Did you know that the first flight attendances were nurses? Yep, it’s true, the women in these pictures are nurses. Nurses use to pour coffee from sterling silver coffeepots and serve sandwiches, as airline customers sat back and gazed at the clouds drifting by. We were the queens of good customer service. The American public viewed nurses as sweet and kind, as well as great little handmaidens.

Fast forward to 2006. My boss pulls me into her office to tell me that a family member of one of my patients registered a complaint against me. The individual was upset because I told them that if they didn’t stop threatening to meet me in the parking lot after my shift to beat me up, I was going to call the police. The incident revolved around my refusal to disclose confidential psychiatric information to this individual. My boss told me that my comments were an example of “poor customer service,” and I needed to be more like an “airline stewardess.” I was politely asked not to “incite” my patients or their family members anymore and to please remember that customer service is my first priority. I sat in boss’s office in shock and disbelief, and then I started laughing. I thanked my boss for her feedback, told her I thought she was nuts, and left her office.

If bedside nurses are airline stewardesses, someone forgot to give us our silver wings. I’m all for customer service, but the day I’m required to take a beating in the parking lot for sake of good customer service is the day I tear up my nursing license and get a job at Borders Books.

I’m a nurse, not punching bag.