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Open Letter to the Nasty Nurse

Why did you have to make things so hard on my client? Why couldn’t you have just been kind and do your job without causing so much of a ruckus, as subtle as you think it was.

I get that you don’t have a fondness for midwives or homebirth, but to stonewall my client so many times, to try to manipulate her behavior with threats and out-and-out lies is inexcusable.

You caused my client to feel like she had no chance to turn her baby to the proper position. You lied saying “no face presentation is ever born vaginally” even though our doctor had just explained the difference between a mentum posterior and mentum anterior and that sometimes, when given a chance at non-intervention, babies can turn to the proper position. She knew her doctor didn’t lie, so that must mean that you did. It took a few minutes to get her to a place of believing that you didn’t know what you were talking about, that her doctor would not lead her astray by making her wait to have some inevitable cesarean just to be mean.

When my client confided in me that she couldn’t believe the words, “I want an epidural!” ever came out of her mouth, I began explaining to her that part of that was she was in a hospital and she knew it would be accessible there, whereas in the home, she wouldn’t ask for one because it wouldn’t be available. Your snorty laugh about my saying it was because we were in the hospital was uncalled for and unprofessional. We didn’t need your nasal commentary. I was soothing my client. Your job was to do the paperwork.

When my client came back in from her cesarean birth, you continued your run of snottiness and rudeness. Yes, it was mostly directed towards me, but they were caught in the undertow of your bitterness.

You had no right to manipulate the energy surrounding their decisions about the baby into your personal vendetta to get them to comply. They didn’t want you to poke their baby for a glucose test, told you they wanted to wait and think about it. Sure, your protocols are to do a glucose stick when the baby is above 4000 grams, but when a parent says they don’t want something – and obviously know what they are talking about – your job is to either have them sign AMA and then shut up about it – or just shut up about it without your own agenda smooshing around them, especially since they didn’t even have to sign any AMA forms regarding the test.

The penultimate insult came when my client, who had been breastfeeding successfully during your dinner break (when we had the marvelous nurse from another natural birth I’d done at your hospital) was made to feel perhaps she hadn’t nursed so well as you ignored, over and over, the comments that the baby had already latched on and nursed. You told my client she needed to burp the baby and switch sides. When it was made aware to you that my assistant and I were La Leche League leaders and we were happy to help her nurse, you put on gloves, came over to my client, grabbed her breast and began shoving it into the baby’s mouth. My apprentice tried to tell you she would help. I stated she could help mom nurse. My client even said, several times, “Let Donna do it. Donna can help me,” and all you did was continue to pull on my client’s nipple and my apprentice decided she wasn’t going to play tug-of-war with a newborn, so she let the baby go and we all watched as you struggled to breastfeed an already full baby. What made you think you needed to take over that situation? Why were you so hell-bent on being the one to help this mom breastfeed, especially after we listened to you complain several times about how behind you were in your paperwork? Why didn’t you just do your paperwork? What you did was bordering on assault. Do you realize that?

When my client explained they didn't want to bathe the baby, you tried, in several ways, to convince them they needed to. The most amusing way was explaining the nurses would be inconvenienced by having to put on gloves to touch the baby. Like that was going to convince them? Guess again.

Why were you so territorial? Did you think I was going to come in and take your job away from you? I didn’t even challenge your amazingly stupid remarks or block your attacking moves. I stayed in my place, tending to my client. Why were you so threatened by a lowly midwife? So flustered you don’t even remember if you zero’d the scale when weighing the baby? Why did you have to make it sound like no one knew anything, but you? What is in your personality that makes you think you are so fabulous and everyone else, even the doctor, didn’t know shit? Over and over, you showed your ignorance, your intolerance, your rudeness.

I knew it was time to leave when we were talking about the baby's resuscitation during the birth and you made a comment about a student respiratory tech being there. You left that comment dangling and I asked if the student was in charge of the resuscitation and you snottily looked at me and asked, "What do you think?" I knew the answer, and told you as much, but I needed you to tell my clients lest, for the rest of their lives, they wonder if THAT was the reason there was faltering at the bag and mask portion of the resuscitation. You turned to my clients and said, "No, the student wasn't involved." That's all they needed. There's nothing worse than having questions for a lifetime and not being able to have them answered. Your patience in answering them would have been much appreciated. Instead, your crankiness was unnecessary and noted.

Do you know how many times we rolled our eyes at you? Do you know how ridiculous you sounded? Looked?

I hope after this you have the beginnings of the clue.

Reader Comments (26)

I hope that nurse, and any other medical personnel that needs to read this letter, will do so. Perhaps Nasty Nurse is bitter because she hates her job, or maybe she did not receive loving, gentle care during the birth of her own child(ren) so she thinks no one else deserves to either. I think it's time for Nasty Nurse to find a new career because the last thing a new mother takes is to put up with that kind of bullshit.

December 8, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterLynnSofia

will you send this to her for real, please? I had a nurse like that at my first birth, and because of that nurse, all of my future births will be at home, with midwives. I wish I'd had the courage to send her the letter. :)

December 9, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterSean Bell

aaah! if i were your client i would have SLAPPED THAT NURSE! when i had my 1st baby in a hospital one of the nurses kept coming over trying to "help" me nurse when i was doing great! i kept emphatically telling her NO THANK YOU. if she'd touched me, i would've been even more angry. grr. i'm due in a couple weeks, homebirth, yay!! no random strangers touching and checking and poking me! i'm excited. :D

December 9, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterrayray

I hope this mother presses charges of assault, The only reason medical "professionals" keep doing this kind of stuff is because there are never any consequences.

December 9, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDevin

Please tell me you sent this note. I already wrote my story to you (and actually thought you could use this open letter to nursie style for my story) and so you know how horrible my nurse was. This note really, really would be great for staff at a hospital to see. We want people to die with dignity, why cannot we allow mothers and babies to birth with dignity?


December 9, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Yeah, reminds me of the nurse who yanked my one day old son off my nipple to take my (pardon my French) fucking blood pressure. Despite my pleas not too, because I was still working on the breastfeeding thing. I wish I had slapped her..this lady could've used a slap too, or at least some cursing.

You know, try to do this with any other mammal (interfere with baby feeding) and you get bitten. Maybe all of us mamas should work on some lion roaring for just such an occasion. Sheesh.

December 9, 2007 | Unregistered Commenteremjaybee

Please pardon my anger but reading your open letter and the comments from these fine ladies has my blood boiling. I so agree with rayray - slap that nurse HARD.

Speaking of which, all of what happened to your clients sound like flat out assault to me? Will she (can she) file such charges? I would like to think that in such a position I would have accidentally backhanded that nurse - and I am not a violent person. This just makes me crazy. UGH.

Keep on doing what you're doing, woman need a champion such as you and your fine assistants.

December 9, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterGwenhwyfar

please pretty please with suger on top send this for real...
thank you

December 10, 2007 | Unregistered Commenteruumomma

Oh, that poor mother to have such a nasty nurse. Thank god she had you with her.

December 10, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterradical mama

Please know, as you read this, these things were so subtle you could barely see them... unless you were experienced in the way birth SHOULD be as I have. After I left, the nurse transformed into a different person and became jovial and nice, so it was the right decision, for my client, to leave.

My client, in her healing, is quite angry with the nurse and perhaps, if she can, when she is ready, will write or say something to the hospital. As a midwife, I don't have much say at all.

I *do* know another nurse at that hospital reads my blog, so maybe, in a roundabout way, the nurse who I speak about here, will read it.

We can only hope.

December 10, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

I did smack a nurse who wanted to 'position him better' two days post c/s, post crying all night in pain because they didn't think I still needed medication, post having my innards riped to shreds and this seemed like the ONLY thing that was working out of all my dreams for my first birth!
Yeah, she reached towards me and I slapped her hand away and VERY LOUDLY said.
I don't want you to touch me right now! Please leave.

She never came back again.
We need to smack those who touch us without permission more often! =)

December 10, 2007 | Unregistered Commentermm

ok, I'm more than a little disturbed by how many people's comments say to slap this nurse. Her behavior was wrong; that does not mean that physical violence is acceptable. Nurses are subjected to an inordinate amount of physical violence every day. The way to change the situation once you are in it is (1) request to speak to the supervisor, the charge nurse and (2) ask for a different nurse. (3)if she refuses, ask to speak to the patient care advocate. Believe me, you will get a different nurse.
As others have stated, you can always file assault charges after the fact. I'm hoping that people are speaking with hyperbole when they say to slap that nurse, but that is NOT the way to address the situation and it is not even appropriate to comment in such a way.

December 10, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

mm - I don't know you but I am so proud of you. You rock!

December 10, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterGwenhwyfar

Oh, I agree with Rebecca 100%! And who's to say the nurse was actually putting out this vibe...different personalities just clash, its inevitable, as much as you try to keep it away. So maybe the perfect client and the perfect midwife where the ones with a very defensive attitude when they got there. People are always quick to beat up on nurses...but 99.9% are doing our best to do a kick-ass job, and the patient is the one who interprets an unintentioned look that's meaningless for a personal slight. No, I'm not the nurse they dealt with, not even on the same side of the country, but I'm tired of hearing people beat up on nurses. We are doing our best, and niceness on both sides goes a very long way.

December 11, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

We came into L&D filled with open hearts and gratitude. Funny how the *other* nurses we dealt with were fantastic, respectful and kind.

I am *sure*, nurse person who just wrote, that even you know bitch nurses who deserve this kind of vitriolic discussion, yes? Perhaps this nurse *will* read and re-think her holier-than-thou ways when she comes up against someone who CHOSE to have a LEGAL homebirth, but, through very strange circumstances, found her way into the hospital's operating room.

If the shoe doesn't fit, don't wear it. On the other hand, don't tell me the whole community wears Birkenstocks, either.

December 11, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

This nurse had territorial issues. I have worked with many other nurses in various hospitals in our county. In EVERY other hospital, our help has been accepted and appreciated. We go and get washcloths, warm blankets, ice chips. Tasks that the nurse now doesn't need to do, that we have all the time in the world to do, when we are at a birth. But this nurse felt that these were "her" washcloths, "her" blankets, "her" pillow case. It really was almost insane how much she did not want us helping in any way.
Being that this was a Baby Friendly Hospital, and based on previous experience there, we did not feel a need to be defensive at all. We want our client to be treated well, kindly, with respect. These are laboring/post-partum women and brand new babies. When it got to the point of being glaringly obvious that this nurse was going to get nastier with the mom as long as we were there, we left. Her demeaner toward the family changed when we were gone. It is obvious that we were in her territory, and she didn't like that.
I, personally, am not one for physical confrontations with anyone. I will, however, use my voice when appropriate to get the care my children and I need. Had I been the client, though, I don't think I would have done anything differently than our client did. I wouldn't have expected the need to be so defensive at this particular hopsital.

December 11, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDonna

I don't know... if someone is grabbing my breast, my baby, and pulling my nipple even though I've expressed that I didn't want her doing it, I think it's perfectly appropriate to slap her hand away. Not to slap her across the room, but to remove her from my personal space, only as forcefully as is necessary. It would be self defense against someone who has grossly overstepped their bounds. Rather than be violated and humiliated and then complain about it later to a supervisor or whatever, I'd rather defend myself and my baby in the moment.

December 11, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

I loathe nurses like this, I work with a few of them. The ones with such an amazing power trip that they will do damn near anything to have power over those in their "care". There is one (LVN) who does hearing screens where I work who won't let parents be present during the screen, I want to kick her in the teeth. She climbs up my , um, backside, when I make a sling and carry babies who need it around the nursery. Or the nurse who used to (she leaves me alone now) tell me I had to leave babies under the warmer rather than have them skin to skin for warming. I really think that if you are going to be in the business of caring you should remember that this is just another day of work for you but one of the most important and memorable experiences in these peoples lives.

December 12, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterChocolate Apothecary

UGH. That nurse has serious control issues, and she needs to think them over before she assaults another patient. Acting out deeply buried aggression on an innocent person is not a healthy way to work through your problems!

December 12, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJill

I am a nurse. It saddens me to think that nurse could not get along with you. I have had situations where the Doula in the room will suggest things that I cannot do. I explain why I cannot do them. I am happy to do whatever the patients suggest in order to facilitate a natural birth. HOwever, my hospital has a rule about taking plaentas home. The patient is not allowed. Medical waste or some such thing.

I think the problem can get better by being respectful of the nurses when you walk into the building. I find that when you are polite and respectful, most folks will reciprocate.

December 12, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I say smack away!! I am a darn good RN and I believe I became that way by treating people the way I would be want to be treated.

The definition of insult to injury is a bad nurse.

December 13, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterdana

Does the hospital own the placnta then? don't think so! Here in NZ every woman UST be offered the chance to take her plaenta home, and must sign a form if she wants the hospital to dispose of it.

Besides, noone mentioned placenta's. Grabbing and manhandling a womans breast is assault. it is not acceptable. And noone, midwife, nurse, doctor or otherwise has a right to assault a woman. Period, end of argument. I am sure you try not to be a "nasty nurse" but if you are indeed a nurse, then you know there are such things. and we have a right to complain about them.

December 13, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterTrin RM

I don't consider physical force appropriate except in self defense. And if I have said, repeatedly, to stop touching my body and my baby and any person (medical professional, LLL leader, MW, doctor, my husband, whomever) continues to do so then I will use as much force as required to remove said person from touching me. Including slapping.

No means no and stop means stop, even in a hospital. I signed a consent to treatment, not to be manhandled at your discretion.

I attended a birth with a very similar nurse last year. It was horrible to watch (she was NOT subtle in the least) my client be bullied, lied to, manipulated, and actually laughed and sneered at during a medically necessary induction that she did not want. Just horrible.

December 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterCNH

A Horrid Nurse like this is why i didn't even consider a normal birth ever again. After I had my son he was snatched away , Fed a bottle before he ever made it back to me , then a Nurse did the sme thing to my boob , even though I had already had him nurse me anyway. I Proceeded to Slap her hand away and Being who I am i told her "touch my boobs again and I WILL BITE YOU " She didn't come back but the other nurses kept trying to manipulate me into taking muscle relaxers and to let them take the baby to the nursery. ( I did have horrid vulvar tearing , but i refused meds because they were narcotic and i was determined to breast feed) I wound up not sleeping nor letting go of my son till i was discharged 3 days latter. Nearly all the nurses avoided me. and I definitely avoid them at all costs.*sighs* I am so happy I discovered Midwives this time round. I am sure I won't be harrased this time.

January 29, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMother of The Free Range

As a male patient I've never had
my privacy respected by female
nurses. Personally, I think
they're all perverts.


search the site for whoa..inappropriate
then read the continuation

March 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Sounds like 3 of the 4 nurses I had during my really long labor. I wish we could have afforded a home birth--I still believe those nurses sabotaged my labor and are a prime reason for my emergency c-section. I did not feel safe under their "care".

April 12, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersparrowlark

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