3 reasons being nice is just as important as being smart

nurse holding handRecently I have had two colleagues say to me “I’d rather have a Smart Nurse than a Nice Nurse.” It pierced my Spirit like an arrow. This statement is in contrast to everything I embrace about Nursing: caring for others and performing at my best as God requires. That one statement has re-energized me like no other in years. I am committed to seek within the profession,  research to refute it.

Unlike most young girls growing up in the Village of Harlem, it was not my desire to become a Nurse or a Teacher. I wanted to become an Opera Singer when I grew up. Upon reaching High School and applying for College, my Dad, the Rev. Benjamin Halley, a Baptist Minister, made it quite clear to both me and my High School Guidance Counselor that there was only one Marian Anderson in the World and that I was going to NURSING SCHOOL.

My Dad said I had the major ingredients to become a great nurse: I was SMART and I was NICE. Raised by my Southern, paternal Grandmother, I had inculcated her Southern Lady graces into my life. To this very day, I embrace those graces and have made them part of my personal and my Servant Leadership professional style.

That being both Smart and Nice are critical to nursing is not just my personal belief; here are three examples where being Nice is advised for practical reasons:

  1. To reduce your exposure to liability — In the 4th edition of the nursing textbook Management And Leadership For Nurse Administrators, there is a list titled”Ten Rules Can Help a Nurse Avoid Going to Court” (p377):
    1. Know the law.
    2. Document everything.
    3. Make no negative comments about the patient.
    4. Be kind.
    5. Stay educated.
    6. Manage risks.
    7. Don’t hurry through the discharge.
    8. Be discreet.
    9. Use restraints wisely.
    10. Question authorityThe rules appear to be clear and easily understandable and not necessarily presented in any order of importance.  “Know the law” and “Manage risks” are given equal billing to “Be Kind”. I require my first year graduate students to prioritize the list from their perspective and based upon their professional experience, which is always interesting and enlightening
  2. To increase patient safety — In the wake of the Mid Staffordshire hospital scandal in which 1,200 patients died needlessly, subsequent investigative reports “ordered the [nursing] profession to show more compassion.”  As a result, the Nursing and Midwifery Council of England is considering a move to mandate that nurses treat their patients with compassion.
  3. To contribute to the hospital’s bottom line — The Hospital Consumer Assessment of Health Plans Survey (or HCAHPS) is a national survey of how patients perceive the quality and safety of care they receive at hospitals.  HCAHPS is part of a value-based purchasing initiative that ties hospital reimbursement to quality outcomes. The value-based purchasing initiative includes the quality and the safety of care provided in the inpatient hospital setting.After being discharged from a hospital, patients fill out the HCAHPS Survey, which not only concerns itself with clinical outcomes, but also places patient, doctor, nurse, and staff interactions as key measurements of success. Being Nice as well as Smart is an important part of the HCAHPS equation and is what will ultimately determine the hospital’s bottom line.

Being a SMART and a NICE NURSE is no longer optional. The two qualities are complementary and essential for the delivery of Nursing Care that is safe, therapeutic, compassionate and cost effective.


Jamesetta Halley-BoyceThis post was written by Jamesetta Halley-Boyce.  Dr. Halley-Boyce, PhD, RN, FACHE has been a registered nurse and a seasoned healthcare executive for decades. She has served in a number of offices in the Hospital’s C-Suite including CEO, COO and Chief Nurse Executive Officer. Dr Halley-Boyce maintains her own consultant firm, JHBALS Spectrum International, Inc. and additionally serves as an Associate Professor and the Director of the Health Systems Administration Graduate Program in the College of Nursing at Seton Hall University. Dr. Halley-Boyce is professionally recognized for her continuous pursuit of excellence in education and service delivery, her grace and for her humanistic, servant leadership style.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *