In case you missed it, a "comedian" on the talk television show The View has some very misguided notions about what it takes to be a nurse. Joy Behar, long-time member of the all women panel on the social commentary show, made her ignorance about nurses very clear with some of the comments she made regarding the profession.
It all started with the very brave actions of Miss Colorado in the Miss America Pageant. The contestant appeared on the show during the talent section dressed in work scrubs with a stethoscope around her neck. She explained how her talent was for nursing, helping people, and caring for others when they are at their worst.
Being fashionably feminist, Behar and the other women on the panel are against pageants, but that is an opinion for another site. She began mocking Miss Colorado saying that she was wearing a "doctor's stethoscope" and was dressed in a "nurse's costume." Her comments showed no respect for the profession and what we do on a day to day basis. The next day, after much public backlash, Behar "apologized" by saying that she was only making fun of the pageant and the comments against nurses were only jokes.
Nurses have been outraged all across the internet, and rightly so. In fact, a Facebook group called "Show Me Your Stethoscope" has over 600,000 members and hundreds of stethoscope selfies in just the few days since the comments.
Although Behar's comments are surprising, what is not is her ignorance. As a nurse, I am not surprised that someone in the spotlight knows very little of what nurses actually do. In fact, I was not aware of it until I put on those scrubs and slung a stethoscope around my neck. No one knows what it is like to be in those shoes, enduring the soaring rush of saving a life and the devastating blow of losing a patient.
Traditionally, nurses are seen as doctor's secretaries, and this fueled Behar's comments. Of course a nurse wouldn't need a stethoscope: she -- always a she -- would only need a clipboard to take notes for the doctor. It doesn't occur to the media or the public that nurses are just as involved in hard core medicine as doctors are. As I've always said, give me a nurse with 20 years experience over an intern any day.
I believe that this ignorance arises from how nurses are portrayed in the media. When the public thinks of nurses, they think of Florence Nightingale. Nursing has changed considerably since then! What other nurses can stand up as role models, though, that could inform the public of the very serious work done by nurses?
Take entertainment. Nurse Jackie, though well known among nurses, has a cult following. She isn't exactly a role model, either. Another nurse show that aired on TNT didn't earn enough ratings, even though it still didn't show nurses in their true light. Grey's Anatomy and House focused so much on the lives of the doctors that they never showed what nurses do.
And that's the problem. No one knows what nurses do because no one has shown them. What Behar said was deplorable, ignorant, misinformed, and uneducated, but not surprising. A media talking head would have no idea what goes on in the trenches of a nursing shift. How could they? No one has told them and no one has shown them.
More education is needed for the general public about what nurses do. We don't just pass pills. We don't just take orders from the doctor. We don't just wipe behinds. We listen to lung sounds. We assess if someone is dying. We make the call whether to call the doctor or not. We are at the bedside for eight to 12 hours, and we see more of the patient than the doctor ever will. We are the thin white line that exists to protect and serve the patients who need us.
Nursing skills matter.
Fire away at Behar and get the media's attention. Eradicate this ignorance, but don't be surprised. Don't think they should know better. Nurses are misrepresented in nearly every sphere. It just took one supposedly funny person's ignorant comments to cast light on that fact.