Nurses: Keepers of healthcare's dirty little secrets?

In order to uncover what the healthcare industry wants to keep hidden, simply ask the tight-knit, hard-working professionals who experience the highs and lows of hands-on patient care every day--nurses.

That's the theory of author Alexandra Robbins, who in a recent Politico piece detailed some of the healthcare industry's glaring truths gleaned from interviews with countless nurses for her new book about the profession.

For example, nurses told Robbins about the five-star treatment certain celebrities and VIPs receive in hospitals around the country, often unbeknownst to rank-and-file patients who receive treatment at the same hospitals. Rich or influential patients often receive larger rooms, big-screen TVs, lush furnishings, better food and even separate floors, a practice one nurse told Robbins she and her colleagues "are disgusted by."

The practice is more than distasteful, though, as some nurses also indicated that resources allocated to VIP treatment can detract from the quality of other patients' care. In one case, a nurse said it was common at her hospital to move critical patients away from the nursing station to make way for VIP patients who actually required less observation.

Nurses are also well-acquainted with the healthcare industry's well-known "July Effect," which describes the uptick in medical errors associated with a new crop of medical residents every summer. And when newly minted doctors fumble, it is nurses who often have to correct errors and pick up the slack, according to the article.

Nurses themselves are not immune from questionable practices, however, as many told Robbins that hospital staffers commonly make bets about patients' conditions, injuries or even surgical outcomes. For example, nurses often can be found making small wagers to guess a patient's blood-alcohol level.

Along similar lines, many nurses describe widespread bullying and hazing among their peers, often carried out in accordance with time-honored hierarchies. The practice likely adversely affects patient care, and some experts suggest it may drive nurses away from the profession.

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