Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The View and why the phrase "doctor stethoscope" is so very wrong.

Making the rounds on the internet this week is a clip from The View regarding Miss Colorado and her monologue from the talent portion of the Miss America pageant.

Here's the video in case you haven't seen it:

(youtube credit to Kathryn West)

If you don't watch it, here's the gist: The View hosts are discussing the various talents demonstrated, and focus on Miss Colorado who talks about her work with Alzheimer's patients in relation to her job as a nurse. Miss Colorado is then mocked for "reading her emails" instead of performing a real talent, and there is an offhanded comment by Joy Behar about her attire - namely, her "doctor stethoscope."

I want to let that sink in for a moment.

Her "doctor stethoscope."

In two words, the women on The View manage to completely dismiss an entire profession. According to the AACN, there are around 3.1 million RNs nationwide. Three point one million. That's a lot of nurses. They work in Emergency Departments, hospice groups, nursing homes, Operating Rooms, administration, and a multitude of other departments. I myself work in the ER. And I've never once, in almost seven years of work, had my stethoscope referred to as a "doctor stethoscope."

I've never had my stethoscope referred to that way because there is no such thing. It is a stethoscope. Utilized by both doctors and nurses. And while our job functions in healthcare are different, they are both valid. To illustrate this, think back on the last time you went to the ER. After checking in with a triage nurse, you come back to a room if one is available. If not, the triage nurse makes the determination that you're safe sitting in the waiting room a bit longer while other, more critical patients are brought back first. When you do come back, the primary nurse is the first one to assess you. Why? There are more nurses than there are providers. Unless you're critically ill and the whole team is waiting for your arrival, generally the nurses assess you before the doctor ever comes into the room. The nurse listens with a stethoscope, to your lungs, your heart, or your abdomen to get an idea of what is going on. Do we hear abnormal breath sounds? No breath sounds at all on one side? What about a heart murmur? Are those bowel sounds hypoactive? Do your physical complaints match up with your story? What other symptoms are you having, and for how long?

All of these questions are part of our assessment. An assessment that is done entirely independently of a doctor. An assessment that may determine if the doctor gets pulled in to see you immediately or if you can wait until your turn. An assessment that goes into our documentation and into the medical record. An assessment that can be questioned in court if needed. An assessment that is taught in nursing school to be thorough and correct.

We don't learn all of this just so we can use a "doctor stethoscope" and pretend to know what we're doing. We aren't an accessory to physicians and only exist in the hospital to be eye candy, find bedpans, or make coffee. We've never bought "doctor scrubs" or "doctor shoes" or "doctor clicky pens" to wear during our grueling 12 hour shifts without lunch or a bathroom break.

We are the ones that you see first. We will be the professional with you the vast majority of the time. We're the ones who will start your IV, hang the medication and titrate it to a desired response, stand in the room with your family after time of death is called on your loved one, monitor you for improvement after you've received treatments, and hit the code blue button if you try to stop being alive. We get you up to the bathroom and wrangle the oxygen tubing as well so you don't desaturate. We work the highly specialized equipment you may require, like ECMO. We're the ones who constantly monitor your vital signs and notify the physician when they start to tank. We are the ones who are with you enough to notice when something doesn't seem right.

When the phrase "doctor stethoscope" is blithely uttered by someone who has no concept of how nurses actually function, it denigrates our entire profession. It shortchanges over three million healthcare workers in this country and makes the statement that the only people who matter are doctors. This infuriates me.

We matter. We are educated professionals, and we are not to be dismissed by someone so ill-informed as to carelessly assume we're just accessories. The fact that the women on The View even feel this way is the most upsetting part - if they view nursing so poorly as to offhandedly state this in the first place, how can we ever expect the general public to understand that what we do is mentally, physically, and emotionally difficult?

I don't know the answer to these questions. I wish I could more eloquently express the amount of rage, shame, and disappointment I feel over this video and the deeper opinion held of nurses. I wish I had a better outlet to educate those who agree with the women on The View. I wish I could change the perception of nurses to be as respected as physicians. I wish a lot of things, but mostly I wish I didn't have to fight this fight.


TLC RN said...

From my view this show has no real substance. It's just a bunch of good old girls. They haven't made any real meaningful contributions to society and are threatened by those who do.

jon spencer said...

You could combine the total usefulness of those hosts of the View and it would not come close to about any health care worker.
Even a "Health Care Worker" that holds the hand of a patient is more important in the scheme of things than that TV shows "talent".

Christina RN LMT said...

Thank you so much for posting this. I shared it on my Facebook page.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David H said...

I've worked in Healthcare for nearly ten years, so I, too, understand what Joy said was dumb. With that said, did what she say really "infuriate" you? Does what one dumb woman on a trashy gossip show says out of ignorance really affect your life so much that it infuriates you? This latest fad of being offended in America is getting out of hand. It seems like every other headline I read these days is where someone is outraged over something that ultimately doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things. It seems like we as coddled Americans have nothing better to do with our first world comfort than to manufacture reasons to be offended. Kinda gross.

Shrtstormtrooper said...

I agree that Americans are often outraged at the most ridiculous things. In rereading the post after your comment, I could have made the distinction a bit better - I'm not infuriated at just what Joy said. I'm mad, frustrated, fed up with the dismissal of nursing as a profession overall.

Joy's statement was just an offhanded comment which sadly underscores the general lack of respect. It infuriates me in the same way casual sexism exists when men's Halloween costumes are doctors scrubs and women's are the sexy nurse. It infuriates me in the same way I can do a dozen critical steps in taking care of a patient and they turn around and ask me to "be a nice girl" and go thank the doctor for taking care of them. It infuriates me in the same way I make less than my male coworkers, even though this is a female driven profession.

I guess I'm just picking this as my soapbox to stand on, because I want nursing to be respected and I want to be a woman within the field who is recognized for my skills instead of being patronized or the object of objectification. Joy didn't so much as simply offend me, she just represents a much more widespread complete dismissal of nursing as a whole.

Aesop said...

The difference between Joy Behar and a jackass, is that an actual jackass can actually be loaded up to carry a burden and travel from Point A to Point B and do useful work.

That she demonstrates having Shit-For-Brains in an advanced stage on the subject of nursing, or healthcare in general, should come as no surprise, as she has shit-for-brains on virtually any subject you could name, and probably on 500 more subjects than she could name left to herself, as her entire TV career has documented beyond all further need of argument.

Why that merits any paycheck at all from a television network is a ponderous question, and probably totally unanswerable unless we accept that fucktards need role models too.

The bigger question is what Joy's doing wearing an "Intelligent Person Brain" in her head when such is clearly beyond her abilities, if in fact anything can reliably document possession of the body organ in question on her part in the first place.

The correct response, if less than courteous, would have been to begin with "Joy, you ignorant @$$hole,...", but given that she's a host on The View, such a rejoinder would have been redundant.

And nota bene that unlike nursing school, there's no intelligence test beforehand to handing any host on TV a microphone.

So probably nurses - or any other person of substance and seriousness - not going on programs with that level of unmitigated jackassery in the first place, nor watching same, would lead to a more harmonious outcome.

Otherwards the 'tards will drag you down to their level, and then beat you with experience.

Anonymous said...

The women on The View are complete morons. I, and everyone I have talked to about it, was delighted to see Miss Colorado speak about nursing instead of performing another useless song and dance routine. I have several disorders and a disability that land me in the hospital quite often, and I can easily say that the nurses who have taken care of me have left much more of an impact on me than any doctor.

Several years ago, I had an unexplainable illness that landed me in the hospital once a month. I saw doctor after doctor, none of them could diagnose me, and some even began to write me off as drug or attention-seeking. It was the nurses who fought for me. It was a nurse who finally suggested what could be wrong with me, and it turned out she was right. I would never underestimate the skill, dedication, and hard work that nurses do, and I think that anyone who has been a patient in a hospital or nursing home for a while would agree.

Lynda Halliger Otvos (Lynda M O) said...

Yes, yes, yes to all the comments above. Behar demonstrates subpar intelligence, as do the other women on that show. Her opinion doesn't matter but it does matter that she speaks for so many.

It saddens me too every time you all have to come up to do this battle.

Scott Hughes said...

Will you check all of my vital signs?