What I Learned in Nursing School about Customer Service

Detail of painting (2009) artist: JParadisi

Many of my patients are recently discharged from the hospital. Most of them tell me about the wonderful care they’ve received there, and even mention their favorite nurses by name. I know a patient who memorized the names of all twenty nurses caring for him during a lengthy hospitalization, because he is so impressed by the care he received.

Patients sometimes ask  if it’s difficult taking care of sick people. I always laugh when I’m asked this question, because it reminds me of the summer job I had before my last semester of nursing school. My classmates took summer jobs as certified nurse assistants, honing their new nursing skills. I needed a new to me, used car that summer, and working as a cocktail waitress in a resort town dining establishment paid better than working as a CNA.

While most dinner/cocktail customers I served enjoyed their evenings out, occasionally I’d get a cranky one or two. Besides the perennial customer complaining his “medium” steak was not medium, is there a more subjective term in cooking than medium?, my favorite story is of the drunken male customer who began making lewd gestures and statements while I brought drinks to his table. I refused to serve this customer anymore alcohol, and he complained to the restaurant’s owner, who tried ordering me to serve him. I told him I wouldn’t do it; if he wanted to fire me on the spot, right before Labor Day, fine; I’d already earned the money I needed to buy the car and I was going to be a nurse soon anyway. Realizing he had no influence over me, the boss took a tray of drinks to the offending drinker and his buddies.

Minutes later, the drunken customer jumped up on the  stage where live music was playing, and stripped off all his clothes, butt naked. Horrified, my ex-boss tried to man-handle the guy off the stage. He was prevented from doing so by the customer’s drunken buddies, who jumped up from their table and threw my ex-boss out the door of his own restaurant, and then dead-bolting it behind him. The bartender yelled to me, “Juli, get behind the bar,” and called the police. This time I did as I was told.

I’ve had one or two comparably difficult patients, since becoming a Registered Nurse. But, for the most part I’m gratified by the graciousness, and kindness of the people who come in for care, trusting that my colleagues and I will take good care of them.