Last week we saw nurses storm social media after some comments were made on The View about a Miss America contestant who is also a nurse. There was a lot of anger around this incident, and sponsors even pulled their advertising from the show.
Were the comments about the nurse’s “doctor” stethoscope, and her monologue about an Alzheimer’s patient rude, insensitive, and demoralizing? Yes. Was I surprised? No.
As a nurse, I have heard countless of similar comments from patients, their families, and the general public. Over the years, I have had to learn not to take these comments personally, but to try my best to educate others about what being a nurse really means.
Thousands of nurses, myself included, wrote messages under the hash tags #nursesunite, #notjustanurse, and #showusyourstethoscope on social media. These were all incredible stories that needed to be shared, but I hope in the future we can continue to share them, without a low credibility source making uneducated remarks about us. We have to be proactive, not just reactive.
I am in no way defending what the ladies of The View said. Negative and inaccurate media images of nurses are part of the reason we are misunderstood. I also think that as a group, we need to do better at letting the world know what we do. As ignorant as the comments from the The View may have been, the incident gave nurses a platform to have a voice. The world is watching, and now is our chance to inform both the public and policy makers about the reality of nursing.
One of the pieces that I read for my leadership class in my RN to BSN program highlights why it is important for the public to understand nursing. Buresh & Gordon (2006) state, “All areas of nursing- clinical practice, education, research, and policy-depend on public understanding of how and why nursing is indispensable to health care. Nursing is not practiced in a vacuum. Nurses require significant social and economic resources to do their work, including physical space, equipment, staff, research, and education. If the public doesn’t understand the significance of nurses’ work and the context in which it takes place, it will be difficult to correct conditions that drive nurses out of the clinical setting and even out of the profession.”
Many of the stories we saw on social media highlighted these conditions, such as long hours, missed breaks, insufficient staffing, and physical and verbal abuse. Despite this, nurses continue their work with strength, intelligence, and empathy.
Sometimes the only people who can really understand what a nurse goes through are other nurses. They are not just nurses; they are my colleagues, my mentors, and my friends. We are each others’ most valuable assets, and together we can make real changes. If you have a nursing story, or idea on how we can continue this movement in a positive way, please share it here.
Buresh, B., & Gordon, S. (2006). From silence to voice: What nurses know and must communicate to the public (2nd ed., p. 14). Ithaca, NY: ILR Press/Cornell University Press.