Just a Nurse

  1. This piece explores feelings around the "You're just a nurse" comments that one in the profession is sure to encounter.

    Just a Nurse

    When I tell someone I'm a nurse, I usually get a mixture of admiration, envy, and disparaging comments. I appreciate the admiration (though I don't ask for it) and I brush off the envy. Still, people think that being a nurse isn't good enough and that one should aspire to be a doctor. I try not to take it to heart, as often people making these types of comments are not aware of the intricacies of the medical field. Most are ignorant to healthcare as a whole. I had a friend who thought nurses in the infant nursery were "babysitting." I remember a well-meaning professor of mine who said that I was so "bright," why was I choosing to become a nurse? That conversation stays with me even to today.

    I went to nursing school, now nearly eight years ago at the encouragement of a family member. My idea of medicine and health-care was limited to Grey's Anatomy and House. I had never stepped foot into a hospital before my clinical experience. It was vastly different than what I could have imagined. I suppose I thought nurses just took vitals and sat at the nursing station, telling patient's family members where to go. So often during clinical, I thought, "Why am I here? (and even today I still do think that sometimes). However, nursing school gave me agency, confidence, but most importantly hope that I could make a difference in a patient's life.

    Just A Nurse

    The "just a nurse" comments seemed to have trickled down. Perhaps due to social media, people are more aware of what nurses actually do vs. what they thought they did. Nursing as a whole is a well-respected career. However, the internet is rife with comment boards from the public and from professionals that desire to smear nurses. It seems to be from poor experiences or just pure vitriol.

    Perception

    Some people (including patients) consider nurses to be well-paid servant- there to wipe butts, take patients to the bathroom, and call the doctor if things go wrong. We are catty, lazy, and we eat take-out at the nursing station. We aren't smart enough to make it through medical school and we think too highly of ourselves. We are just trained automatons. Either way, we nurses shouldn't complain about the staffing minimums and suck it up because we knew what we were getting. Sadly, some co-workers have these beliefs as well.

    Reality

    We do wipe butts, take patients to the bathroom, and call the physician when things go wrong. We try to prevent things from going wrong when we can. We correspond with the LIP about the patient's request. Nurses talk down patients attempting to go A.M.A. and redirect patients with altered mental status who are constantly getting out of bed.I take the brunt of the patient's frustration when I tell them the doctor won't order anything stronger for their pain.

    Overall

    I don't need to list an extensive list of everything nurses do, because as practicing nurses we already know. In one article I came across, it stated that we need to stop being glorified - we aren't angels, after all. I certainty don't feel like a angel. I feel like a circus acrobat most days. Some days I love the chaos and some days I don't. But I keep clocking in because it is everything when that one chronically-ill patient says that this is the best hospital stay they ever had.

    In health-care, we do see people at their worst and often times they may be behaving their worse. I am grateful to the physicians for the shoulder they burden. I am grateful for the phlebotomist who takes blood on my combative patient and for housekeeping who responds to the Code Brown. People may not realize that the hospital is like the human body- all departments with their own function but acting interdependently.

    Conclusion

    The "just a nurse" comments continue to faze me less and less. However, it can be difficult to ignore at times. I didn't realize that I may have internalized it. The other day, a doctor I highly respect, head of Infectious Diseases, referred to me as a colleague the other day. It made me stop and smile. I had never thought of myself as a colleague - rather as a henchman. It is my hope that eventually,every health-care professional see each other as colleagues, and the patient is at the forefront, not egos. Furthermore, I hope society and our patients improve their outlook of the profession of nursing as a whole.

    Link to the article I mentioned here:
    We Need To Stop Glorifying Nurses | Thought Catalog
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    3 Comments

  3. by   Nurse Beth
    The worst culprit is nurses who say 'I'm just a nurse".
  4. by   BostonFNP
    Quote from Nurse Beth
    The worst culprit is nurses who say 'I'm just a nurse".
    This was my first thought too! I hear it more coming out of the mouths of nurses than I do being directed at nurses.
  5. by   lrkelso95
    The worst culprit is nurses who say 'I'm just a nurse".
    Definitely! I hate hearing people minimize what they do like that.

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