The Customer is NEVER Right - A Nurse Practitioner's Perspective
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Terminated! First time I heard that word associated with me.

I was informed, while credentialing for the next assignment, a previous locums job reported my reason for leaving was because I was terminated. Imagine how surprised I was to hear that for the first time. Especially, if true, since that employer never mentioned it to me and much less offered me an opportunity to defend myself for whatever I was terminated for, or so that I could defend myself if a potential employer found such claims. Instead, what I was told when I worked there was I was no longer needed at that facility as they had hired someone, a common reason to abruptly end someone’s contract in locums before the end of the scheduled assignment.
That is not to say while I worked there I was complaint free as I was told I had accumulated a number of patient complaints according to administrators, whether it was true or not I have no idea as I do not keep track of those numbers. I recall being sent an email with the first patient complaint letter attached and me telling the administrator not to send me patient complaints as I had no desire to read exaggerated unrealistic emotional rhetoric. However, at that facility, as part of their bylaws, healthcare workers had to write apology letters to patients who complained about them and the reason they forwarded the patient complaints to healthcare workers.
Of course I told the administrator I would not participate in such degrading activity. Maybe that was why I was terminated, for not bowing.
I am not sure how known it is to the layperson, but in healthcare it is well known that healthcare workers could have wrongfully killed someone yet they are not terminated, as litigation could go on for years. Even if found liable in litigation, as directors have told me, “You could cause a sentinel event but if free of customer complaints you will likely not be terminated.” I wonder if the public knew that would they be willing to waiver their quality of life for customer service.
Having worked the number of nurse practitioner jobs I have worked I am sure some question why I am not able to settle down as a nurse practitioner. Not that I get concerned with what others might think or not think, but it is frustrating having to answer the plethora of questions when I go to work somewhere new or that I have to prove myself at every job before others accept that I qualify to do the job. Not to mention every time a patient complaint at a new job sets off alarms among administrators as to the reason for my frequent job turnover. It is almost paranoia.
I purposely choose not to live a life of crime because I did not want to be looking over my shoulder. Yet, as a healthcare professional that is how I feel in my practice. Not about the next sentinel event, as I have none, but who is going to be the next complaint and what consequences will I endure? Or am I going to be questioned on my decisions because an employer feels I am a risk to the organization, has lost confidence in me, or because I am the new kid on the block and have to prove myself at each new job.
During my military service I would say I had my fair share of events that could leave someone scarred psychologically. Yet, I left the service without a single service connected disability, not one. Yet, as a nurse practitioner I find myself sitting alone, quietly, sometimes with welled eyes, not because of sadness, depression, lack of self-esteem, lack of confidence, or anything like that. Instead I find myself sitting alone, quietly, sometimes with welled eyes, my head lowered in my hands and shaking my head in disbelief because of frustration and anger at times; almost as if evolving into PTSD. Not because I caused a sentinel event that would end my career of helping others, but because a patient complained that I was rude, uncaring, or lacked compassion, when instead, it was my unwillingness to bow to their exaggerated unrealistic emotional expectations, entitlements, or so-called VIP.
Some might think I was never a happy go lucky guy but I have always been happy (although it may not look so to some) as I have nothing to complain about, even if the airline leaves my luggage behind four days after me arriving at my destination.
Why would I complain? My parents taught me the best values anyone can ask for: Be grateful regardless how little you have. Help those who have less. Treat everyone equally. A strong work ethic. A desire to improve. Be a giver and not a taker of society. Do not allow others to define you. When you have to fight, fight to win.
Why would I complain? I have a beautiful, loving, intelligent, funny, confident bride who cannot but do great things and has done wonders with my knitted brow and social awkwardness not to mention she is by far my much better half.
Why would I complain? Our dogs appreciate we care for them and they in return give us unconditional love.
Why would I complain? I live on the planet’s greatest nation, have a roof over my head, and keep my food in a refrigerator and my clothes in a closet.
Why would I complain? Every time I been on a plane I have reached my destination alive. Maybe late, maybe without my luggage, maybe I had to sleep at the airport, maybe I didn’t like the food they served (when they did), but I always arrived ALIVE!
It’s not a fear of flying that I point that out, over and over, as I tried my hand at flying myself. Instead, the point is I arrived alive, it’s transportation. No one ever complains of the public city bus and their service is worse than the airlines, not to mention other passenger’s body odors.
Nonetheless, I am happy with my private live. It is my professional life that has been a never-ending nightmare, where I have to go from job to job, not because sentinel events, addiction, or undermined anyone, but because I do not cater to exaggerated unrealistic emotional expectation, entitlements, or so-called VIP.
I would not say I am angry at work as I enjoy helping others, but work has become frustrating having to worry about which patient is going to complain next that I didn’t smile…that I didn’t engage them in the small talk Lee suggested, as scripts are so 90’s and no longer sufficient to get past 82% satisfaction scores…and more so, that I didn’t cater to their exaggerated unrealistic emotional expectations, or each time being questioned or having to prove my credentials.
I try not to share my stories at home as no one deserves to listen to such misery, day after day after day, and it is not fair to dump the repetitive negative experiences on to anyone, much less my much better half. However, sometimes they escape my lips and find themselves as examples to just about any private conversation that was not related to healthcare originally.
Diagnostic symptoms for PTSD include re-experiencing the original trauma through flashbacks or nightmares, avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma, and increased arousal—such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, anger, and hypervigilance causing significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning, like a marriage. And not because of the crispy critters or the killed during war but because of customer complaints, how pathetic!?!
Sounds like a big whining session, I know, but I am not looking for pity. These stories are not my stories alone. These are stories of many in healthcare who deal with them privately, every day, shift after shift, regardless how frustrating and exhausting in order to keep from them being terminated from their job because of a patient complaint. The stories are of their loved ones too, who listen to them at a day’s end when they rather not.

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