Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Should nurses be banned from taking gifts from patients?

My thoughts as posted on Medscape, do note I disagree with the word "exceptional", as nurses should be giving excellent care to ALL thier patients.

The question was this:
"Should nurses be banned from receiving gifts from those who received exceptional care from them? What’s your take on this?"

My Comments:

My thoughts are pro and con. 31 years ago, my co-workers and our patients threw a baby shower for me. This was on an Oncology floor, and many of our patients were not expected to survive their experimental cancer treatment. I was the first pregnant nurse in that facility in many, many years. The gifts that I recieved for my eldest daughter, many of which were hand made, are among some of the most precious things I have ever received. Even now, 31 years later, I can remember the names and faces of these patients, and the joy they had in making, or buying these items for my expected child. Many of them were still on the unit when I brought my newly born infant daughter by for everyone to see and to hold. The joy that I got from the gifts, and the joy my patients had when holding my newborn daughter were boundless.
So, yes, gifts can be wonderful. To this day I still take gifts of prepackaged food to nurses who are caring for my family members. I just think it is a thoughtful thing to do, and that it is not asking for favors, it's just a way to say thank you. It's not like getting free food, pens and post-it notes from drug companies, I think it is just a personal touch. Many will disagree with me. However, the baby gifts that were freely given to me, by my patients, back in the dark ages, are still revered at my home. Sometimes we will sit on the memory quilt made by my sister, in the (now) guest room upstairs and go through the box of things that my daughers had as babies. As I pull each item out to show my granddaughters I explain, this was from XXXX who lived in Moline, and she gave this to your mommy, and this was from a family in Iran, and this was from a reknowned newspaper food editor...and I remember each and every person, and the love and care that was expressed with each and every item given to me for my eldest daughter in 1976.
So, it can be a good thing, but is it necessary? No. Should we show favoritism for the family members that give gifts? No.
Each and every one of our patients, no matter their circumstances, should recieve the best of care from us, no matter what.
However, in recent years I have seen the less altrustic side of gift giving. Families trying to garner favor, etc. To me, this is tragic and sad.
The best rule of thumb would be to let patients and their families know that if they want to give something to the nursing staff, it should be something everyone can share, such as flowers, a tin of popcorn or things like that.
Sigh, the days of sweet and thoughtful gifts are probably gone forever. I will think of that the next time I open the (still gummy after 30 yrs) decoupaged box that was given to me by a patient's daughter. The patient, age 23, passed away soon after I was given the little box. I still use the box.