The Gift #doctorsstethoscope

The show The View hit a nerve hard with nurses this week with their discussion of Miss Colorado’s presentation at the Miss America Pageant. #nursesunite, #doctorsstethoscope are trending very highly on social media. I think the comment that stimulated most nurses was “Why is she wearing a Dr.’s stethoscope?”

My first year out of nursing school was many years ago, but I still have two memories seared in my mind. The first involved one of the doctors on our floor. It was expected at that time that when I saw a doctor come on the floor I would stop what I was doing and gather up all of their patient’s charts. I would then follow them as they made rounds, handing them the appropriate chart as we got to each room. This particular doctor would periodically at the end of rounds, take a chart or two and slide it down the hallway, like a bowling ball. Frequently papers would spill out on the way, and we were expected to pick up the charts and put them back together. He thought this was hilarious.

My second memory from that first year was regarding my uniforms. At that time nursing uniforms were mostly a sorry collection of polyester pant suits. I decided I wanted to wear something more professional looking. I was able to sew and used a Vogue pattern to make a lovely white dress. I thought it looked very professional. When I wore it to work, I heard from a majority of the doctors how sexy I looked in it. I stopped wearing it.

I was sharing these memories with a colleague of mine and she told me her mother, who was also a nurse, remembers the time when nurses would have to get off of the hospital elevator if a doctor got on; it didn’t matter if it was your floor, you got off.

I’m sure if you ask any nurse you know they will share their equivalent of these stories. I think this is important to understand with what’s going on right now about the comments made on The View. The history of nursing is steeped in sexism and domination, the doctor-nurse game. In this game nurses were expected to be subordinate to doctors. Many people think this game has ended with the advent of increased education and responsibility for nurses, but many don’t. David Holyoake describes our present situation very well as an “identity crisis stemming from an inferiority complex and the illusion that equality” is easily within our grasp.

In his book, The Surprising Purpose of Anger: Beyond Anger Management: Finding the Gift, Dr. Marshall Rosenberg describes anger as a gift. Anger is an emotion that rather than being suppressed, challenges us to figure out the unmet needs that are driving it. In this situation I think it is very clear that nurses are angry and want to be respected and valued. I love hearing this voice. I love the fact that so many people are responding with stories of how much they value and respect nurses. And I love that I am becoming more aware of how much I need to value and respect myself as part of this profession.

That is the gift we got from The View. I’m also hopeful that we in the nursing profession will continue to work through our identity crisis. We can be, and are, so much more than “mini doctors”. What most of us enjoy about this profession is our ability to heal people. I would love to see the profession of nursing incorporate compassionate communication as taught by Dr. Rosenberg. I would love to see the magic that would happen when we develop more deeply into the healers we want to be.

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