… but somebody has to do it.


Nursing began as a “handmaiden to the physician”, where any and all activities and tasks were carried out at the behest of the MD. As the role of the physician evolved and required more expertise and specialization, the nurse too grew and assumed responsibilities never initially considered part of her job.

And it was a job. Forget for a minute that healing had been long-associated with religious institutions, and it was “a calling” to be a doctor or nurse. Nursing was hard work. It was dirty, demeaning in many ways, and mostly thankless. Florence Nightengale may have been one of the first epidemiologists, but she also worked her skinny little ass off slogging from bedside to bedside.

Years pass, and a lot of what was associated with women and nursing has gone unchanged in the perception of the public. Women are nurses. They do the dirty work. They follow the directions of the doctors (who are men). There really isn’t that much to think about in order to be a good nurse. Nurses are either fat, or little hotties looking for some man to please in any and all ways imaginable.

NOTE: Here’s a little experiment to do in your spare time, and is not necessarily safe for doing in public or on a work computer. Open a window with Google in it, switch to ‘images’, and search on the term “Doctor”. You’ll see a wide variety of what people think of as docs. Now do the same thing, but instead replace “Doctor” with “Nurse”. I weep for our future.

How is this possible in a world where we get pictures from some of the farthest planets in the solar system, a woman is a serious presidential candidate, and cable TV can provide everything we ever wanted in the way of entertainment?

I know that there is work to be done before nurses are divorced from the association with MDs as their superiors. Supposedly we work as a team. But the doc is the one at the front of the dogteam. We may assess the patient, but the doc orders the meds. We determine that a special bed is needed, but we can’t make that call unless the doc writes an order first. The patient may be flinging poop like a chimp in the zoo, but we can’t restrain them unless they present a danger to someone or the doc writes an order.

That ain’t right. I agree there are things nurses are just not trained for. That’s why the docs are around. They get to do the very invasive stuff, and have specialized knowledge that is beyond the scope of nursing needs or schooling. But come on, we should be able to get a bed for a patient. It’s ridiculous to not have standardized orders ready, or simply expand the scope of a nurse to include such things. I have no idea what the barriers are to actually accomplishing this, I’m simply speaking from a very interested and involved position.

Until and unless nurses actually start working together and stop fighting among themselves, this type of disparity and treatment will continue. There’s no cohesive message about nursing to the general public. While this is a difficult task to say the least, I don’t believe it’s impossible. Tailor the message to specific demographics based on age or geopraphy. Put ads in magazines that show nurses as professionals. We didn’t start out as professionals, but we’re wanting to be treated as ones, so let’s do it.

Lose the time clocks to clock in and out like a burger flipper at McFood. Let’s do the CEUs and actually commit to lifelong (or career-long anyway) learning. We cannot act like worker bees that have no control, and turn around and claim to be professionals being ill-treated. Let’s act like professionals, however that’s defined. If it means I can’t wear my favorite printed scrub top (I like Superman, get over it) then I can live with that. If it means we stop complaining about having to stay 15 minutes over to complete the charting, let’s shut up and get typing. If it requires forcing the unions that suposedly represent a large portion of nurses to set goals other than compensation and retirement benefits, let’s sit down and make a list. Personally, I’m not sold on the usefullness of unions, but I can recognize they changed the work environment favorably. On the other hand, if they’ve outlived their usefullness, drop ’em like a full bedpan.