nursing often come into nursing with 4-year degrees - they're intelligent and difficult for the still-patriarchal medial hierarchy to control. The advantage of farming second and third world nations for nurses is that hospitals can much more easily exploit them since nurses from other countries are desperate for good jobs.
posted by eustacescrubb at 11:00 AM on August 16, 2002

Quite a few of the surgeons I've watched work have some fairly severe communication problems themselves. Some guy asking for "special instruments" in the middle of an operation is a little odd. Perhaps the nurses had never heard of this guy's "special instruments". OR nurses who have never worked with a particular surgeon often must learn to put up with that surgeon's way of working, especially if (as is often the case) the surgeon is a prima donna.

Foreign-born nurses (and foreign-born physicians) practicing in America are extraordinarily competent, compassionate, and they almost always communicate very well in English. In addition, being bilingual is often incredibly beneficial in hospitals where American-born medical staff would otherwise require translators.

Oh. And nurses are saints.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 11:44 AM on August 16, 2002

You know, it actually isn't clear from that article if the problem is a) the communication skills of the doctor, b) the communication skills of the nurses (who appear to have been doing just fine up until then), or c) someone screwing up an orientation somewhere (was it that they didn't know what the instruments were, or that they didn't know where they were?). Or perhaps it's a combination of the three? It's also not clear how a racism charge emerges out of this.
posted by thomas j wise at 12:04 PM on August 16, 2002

My wife is a nurse, and it's become clear that the healthcare industry is trying to downgrade nursing into a blue-collar job.

They are being replaced with general practitioners and others with less training, and yet the demand for nurses is very high in most hospitals, there's quite a shortage of available nurses.
posted by insomnyuk at 12:21 PM on August 16, 2002

True dat. California has just passed a law which will require a nurse-to-patient ratio of 1:6, which sounds good on the surface, but the law doesn't distinguish between an RN (an actual licensed nurse) an LVN (a nurse with an Associate's Degree) and a CNA (a nursing assistant.) So hospitals are hiring loads of LVNs and CNAs. Thing is, non-RN nurses are not allowed to draw blood or give certain medications, and in a situation where a given floor has, say two RNs and the rest LVNs and CNAs, if the LVNs or CNAs fuck something up, the license of one of the RNs is at stake. LVNs and CNAs don't have licenses, and so there's no way to do the medical equivalent of disbarring them. Thus, an RN is suddenly turned into middle management -- someone who has to spend their time watching the less-educated workers in case they screw up.

The other day, my wife had an overweight patient whose weight had been one of several factors in the onset of asthma. The patient was less than five feet tall and weighed over 300 pounds. She was in her fifties and had never had asthma before. My wife was explaining to the patient the various means of controlling the asthma, stuff ranging from "don't drink really cold beverages" to, you guessed it: lose weight.
The patient threw a fit How dare some uppity nurse suggest to her that there was something wrong with her weight. The patient called my wife's supervisor and complained to the point that my wife had to go and defend her actions.
Thankfully, my wife's supervisor was understanding and didn't bring down any institutional wrath on her (it is a nurse's job to provide patient education.) During the course of their talk, the supervisor told my wife that almost all the complaints about nurses she gets are bullshit complaints -- no one ever complained about not getting their meds or not getting properly instructed on how to do something or not getting medical attention. All the complaints were things like "She didn't fluff my pillow" or "my food tray sat in my room for twenty minutes after I was done." Like nurses are servants and not medical professionals. Go hire a maid if you want your pillow fluffed. Nurses are busy saving people's lives.
posted by eustacescrubb at 1:29 PM on August 16, 2002

LVN/LPN is a nurse with vocational education, not an Associates Degree. One can be an Registered Nurse with an Associates Degree. Both types of nurses have licenses. Registered Nurses have more education and are allowed to do more than LVN/LPN (called different names in different states). I am an Operating Room RN, surgeons can have an attitude, and there are many different surgical nstruments out there. I don't think there is enough info. in the article to make a decision on fault. There are large numbers of foreign RNs coming into the US because of the severe shortage we have. It's a tough job, you tend to be under appreciated by doctors and by patients. It's tough being away from family on nights, weekends and holidays. I don't see the shortage getting any better until work conditions improve.
posted by RunsWithBandageScissors at 7:19 PM on August 16, 2002

Me, I wouldn't be a nurse on a bet. I couldn't stomach it. Whenever I'm being treated in a medical situation I always make a point of thanking the nurse(s)...they do most of the work, it's exhausting, it's often thankless. Let's face it, they're taking care of sick people who are more often than not in a foul humor to begin with. They change icky dressings, clean up puke, kowtow to arrogant doctors, and work when the rest of us are at home celebrating Christmas and Thanksgiving.

Whatever nurses get paid, it's not enough in my book.
posted by Oriole Adams at 8:05 PM on August 16, 2002

It's great to be appreciated, Oriole. THAT makes it worthwhile!
posted by RunsWithBandageScissors at 8:40 PM on August 16, 2002

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