A Different Kind of Compensation

I have worked in the medical field in various jobs for more than 45 years.  I was 19 when I started working as an EKG technician and ward clerk.   In all of those years I moved up the ladder by education, promotions, changing positions and opportunities that were presented.  Over the years I have come to realize that monetary pay is not the only reward for hard work.  As a nurse we receive salaries, raises, promotions, bonuses, benefits and sometimes a 401K plan as part your employment compensation. Companies offer different incentives in order to compete with other health care agencies.
I served in the guard and reserve forces for 26 years.  During those years I  worked my way from an enlisted soldier to an officer.  The military is very good at recognizing its employees for the work they do.  I received many awards and commendations during those years.  I spent many 2 week active duty periods working with veterans and their families in military facilities.  When I did a good job at the end of the period I would get a letter of commendation from the officer in charge.  If I did an outstanding job I would receive a medal.
Of course all of these methods of compensation or rewards can be important.  Everyone who works would like to be recognized when we do a good job.  Companies have other non monetary ways to recognize employees as well.  They may include awards for excellence in patient care, patient satisfaction awards, special nursing celebrations or service awards.   Over the years I have come to realize that some of the best rewards come from the patient or patient families.


 There are times when words of gratitude and thanks from patients and their families are important to us in a very different way. The reasons for becoming a nurse are many but one is to be part of patient care. Each day you work you are making a difference in someones life.  A nurse is there for the happy moments as well as the saddest of moments. Most of the time the nurse is the only one who is there when devastating news is delivered.
When a patient or their family express their gratitude to the nurse and the medical staff providing care it is a special kind of reward.  Families may deliver baked good, candy or flowers.  I have had patients try to give me a tip which is never accepted.  Gratitude can be shown in many ways.unspoken- compensation

Unspoken Gratitude

I have received cards from families expressing how grateful they were for my attention to the needs of my patient.  I remember one in particular was the family of a veteran who was a hospice patient I visited.  He was having a very difficult time sleeping and the medications did not seem to be helping.  I sat with him to discuss his military career from years ago. My veteran training helped me to be able to establish that he was having a recurrence of flashbacks from his time in Vietnam.  I asked for the hospice chaplain to spend time with him to address his spiritual needs.  We spoke with the experts at the VA and made adjustments to his medication which allowed him to rest more comfortably.  I later received a card telling me how grateful they were that I was able to find what it took to allow him to die peacefully.
 As nurses, we often receive letters of recognition and thanks with words of gratitude for the service we rendered. Each time I am touched and motivated to keep giving the best care I can give. I appreciate unwritten expressions of gratitude from patients and their families. I remember the thank-you hugs from the families of patients who have died peacefully while receiving hospice care.  The laughs and smiles of a new father as he holds his new born son.  The  warm handshake of a family member when I introduce myself as the nurse will visit with their loved n the middle of the night if called on to do so.  I consider this as a special kind of pay.  The kind of pay that gives me the motivation to keep doing what I do for my patient.  It is about care, communication and compassion.

The Letter

Today while cleaning out some files I ran across a letter that was presented to me by the family of a veteran I cared for.  This patient had served in Vietnam and when he returned home the people of this country did not treat these soldiers with the respect they deserved.  This man came home and forgot about his service and just got busy working and caring for his family.  When I found out that he had served I made sure that he was recognized for his service and that he was set up to receive any benefits he was due as a veteran.  After his death I received a very sweet letter from his wife sharing that he had cried after my visit because no one had ever thanked him for his service.  She thanked me for allowing him to feel he had not served in vein.

Nursing compensation can not always be computed and printed on your tax return.  The elements of gratitude are earned in so many ways.  They can not be measured and are heartfelt ways of payment for a job well done. As a nurse you know your work is a calling more than a job.  It is a vocation that comes with  payment of words from grateful families and patients.  Although these words do not pay the bills they do give you the reason why you show up day after day.  Nurses rock and I hope this post will remind you that payment can come in the form of gratitude for you and the service you provide.
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Cheryl Roby, RN

Cheryl J. Roby is a retired RN and US Army Nurse Major. She has over 30 years of nursing experience and 26 years of military experience in the Army Nurse Corp. During her nursing career she has traveled as part of her military experience visiting many of the 50 states and once to South Korea. Her medical training began during the Vietnam era when trained as an army medic. She went on to train as an OR tech and then as a LVN/LPN. She completed nursing school and was direct commissioned into the reserve Army Nurse Corp. nurse. She appreciated the challenge of working in various specialties and expanding her clinical and professional skill sets. Her time in the Army Reserves and California National Guard gave her the opportunity to travel to most of the 50 states and working in other medical facilities. During her career she spent years as an OR nurse, Occupational Health Nurse, Hospice Nurse, Forensic Nurse, Nurse Case Manager for developmental disabilities, Parish Nursing as well as being a Nurse Entrepreneur.