Saturday, May 25, 2013


My friend, John Corso, a well read guy, sent me this link from the New York Times. I am a nurse so he was right to think I would be interested. The article is a book review and I have NOT read the book but I found myself snorting at some of the antiquated language and the images that it conjures up. It seems intended to salute nurses and yet...

Flannel capes, starched white caps, hand maidens, tentative, submissive - some of this is given as background - but even one of the modern, present-day, university educated nurses is quoted as preferring the old guard, diploma nurses who were "trained" in hospitals. "I wanted to be like them - a nurse who could start IVs on anyone". Another nurse dismisses "turning patients like logs" and "measuring the diameter of bedsores" and the NYT uses "Nurses Highlight Job's Tedious Duties..." as the subtitle. 

Excuse me! I do not think "the glory days of nursing were during World War II". Nurses are, first and foremost, patient care managers. They either do the necessary work themselves or see that it gets done. That patient with the bedsores is somebody's grandmother and it is very useful to know whether her pressure ulcers are healing or getting worse. Grandma gets turned "like a log" to prevent such injuries in the first place. Tedious, perhaps, but important. All professions have tasks and duties that are repetitive or tedious and it is easy to come up with examples. Accountants, lawyers, pharmacists, ophthalmologists ("Is this one better - or this one?"). I have seen some pretty bored anesthesiologists and the people doing the colonoscopies - well, they are not seeing much variety up there, either.

The word, nurse, as a noun is used as a catchall term. The "nurse" who answers the phone is a receptionist. Several of the doctors at our clinic routinely refer to the medical assistants as nurses. Nursing, the verb, can also be confusing. When our son was a baby, I was frequently asked, "Are you still nursing?" and I was never sure which question to answer.

Physical therapy and pharmacy licenses now require PhDs and nurses are still arguing about whether requiring a Bachelor's degree is a good idea. Raising the bar on nursing education was debated when I was in college and, 34 years later, it still hasn't happened. It is a wonderful profession and has been a fine career for me. I encourage anyone who is interested to pursue it at the university level. It is a broad field and there are many paths one can take during a lifetime of work. It is flexible (part-time, full-time), easily transferrable (big city, small town, foreign country) and ever changing. One can earn enough to live comfortably and support a family (modestly) if necessary. It is also a great launchpad for other areas of work and study, within nursing and health care, and in other related fields.

There are millions of nurses in this country and around the world, managing care and helping people heal. I've always thought it was a worthwhile way to make a living.

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