The memo is in: it’s patient customer care

patient vs client

As a profession, Florence Nightingale defines us, not Adam Smith.  Since the advent of modern nursing, we’ve changed: we seldom wear white, we’re not chaste, and we have clients, not patients.

In case you didn’t get the memo, the healthcare industrial complex now mandates that we shift our focus from caring for the sick to caring for the customer.  Apparently, it isn’t enough for us to just heal the sick anymore; now, betrothed to our corporate masters, we’ve been relegated to the role of change maker.

I understand business, economics, and the importance of the bottom line, but reducing our patients to a paycheck is poppycock. As nurses, we don’t benefit in any way, shape, or form with equating patient care to customer care. Unlike business clerks, we’re outcome driven, not process driven; and on top of that, we sure as hell don’t want repeat customers.

In nursing school, I was amazed at how many of my textbooks referred to patients as clients.  In many of the textbooks, the terms were used interchangeably, something I found especially interesting, considering historically that mean two different things.

On the surface, it seems like everyone is on board: the hospitals, the educators, the nurses, the doctors, etc.  It seems like everyone, clinician and alike, is okay with the new way we should view ourselves vis-à-vis with the patient (client).  I don’t have a definitive answer on when or how we began providing services until services rendered, but it bugs me.

I don’t like the idea of using language which could potentially cause us to equate our patients to dollar signs.  If we start changing the way we use language, we will unconsciously change the way we view our patients and our relationship with them, which won’t be good for us or them.  We deal with death, dying, and disease, something which sets us apart from a traditional client provider.  We’re not cable installers or troubleshooting software problems, we’re clinicians treating human beings.

The invisible hand is at work, but I’m pretty sure that the lady with the lamp was driven by her willingness to alleviate human suffering rather than the desire to pad her pocketbook.

Santa Filomena
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, November 1887

Lo! in the house of misery
A lady with the lamp I see
Pass through the glimmering gloom,
And flit from room to room.

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