Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Just Nurses

Yet another celebrity has put her foot in her mouth and peeved off an entire profession.

I couldn't decide if I wanted to let this go.

First a Miss America contestant stands up on stage and gives a monologue about being a nurse as her 'talent' portion of the program.
I didn't see this. I did see the posts on Facebook but didn't bother watching it. Seemed like a whole lot of blah blah – how sweet – blah blah. (I did finally watch this, before writing this essay which is why I am posting the link.)

Next some women on a daytime talk show attack said contestant, questioning her performance of a monologue as an actual talent, questioning her profession as an actual talent, commenting on her 'costume'.
I didn't see this either. In fact, I had no idea what was going on until I got to work this morning and was shown the subsequent Facebook page in support of said profession.(I did finally watch this. Although it wasn't easy, without morning coffee and a gun to my head. Which is why I am NOT posting the link to that site. Outside of the Today show, I have no use for morning talk shows.)

Then I got tagged in numerous posts regarding this incident and suddenly found myself defending the supporters in the midst of a discussion over being overly sensitive and too easily offended.

And last, as expected, the talk show mouths put forth something they called an apology but really sounded more like a slap in the face and an accusation of inability to take a joke.
I DID see this little gem.
And then I spent three hours reading posts on the supportive Facebook page.

Because I am a nurse.
I am not a nurse who considers her profession a 'talent'. Although I have worked with many nurses who truly could make this claim.
I do know a little bit about writing and performing my work in public. THAT is a real talent and the Miss America candidate should be congratulated for not only giving a unique performance but doing so on a beauty pageant – but we are really a scholarship program – stage.

It seems that the women on The View questioned why the contestant was wearing a 'doctor stethoscope' on her 'costume' and was simply reading emails.
These comments sent the nursing world into a frenzy.

Which is why it was suggested to me that maybe we as a profession was being too sensitive.
Well, world, let me explain.

That 'doctor stethoscope' probably cost the nurse wearing it at least half a 12 hour shift's wages. Stethoscopes are not provided. We have to purchase them and good ones cost a lot of money. We buy good ones because the patient and the doctor are counting on us to really HEAR what is going on in heart, lungs, grafts, bowels. Many times we are the first to hear changes and report our findings to doctors who are trusting us to do just this very thing.

That 'costume' is called scrubs. And guess what – they are usually not provided either. And, shocker, they are not very cheap. We have worked hard to wear those navy blue pajamas. (Some of us worked really hard to wear those white dresses with matching hose and caps!) But in a way, those scrubs are a costume. Because when we put those clothes on we leave behind our families and our friends and for 8-10-12+ hours we do things we never imagined: hold pressure to stop bleeding, insert hoses in orifices that should never have hoses inserted into, compress hearts to make them start beating again. And again.
That 'costume' gives me the strength to NOT cry as I listen to a woman my age lament the fact that she has been told she won't live another year, leaving behind her children, who are the same age as mine. That 'costume' gives me the strength to understand it's out of fear that an irate family member gets in my face and curses me because they do not like the outcome of their loved ones diagnosis.
But shedding that 'costume' does not mean I leave those things behind at the end of my day. Everything I experience in my scrubs becomes another stitch in the fabric of me. Some days those stitches begin to unravel and I wonder if I am just going to fall apart. Yet in the morning I get up and pull my scrubs on and those stitches pull tight for another day.

Miss Colorado, Kelly Johnson, performed a monologue about her experiences as a nurse. Her monologue was not 'emails'. Click here to watch. It was an essay. And my guess is, it was written as part of a professional nurse development program at her place of employment.
What's this?
A professional nurse development program is just what it sounds like. It is a way for nurses to develop themselves as professionals. At my hospital that program requires at least one essay be written a year. The theme of those essays revolves around what the nurse has done to improve a patient's experience through care they have provided. This is only a portion of the program.
I have watched many nurses who participate in this program take real ownership of their careers.

The women on The View touched a nerve by singling out these things in an attempt to be topical and funny.
It backfired.

This is a Facebook page which, in less than 24 hours, has gained over half a million members. Not just nurses, but doctors, EMT, paramedics, respiratory therapists, students and all the other members of the healthcare team.
All in support of nurses.

Which leads me to the folks who suggested that nurses were being too sensitive; that perhaps why is it worse to insult a nurse?

It is not any worse to insult a nurse than to insult a politician or a sports figure or a television talk show host. Taken at face value, the comments made on the View were just silly, poorly crafted attempts to be topical and cutting edge.
Why has the nursing community reacted so strongly?

There is the real question.

I can only speak for myself here.
I did not become a nurse as part of a calling. I became a nurse because I knew it was a dependable job which paid well. There have been many days, especially after 30 years, that I wonder if I had been 'called' then maybe these days would be easier somehow.
I am proud of what I have done as a nurse. But not because I AM a nurse. I am proud of the strength I have found within myself to do things I never thought possible; see things which are un-see-able; connect with people whom I would never have met in any other life. I have learned as much about myself as I have learned about medicine.   
The nursing profession has changed in so many ways, for better and for worse. We have more responsibility than ever before. We care for sicker patients. We work longer hours. We are active participants in meeting the ever more difficult criteria for financial reimbursement to hospitals: keeping readmission rates down, keeping infection rates down, keeping patient satisfaction up.

I feel nurses and the nursing profession are hitting a critical point.
And the women on the View made a fatal error in attacking one of our own.
We have allowed society to make jokes at our expense for years – the nurse on the soap opera who is scheming to catch a doctor, the 'sexy' nurse costumes at Halloween, the vindictive Nurse Diesel and Nurse Ratchet. Not to mention the millions of raunchy 'head nurse' jokes out there.

But we know those things are just in fun because we know that those things are not completely real. Of course there are nurses who marry doctors, there are nurses who are 'sexy', although none of them wear ridiculously short skirts with crinolines, and as tempting as it might be, we do not act vindictively.
And we probably tell way dirtier jokes than the general public can imagine.

But, women of the View, you attacked our realities.

So we are going to post photos of ourselves proudly wearing our stethoscopes. We are going to post silly memes. We are going to dissect every word that has been said. When you need medical care we will provide it to you, reprimand free. Although we may make a joke and ask you how to use our stethoscopes.
And tomorrow we will return to work a little stronger and a little prouder.
Because we are more than just Nurses. 
Thirty years ago

and today.

For more thoughts on nursing click HERE or on the It's a Living link above.


  1. So so so well stated and needed. I'm sharing on my social media channels…

  2. I love nurses and have written about them. They have saved me physically and emotionally time and time again. They are a profession to be held in high regard. Period. No doctor is going to give you the same care as a nurse, at least not in my experience. So glad you are in this profession, Laura. Kudos on writing this piece.

    1. Thank you Cathy! Nursing is not like it use to be and I think we as a profession needed this hoopla to finally come together!

  3. Love this and couldn't agree more. Git 'em tiger! -Veronica

  4. This is such a beautiful piece! Kudos to you. Nurses are the backbone of the healthcare industry and I pity the people that don't understand what a vital need nurses fill. It's probably one of the hardest jobs that could be had. Leave to a few tactless women to try and drag down another fine upstanding nurse.

    1. Thank you Rena. I don't think anyone expected such a response. And then that sad excuse for an apology??? Sheesh!

  5. ps just saw your european cookies note. Perhaps some nice linzer tortes for austria? And in England do they call them biscuits?

    anyways, funny!

  6. Because I know I could never, ever be a nurse I have huge respect for you for doing so. Wonderful post.

    1. Thank you Sharon. I have to admit, this job has given me more than I ever thought.

  7. Perfectly said. I will never, ever forget the kindness and professionalism of the many nurses who cared for my sister. They treated her with great dignity and all of us with great compassion all the way to the end. Anyone who has gone through a similar experience would never mock these angels.

    1. Thank you Mo. I have a wicked sense of humor, as do a lot of nurses, but this really struck a nerve. I am so pleased that you had as good an experience as you could with your sister's illness. And I assure you, the nurses who cared for her will always remember her.

  8. I hold nurses on the highest pedestal! Thank GOD for the people in this profession. This was very well written Laura, which is why l'm wanting to share my admiration for your inspirational blogging style. As a rookie blogger, I've learned and found connection with others and you're someone I support, so I thought you might want to participate in an award I nominated you for - the info is on my post here.

    1. Oh my Laurie! Thank you so much! Love your site as well - I have added you to my 'No, really, you have to read this...' list!!

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