Joy Behar and Michelle Collins may have accidently opened the nurse can of worms on The View this week by—ironically enough—mocking Colorado nurse Kelley Johnson’s use of a public platform to improve understanding of the profession.
Now that they have opened the can, let us take a look at what spilled out: anecdotal evidence of the nursing profession's identity crisis. There appears to be a lack of understanding about what it is nurses do and of their value in health care.
Research has established the nurse as a principle player in determining the quality of clinical outcomes and patient experiences in all healthcare settings. As such, nurses are leaders in health care delivery and reform. Today’s nurse must meet high academic standards, is often specialized and is apparently still underestimated.
Perhaps the majority of the American public sees nurses for what they are: drivers of superior health care outcomes. However, the realization that seeing a nurse with a stethoscope is considered by some as pretentious or shocking is a bit of an eye opener, especially when you consider what a nurse does every day.
Physical assessments are just the tip of the iceberg, but they are integral to nurses’ efforts to relieve the suffering of others. Nurses must constantly evaluate physical stability—including respiratory status, lung sounds, cardiac rhythms, fluid balance, vital signs, neurological status and mental status, just to name a few systemic concerns—as they collaborate with physicians and therapists to coordinate care and communicate the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of treatment based on physical presentation and diagnostic results. A nurse without a stethoscope is like an Oreo without milk: it happens occasionally, but not usually by choice.
For someone to express any disbelief at seeing a nurse with a stethoscope must indicate that he or she has had little or no exposure to the health care system. I consider that a good thing for that individual.
However, the stereotype of nurses as silly, physician groupies has to be eradicated not only for the good of the profession but for the good of people in need of health care. It should be comforting to understand that your nurse is a highly-educated, compassionate professional capable of monitoring your physical and emotional progress toward healing. The nurse will screen for potential errors or oversights in care while optimizing the efficient use of resources and factoring in the needs of your family—all while personally experiencing repeated, ongoing exposure to loss and suffering. The nurse plays a unique and critical role in the delivery of health care, and is essential for patients’ safety and well-being.
Sonja Mitrevska-Schwartzback BSN, RN, CCRN recently published a piece in the Huffington Post titled, “Unapologetically a Nurse” in which she very poignantly describes the usual demeanor of nurses as tough, savvy and sassy. The meek need not apply. There are no short skirts and certainly no heels but, rest assured there is a well-worn stethoscope hanging around the nurses’ neck.