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.