When I’m not in a small-talky mood, I almost don’t want to hear the “so what kind of work do you do?” question. It’s never a simple answer. I respond: “I’m a nurse”, or depending on how talky I want to be, “I’m a nurse practitioner”. Then I brace myself for the next question – especially if I’m talking to someone local. “Oh! Which hospital?”
(Deep breath) “Actually, I teach.”
Her eyes grow wide. “You teach? But you’re a nurse.”
Right. I forgot to add the qualifier. Nursing. “I teach nursing.”
“Ahh.” A look of semi-understanding washes across her face. But my new acquaintance is still a bit uneasy about this nurse-teacher thing, because somehow she’s never considered the fact that one actually has to go to school to become a nurse.
Okay, the “which hospital?” question isn’t so unreasonable. After all, 61% of nurses work in hospital settings, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Maybe I’m more disheartened by people’s surprise in learning that nurses can be teachers… professors, even… and dare we say, scholars.
Why is the public so ill-informed about what it takes to become a nurse? How have I met people who don’t know doctoral degrees in nursing exist? What can we do to educate others about the academic nature of nursing? For one thing, I’ll stop avoiding the question about what kind of work I do…