6 ugly healthcare truths as told by nurses

There are more than 2.7 million registered nurses in the U.S., and many have experiences and make decisions on the job that nonclinicians never know about.

Nurses opened up about those secrets to Alexandra Robbins, the author of "The Nurses: A Year of Secrets, Drama and Miracles with the Heroes of the Hospital." In a Politico piece, she revealed some shocking secrets from nurses from across the nation about the truth of their jobs and the industry.

Below are six ugly healthcare truths as revealed by the nurses Ms. Robbins interviewed.

1. Clinicians place bets on patients. According to Ms. Robbins, some common wagers made by nurses and physicians include "guess the blood alcohol" or even betting on outcomes of high-risk surgeries and procedures. Sometimes actual money changes hands.

2. Clinicians "punish" unruly patients. "Some doctors and nurses use punitive medicine," Ms. Robbins wrote. Examples of this practice include using larger-than-necessary needles or unnecessary restraints for patients who talk back or who come in frequently to seek drugs.

3. Nurses lie to protect patients. Some nurses tell patients that they have done a procedure before even if they haven't, according to Ms. Robbins. To maintain boundaries, some organizations have told nurses they cannot weigh in even if patients ask what a nurse would do in their situation.

4. Nurses document everything. Some nurses told Ms. Robbins that they record everything in patient charts, including if a patient is belligerent or a family member is making problems. "If a patient later sues the hospital, the documented evidence can diminish the patient's credibility," according to Ms. Robbins.

5. Sometimes alcohol is used as medication. Patients who have a history of alcohol abuse may sometimes be given alcohol as medication to prevent alcohol withdrawal symptoms. While Ms. Robbins notes that usually Ativan is given to patients in this situation, a nurse told her, "It is funny to say that you gave your patient a shot of bourbon as a medication order."

6. Nurses are instructed to give some patients a better experience than others. Hospitals across the country treat VIPs better than the average patient. This may involve deluxe and expanded private rooms, better food and one-on-one nursing. Many hospitals reserve a couple of patient rooms, if not an entire floor, to care for celebrities, donors, politicians and other high-profile officials. The special care for these individuals can sometimes detract from that delivered to the rest of patients. "They do this for rich and influential people and we nurses are disgusted by it," one nurse told Ms. Robbins. "Nurses are taught to treat each patient as an important person and to give our best care to each one of those patients."

See the full article for more secrets revealed by nurses.

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