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How Being A Waitress Prepared Me for Nursing

How Working as a Fast Food Worker Helped me become a Better Nurse

When I was in college, summer meant a break from my vigorous nursing program and an opportunity to save up from working various odd jobs. Usually, I’d find my way back to my regular retail job at Sears or K-mart. However, summer of 2012 was different; it was the summer I decided to take on job as a server at the local Waffle House. Waffle House is known for its great homestyle cooking, with possible sketchy health code violations enjoyed by some elite but mostly club crawlers, truck drivers, and the altogether ratchet. My first day as a Waffle House server I found myself flustered and mostly getting in the way of my more experience colleagues. However by the end of the summer, I was calling orders and handles multiples tables like pro. I left that job at the end of the summer to return to nursing school but I will never forget how it shaped me to become a better nurse.

These are the few ways that being a Waffle House server prepared me for being a nurse

1. Learning a New Language

“Pull one bacon…drop one hashbrown in a ring… mark…” To become a waffle house server, I basically had to learn the Waffle House language. Pull one bacon meant to put one bacon on the grill. Similar to nursing where PRN, PMH, ad lib, and AC/HS can seem like a foreign language.

2. Time Management/Prioritization

Working in a restaurant like Waffle House can be a fast-paced and sometimes stressful environment. When dealing with multiple tables at a time, it’s important to have high level of time management. Just like in food service, your one table does not care what is happening at your other tables. It is the same in nursing where your one patient does not care what is going on your other rooms. Their perception is their reality. Therefore, it is important to become skilled at multitasking and learn to group activities when possible. The most important thing you can do to manage time as a nurse is to put your patients first. As a nurse, sometimes it can feel like we can a million responsibilities. Take a step back to assess your situation and figure out what is most important. Patient care tasks should be completed first and leave things like charting for later when you have time. This will ensure that all your patients feel properly care for.

3. How to Deal with Intoxicated People

Although Waffle House does not sell alcoholic beverages, I knew that you can expect some intoxicated customers on the weekend during “after the club” hours. As a server it was good to have a plan in mind because drunk people sometimes have a warped perception of time are more impatient than the sober customer. Treat them with the same courtesy and respect you would give any other customers. However if they begin to get inappropriate with you, set boundaries. The same goes in the hospital when an intoxicated patient is getting rowdy with you. Set your boundaries and say “this behavior is not appropriate. If it continues, security will need to be involved.”

4. Long Hours and Over Night Shifts

Being a server prepared me for this rotating type of schedule. Because like Hospitals, Waffle Houses are also 24hours. Therefore, scheduling consists of days, nights, overnights, and holidays. Being a nurse often means, working off shifts and missing out on holidays. As a nurse it’s important to understand that this is a sacrifice of the profession.

5. How to Deal with Difficult People

As a server, I learned to remain calm even when a customer was getting angry with me. Don’t give them a reaction. Matching their anger or irritation only fuels the fire to an already bad situation. I would also engage the person in conversation (but don’t argue) long enough to figure out what is the root cause of the problem. When the root cause is discovered? Be empathetic. Sometimes that means saying, “You right!” No one can argue that.

New health care laws now require most hospitals to score on patient satisfaction in order to receive reimbursements. Therefore, customer service and service recovery will indirectly affect how we are paid. Also, these scores are made to be public information because patients have a choice on where they want to receive care. As a nurse, when dealing with people, you can always expect to have difficult situations. How you react to these situations will make all the difference.

They say "everything happens for a reason". I truly believe that. Every experience you have helps to prepare you for the next.

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