Frustrations of a Ward Secretary

Walking by the nurse’s station, I heard the ward secretary complaining about “these residents nowadays”. She named a few, but for the most part, grouped all residents together – as if all house staff are cut from the same white coat.

She had some valid points, but the way she blurted them out – the tone, the implications, the facial expressions, and the volume – all somewhat discredited her concerns. It was just someone complaining at work… that’s all it was to most.

Nearing the end of the tirade, she turned to me and said, “Dr. Tori, somebody’s gotta do somethin’ ’bout these new residents. Somebody’s gotta get to ’em before they get this way.”

I asked, “What’s the problem?” (even though I heard the whole thing from beginning to end)

She replied, “I don’t know. They just don’t have no sense.”

“About what?” I asked.

She said, “You know, the way they talk… manners… etiquette. It’s all about them.”

I said, “OK, here’s what I want you to do: Write it down. Tell me what residents need to do. Give me specifics.”

Here’s her list

  1. The way you ask a question – Start with “Good morning” or “Good afternoon” or any greeting. Then start your question like “May I have…” or “Do you have…”
  2. If there are three or four unused phones at the nurse’s station, don’t grab the one right in front of the secretary.
  3. Greet me first, before you ask me which nurse has your patient.
  4. When you page someone, please let us know.

Not unreasonable, huh?

I would probably add:

    1. Write legibly
    2. Put your pager or phone number after your signature
    3. Identify yourself and team/coverage when returning a page
    4. Greet the one who answers the phone
    5. Go over complicated orders with the nurse and/or secretary before leaving
    6. Tell someone when you put stat orders on a chart

      Add any more that you can think of in the comments…