Nurses are very generous. They are always bending over backwards to make things work. In fact, the healthcare system relies very heavily on nurses to be the solution to just about everything.
Have you ever been in a meeting where the answer is – “The nurses can do it”? Actually, have you ever been in a meeting where the solution was something other than the nurses will fix it? I know, I know. If nurses don’t fix all the problems of the healthcare system for free, then nothing gets done.
So what’s the problem? The problem is people don’t value things that are free. It’s human nature. Yet sometimes, it feels like the only way anything will ever get done is if you just do it.
Here are 10 reasons why giving out your nursing expertise for free is bad:
1. Free has no value
2. Free limits nursing’s impact on the healthcare system
3. Free perpetuates low expectations
4. Free is taken for granted
5. Free devalues nursing service delivered
6. Free lowers nursing credibility and authority
7. Free does not motivate
8. Free limits creative solutions
9. Free is very expensive to the nursing profession
10. Free does not amplify the voice of nursing to be leaders
Imagine you enrolled in a course for free and there was tons of homework. Would you do all the work in the course? Would you complain if the course didn’t meet high standards of a rigorous curriculum? No, because the course was free, you didn’t expect much from it anyway. You might not even show up yourself.
Now imagine you spent $10,000 on that very same course. Would you do the work? Would you complain if the teacher was terrible? Would you show up? I bet you would.
The course could be exactly the same in both instances, but the perceived value changes based solely on the cost.
The same thing happens to Nursing. When nurses jump to solve all the problems of the universe on our free time, we actually decrease our perceived value. As long as we do everything for free, we will never be valued and respected the way that we deserve to be.
What it comes down to is that if nurses give their expertise away for free, nobody values what we do. Our solutions often get taken for granted, or they don’t get implemented and if they do get successfully implemented, some other group takes credit for them.
Think about it. How many times have you seen this happen? I’ll give you a few examples that I have run into over my many years of nursing and then let’s talk about what else could have been done.
The following requests were either asked of me or one of my close colleagues with the expectation that they would be done for free on our free time:
1. Will you help me put together an acute care nurse practitioner program at my school? (Worth up to $10,000 in consulting fees)
2. Will you set up an education program for our dialysis patients in their homes? (Worth up to $5000)
See Also: Everything You Need to Know About Being a Dialysis Nurse
3. Will you set up a medical home for the transplant patients (Worth up to $25,000)
4. Will you put together and administer a post-graduate nurse practitioner residency program (Worth up to $30,000)
5. While you are at a conference, can you meet with the Chief Medical Officer at XYZ hospital and teach him how to set up a tele stroke program (Worth $1000)
When you elect to do things for free, you negate the value of nursing. Remember flattery is vanity. Just because someone asks you to do something doesn’t mean they value you.
The values above are based on consulting fees of $125/hour, which is an industry norm. This is the beginning value of nursing expertise.
Now, I’m not saying that you should charge for every little deed that you do. There are committees and projects that are clearly expectations of your job. But there are also clear circumstances, like those mentioned above, that are beyond the realm of anyone’s job. Unless your job buys out your time to set up a major program, then you need to set the guidelines and expectations. And you need to know when it’s appropriate to be paid additionally for the value you bring.
For instance…. Years ago, I help start up an acute care nurse practitioner program. A colleague of mine at a different school was given the task of setting up a program as well.
My colleague asked me to help her design and implement her program. I was happy to give some tips, but this colleague wanted a blueprint and for me to mentor her through the entire process – she was going to start assigning me tasks to take on. There is a big difference between these two expectations. I told this colleague I would send over a contract with consulting fees to help her set up her program – and she was insulted. She didn’t want my help if she had to pay for it.
See Also: Nurse Practitioner or Doctor of Nursing Practice?
In another example, my surgical department decided they wanted to set up a nurse practitioner residency program. I thought it would be a good way to advance my career, by putting together the nurse practitioner residency program. I imagined that I would be the director of the program that I put together. So I worked diligently on this project. I put in long hours after work to bring it together (basically because they wouldn’t let me work on the program while I was ‘at work’).
And yes, everyone loved it, thought it was great. But my department wasn’t prepared to pay for administering or implementing such a program. And the fact is, they never were. I should have recognized the fact that they weren’t willing to buy out my time to work on the project or to pay me for my time outside of work as a huge red flag that there was no value in my effort to put this program together.
I have tons of similar stories where the nurse puts together major programs only for the end result to be dismissed. Now don’t you think if my department spent $30,000 to have me set up that program that they would have put a little more thought into whether or not they really wanted it. And don’t you think they would have respected my time a lot more if they were paying for it?
I know that nurses do what they do for the greater good of their patients and community — and this is commendable! But our willingness to do everything for free is hurting our ability to effect larger change. This can be seen in the lack of nursing leaders across the board, a lack of nurses on boards, a lack of nurses in high ranking positions or a lack of nurses informing policy.
So what can we do?
1. We need a change in mindset.
2. We as nurses have to accept the fact that we are experts in what we do. We have an expertise and knowledge that is incredibly valuable.
3. We need to learn to package our knowledge into a service that we place a value on.
4. We need to accept that people would be willing to pay for the knowledge we have.
If you package your knowledge into a service, you can market that service, make money and avoid getting sucked into other people’s projects or having your own project dismissed. Plus the greatest thing is, as more and more nurses charge for their expertise, the overall value of nursing’s contribution increases exponentially.
About the Author:
Catie Harris is the owner of The NP Life, a website dedicated to helping nurses transform their nursing knowledge into a business. Join the FREE email course to learn more about starting your own nursing business and amplifying the voice of nursing: 6daycourse.thenplife.com