I've been sitting on this post longer than I meant to. Twitter user H.C. sent me a tweet a bunch of days ago asking if I had an opinion about last week's Dear Prudence column on Slate. The column featured a letter from a resident asking about how to deal with passive-aggressive nurses. Her answer was to be nice, ask what you can do better, and perhaps make them some brownies.
A couple of times in the past, I've taken some criticism in the comments when I've written about nurses, criticism that was probably deserved. Nurses have a hard, largely thankless job. So do residents, but it's different. What nurses have to do requires a different skill set, and it's a skill set that doesn't get a lot of respect.
But I think the question was a little much, and Prudence's advice was a little much, too.
I don't think nurses have it out to get residents. This resident sounds like she's having a rough time. Her nurses are out for her, her program director is out for her, she's crying every day... I think she probably needs to talk someone more qualified to help her than an online advice columnist, as much as I like Slate and as much as I like much of the Internet....
But if there is an actual problem, I don't know that it's solved by being fake-nice and bringing people food. Bring them food, sure, I guess, but the problem isn't that nurses want something from her. The problem is that people who work in hospitals-- doctors, nurses, everyone else-- have a long list of things to do, and it's easy to seem brusque or rude when you're stressed, or even if you're not.
Also, just personally-- I don't actually want to eat any food that someone brings into the hospital, because the hospital is dirty, and once someone touches a brownie on that plate, I don't know if their hands were clean, or what else has touched these brownies, and so I don't want one. And I definitely don't want to have to feel like I'm being rude if I don't take one, or have to make up an excuse that doesn't make me sound crazy. So maybe instead of brownies, she can bring something individually packaged, that you don't have to eat with your hands. Like a banana.