Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Article Comments

The New Meaning Of The Refrigerator Nurse

Meet Nurse Prudence Perfect. She is the unit’s refrigerator nurse. It’s her job to make sure that everything is perfect and meets Joint Commission standards because you never know when the old JC will drop by for an unannounced visit. Insulin vials labeled and dated? Check. Refrigerator thermometer easily accessible and log up to date? Check. Hey, who put their lunch in here? There is to be no food in medication refrigerator! Prudence is gearing up. Stand by for one of her Joint Commission inservices.

For you nursing history buffs, the term “refrigerator nurse” goes way back to a time when Prudence was a graduate nurse. The term was coined back when it only took one paycheck to support a family, and when nurses, typically women, quit working once they got married. A nurse who went back to work after she was married in order to buy luxury items for her family, such as a refrigerator, was known as a refrigerator nurse. Some have suggested that these nurses were less dedicated to their patients and to the nursing profession, but this is simply not true. It was a different time back then. Women who went back to work after they got married broke with convention. They were rebels and some of the best nurses I’ve known.

This week, I also became a refrigerator nurse, but not in the classic sense. My refrigerator gave out after 13 years of service, so I selected a new model from Lowes and had it delivered to my home. Lowes uses a company called Big E Transportation to make its home deliveries. The delivery guys were sweethearts, but they looked wiped out. I could tell that one of the guys was suffering from back pain because he walked with a stiff gait, and the other guy looked like he was ready to keel over. It was hot outside so I invited them to take a break and I offered them a cool drink. As we sat together at the kitchen table, I asked them when they were going to get their next day off. They looked at each other and hesitated, then one said to the other, “Should I tell her, or should you?” The guys told me that they work seven days a week, 12 to 14 hours a day, and that they don’t get paid by the hour. They get paid by the day. I did the math and it comes out to less than minimum wage. I also found out that the guy with the bad back never saw a doctor because he doesn’t have health insurance. I asked him what he was taking for pain and he pulled out a couple of different bottles of pain pills that he had picked up from friends and relatives. He was taking a potentially hazardous combination of pills. I quickly did some patient teaching about why you can’t take other people’s medications, and then I gave him the name of doctor in town who charges patients on a sliding scale.

Shame on you Lowes and Big E Transportation for exploiting your workers and for redefining what it means to be a refrigerator nurse.

*This blog post was originally published at Nurse Ratched's Place*

You may also like these posts

    None Found

Read comments »

Comments are closed.

Return to article »

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

Read more »

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

Read more »

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

See all book reviews »