Should we give tips to hospital nurses?



MORTALITY suggests I should be confined in a hospital due to a misguided diet plan and nonstop coughing brought about by a bitter Nagoya autumn several days before. Suddenly, my busy world became motionless for four long days, to ensure that my health was my wealth as well, as a matter of figurative speech.

Gladly, at my age (Forever 51), I’m not suffering from diabetes, high blood cholesterol or anything like that as old people do, as I continue to drink lots of turmeric ginger tea. But that’s another story.

In my confinement, I was able to understand first-hand how the hospital operates in some mysterious ways, including the fact that Philhealth, or anyone who has anything to do with it, wanted me to stay in my room up to nine o’clock in the evening as a matter of course, despite the discharge order made at 10 in the morning of that same day.

Another thing, there are still young people out there who aspire to become nurses despite the glut and meagre pay in a hazardous, bacteria-laden work environment. But why? Someone says she likes nursing, without offering any convincing reason. Maybe, she’s tired of answering that question from everyone, including that from a nosy, old patient. Or she’s too busy to be bothered by it.

All of the nurses that I “interviewed” came on board, not because of their license, but their connections one way or the other with hospital management. You can’t be hired even if you’re a board topnotcher and possesses the best qualification.

That’s why my soft, emotional side keeps on asking the question —should we give tips (to ensure proper service) to hospital nurses and their aides? If you think this question is ridiculous, then you should first challenge the question, “Why don’t flight attendants get tipped?” by Stephen Dubner of Freaknomics.

Besides, I’m not sure if it’s ethical for patients to give tips to nurses, even if their personally owned uniforms are no longer as white as they used to be, or they have several young kids to feed with a jobless husband.

Also, I’m worried that some people may be offended for receiving tips. Or maybe not in this country. I’m cautious, because tips were originally for black people, according to Professor Liza Wade of Occidental College and author of “American Hookup.”

Prof. Wade suggests that when the world was young, black porters on trains and boats were tipped as a matter of accepted industry practice. That’s why tipping would have been equivalent to an insult as accepting tips was equivalent to an admission that the receiver was less in status than the giver, no matter how truthful it might appear to be.

But look, hospital nurses are a class of their own. I know this for a fact. My only daughter Rachel is also a nurse, now working in Dubai. She’s pretty, just like her mother, but not petty, and more of a fashion-conscious model than anything. Do you think she would accept tips from her patients? Of course not! It is beyond her to accept any gift or cash from strangers.

Why? She doesn’t have to. Just like other nurses, she doesn’t want applause or fanfare for doing what she was trained to do. However, we should also realize that all nurses should be fairly compensated for what they have achieved to secure such noble profession and continue to perform it on a daily basis to keep it, with heads high up in the sky.

The same mysterious thing is happening to Japan—a non-tipping society. You can expect the best possible exceptional service from anyone—waiters, tourist guides, interpreters, bell boys and taxi drivers, and yet you’re not obliged to leave tips.

You walk into any store, and immediately—somebody will offer help in a cheerful manner, friendly and welcoming even if you don’t speak the language. If you’ll insist on giving tips, you’ll run the risk of offending some people.

So anyway, I guess that since you’ve reached this far reading this article, you’re now asking the question if I gave tips to the attending nurses. I asked my wife to give them some cash as we waited for our time to be discharged. But no, I realized that by giving instructions to my wife to give tips to people has become another mystery.

The moment I asked her about it, she would immediately plunge her hand into her bag, with the same degree of action and nervous excitement like someone trying to locate without much success a car in a massive parking lot.

Rey Elbo is a business consultant specializing in human resources and total quality management as a fused interest. Send feedback to or follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn for his random management thoughts.


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