Dear Nurse Marge,
I need your help. I’m a new nurse, and it’s the greatest and hardest thing I’ve ever done. That’s not the problem — I expected it to be rough, and it is, but I’m getting the hang of it. What I’m not getting the hang of is dealing with my family and friends who totally dismiss what I do. When I come home from a rough shift, my boyfriend (who is a mechanic) says, “What did you expect? You signed up to be a professional ass wiper.” I hear all the time that all I have to do is what the doctor says — how do you explain that half our job is saving people from the doctor? The continual disrespect is getting me down!
What should I do?
Nervous in Newburyport
While I normally say ‘civilians’ never get what nurses really do, and we have to understand that, as part of our caring, therapeutic approach to humanity, I think you should totally ditch the boyfriend. Tell him that since you’re a professional ass wiper during the day, you don’t need any asswipes at home, thank you very much.
Make sure your car is running really well, first.
The problem with our profession is that there are so very many stereotypes attached to it. From the saintly types who ease pain, wipe the fevered brow, plump the pillow and regard family members as a gift from Heaven and physicians as being even better than that — mind you, I’m telling you this secondhand, for in 38 years in the business, I’ve never once met a nurse like this. I came close once, but she was lifted away on a bower of fluffy clouds before my presence could spoil her for the profession forever — to the pill-popping, pharmacist-shagging TV star — which I’ve never understood, since I can’t even get critical, life saving medicines delivered in a timely fashion, how in the world will this guy be in delivering anything in the vein of satisfaction before I age out of giving a damn about such things? — to the sex goddess in a short, tight white uniform and a nurse’s cap almost as pert and perfect as her bosom?
I admit that that last one is entirely my fault. Sometimes we don’t really know the impression we make, you know?
Anyway, back to my point here, which is, not only are you working against the basic misconceptions people have about nursing, you’re working against the mythology of nursing.
Well, I say fight fire with fire. If we don’t like the myths we’re dealing with, let us create our own. Let us sing songs of the Crash Cart Company, saving lives and singing show tunes! Tell the tale of Blood Pressure Bonnie, who can check vitals in the wee hours of the dawn without disturbing a single patient. We must not forget Advocacy Annette, who reminds residents that maybe they want to think through that order and saves the day!
That’s what we should do. Make sure you let me know how it turns out!