Nurses Tell All?

For some reason I’ve been getting copies of Reader’s Digest over the past few weeks. Thanks but no thanks – I already have enough subscriptions I never have time to read.

Anyhoo, imagine my surprise when the cover earlier this month was this photo:


 Curious, I flipped to page 132.

The result was part intrigue, part humor, part annoyance.

Intrigue because I admired RD for acknowledging a truth we nurses have always known: we know our sh*t. We don’t have MDs (nor do most of us want them) and we don’t profess to know all things medical, but you want to know about a patient? Ask their nurse.

(Plus, I appreciated that they highlighted just how ridiculous current TV dramas are when it comes to nursing. We are not just a prop, nor are we a plaything for our local McSteamy).

I was also highly entertained. The “hospital lingo” was eerily familiar (and real). And then there was the opening quote, when a nurse said she automatically doubles or triples the amount of drugs/alcohol/tobacco a patient admits using. Maybe my current job has just turned me into a cynic, but it’s rare that a person will admit fully to his/her vices. (Hey, I fudge on the details myself when I’m the patient!)

But sadly I came away from the article with mixed feelings. The quotes selected for print skewed to the jaded side of the spectrum, with a lot of criticism about doctors. Yes, I’ve had my share of run-ins with jackasses, but I’ve also had some great collaborative relationships. And collaboration is key to supporting our patients.

And then there was the oft-neglected reality that nurses don’t just practice in hospitals. I realize that acute care is a huge segment of health care and perhaps the most dramatic/fast-paced/interesting venue. And I’ve been struggling with the whole nursing identity issue myself. But don’t discount or ignore the thousands of nurses who are out there pounding the pavement a la Lillian Wald. Or how about the ones advocating for the vulnerable, providing needed case management services? Or travelling abroad to respond to an international crisis? Since when was knowledge of our profession limited to the hallways of our nation’s hospitals?

I know the public perception of our profession. And I know we’ve come a long way. But we’re a diverse population and our voice should be sought everywhere we go.

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