Been stewing today. Thoughts below, sent off to Doodlers just now.
DO we need a Google Doodle? Do we deserve one? Forgive me, this nurse is just wondering out loud.
Subject: Why Nurses Need A Google Doodle: Day 15.
April 20, 2014. 11:42PM.
I’m feeling pretty reflective tonight. Maybe it’s all the tradition surrounding today, maybe I’m just trying to work something out in my mind. Laps under the stars helped somewhat.
I guess I’m just realizing that I’ve been writing to you about nurse innovators for fifteen days now, without really trying to explain why I feel that nurses are worth the fight. Where did this desire come from, to expose the fact that we are the invisible innovators of health care? I know we perform miracles at the bedside, I know we invent things that change medicine, I know that the country seems to think we’re trustworthy…what is my confusion?
My conviction to share nurses’ worth with the world came early in my career. Defensively, at first, like a badge to protect. I wasn’t “born to be a nurse,” as many are, following mothers or aunts into the profession they chose from a young age. I wouldn’t even call myself particularly empathic or compassionate as a young woman; my initial major was in English Literature. It wasn’t until sophomore year, floundering amidst the depths of Joan Didion and George Orwell, that I felt the pull to nurse. But I had no clue what that meant then, or until I started my first job in a big, scary ICU, for that matter. It wasn’t until my start as a rookie, surrounded by seasoned, experienced nurses, that I realized how cool the profession was.
I spent my first years gleaning from these men and women, absorbing their tricks, their fits of intuition, their superstitions. They were innovative, to be sure – some in their efficiency, but some in their laziness. While I noticed and tried to emulate many practices, the ones I wanted to avoid were just, if not more, apparent. Corners were cut, moments missed, mistakes made. Almost daily. We were dealing with people’s lives, weren’t we? How could so many nurses care so little?
Their poor practice seemed to bleed into the ways they spoke about their profession; negatively, with little articulation. I was a new nurse, excited at the opportunity my vocation brought me. Hopes of sharing the worth of my prized “RN” with others brimmed within me, while my colleagues belittled their work shift after shift. No wonder the public had no idea how amazing nursing was – not even nurses believed it to be true.
If this jaded attitude has waned in years since, I’ve not noticed. It seems social media has amplified many nurses’ inability to speak eloquently, or pridefully about our profession. It saddens me when young nurses openly poke fun at patient comments, or family struggles. It pains me worse when I see other nurses openly barraging their work, showcasing their lives in crude ways, using their title toward derogatory ends.
Suzanne Gordon and Bernice Beresh wrote a book called From Silence to Voice, about nursing’s invisibility in the media. I read it long ago, amazed at the clarity which they portrayed our inability to speak up for ourselves. I’ll never forget the lightbulb that went on in my brain upon hearing their statement – think about it – patients are only admitted to hospitals because they require 24 hour nursing care. Everything else – surgery, doctor’s visits – can be done outpatient. That’s why hospital geography is labeled, “Nurses Station,” and “Nursing Unit.” We’re it.
But we’re so not it. Granted, the majority of the hospitals in this country run short-staffed, piling nine and ten patients onto one nurse at a time. This affects one’s ability to do anything after work, much less write a letter to the editor. The research against this practice is appalling, but no one but nurses seem to mind, or even understand. It makes me wonder if that has to do with the tired, angry attitude I see in so many of my colleagues.
Perhaps I’m just rambling, but what I’m trying to get at is, I love nursing. I love the intimacy one feels when entering a perfect stranger’s life at a scary time. I love the camaraderie I feel when working in sync with co-workers towards a common goal. I love the chaos of the unit when people need help. I love the flexibility of the job, and the autonomy of judgement that I craft, patient after patient.
But nursing is a hard, hard profession to stick up for. Without an innate sense of value underpinning its members, without a particular degree of pride, without an acknowledgement of the heaps of creativity and innovation occurring at each and every bedside – it will be impossible to move forward with any worthwhile policy endeavor.
Did you know that there is no law requiring a minimum education level for nurses to work in America? Some nurses have a one-year degree, others four. But as of late, research has been rolling out that shows a positive mortality correlation with education level. It’s impossible to get a hospital job in New York without a BSN, and many major cities are following suit. Industry is driving practice, as it always has. Why isn’t practice — nursing — driving industry? The staffing research is more compelling than the education research, and yet, nurses are asked for more and given less.
We are a reactive profession. We must become proactive. We must stop complaining, stop cheating, stop cutting corners, stop making fun and allowing garish stereotypes of our profession. When we start to believe the truth about ourselves – that we are world-changers, all 3.1 million of us worthy of far more than a Google Doodle – perhaps, we’ll start to see our irreplaceable power in the care of the ill in America.
Sorry, soap box over,
Amanda Anderson, RN