A Tale of Two Nurses


This past weekend, I made an impromptu trip to Kansas City to be with my grandmother in the hospital after a heart attack. Thankfully, the doctors are confident that the damage can be treated quickly and she may be able to return home soon.

During the time I spent with grandmother before returning back to Tulsa, we got to know the nurses and nursing assistants quite well and I couldn’t help but pay close attention to their every move. This is my grandmother, after all, and given the circumstances, my high Skeptical tendencies were out in full force. While we were very pleased with the majority of the staff, there were two nursing assistants that left a more lasting impression. 

First, there was nursing assistant A, let’s call her Nancy. During her 12-hour shift, Nancy performed all tasks very well (i.e., administering medication, assisting the patient with bathing, assessing the patient’s vitals and documenting them with the nurse). However, the positive impression Nancy left with us was not due to her technical skills alone. Nancy was upbeat, attentive, friendly, and understanding. She checked in on my grandmother frequently, brought her extra ice cream after room service was closed, and cracked jokes to lighten the mood. Without a doubt, Nancy made the hospital stay easier on my grandmother (and us).

Then, there was nursing assistant B, let’s call her Anita. Anita was from the hospital’s radiology department and transported my grandmother from her room to the lab for testing. Although Anita performed her primary task, she caused us all to be concerned with her interest and capabilities for doing so. As an example, Anita first approached my grandmother’s bed, asking her “Are you going down for X-rays now? I think that’s where you’re going”, while grabbing a piece of paper from her pocket to check the order. She failed to make any attempt to make my grandmother comfortable as she moved from her hospital bed to the gurney and when the R.N. asked Anita if there was an oxygen tank attached to the gurney, Anita glanced at the bed from several feet away and responded “Yeah, it looks like there is a tank.” It was apparent that Anita lacked the confidence, interpersonal skills, and motivators necessary for the role. 

This is another example of the importance of personality fit within a role. My colleagues Ryan Daly and Cheryl Dunlap shared stories of a rewarding and disappointing experience with organizations and our observations all share one common, albeit basic, theme: employing the right or wrong people for the job will leave a lasting impression on your customers.