Things Nurses Wish People Would Stop Saying

“You’re a nurse; aren’t you supposed to like gross stuff?”

Girl_DocLike it? Like gross stuff? Yes, I became a nurse because I woke up one day and said, ‘You know, I really like gross stuff. I might as well make a career out of it.’

Nurses don’t enter the field for a love of bodily fluids, offensive smells, or cringe-worthy visuals. We choose nursing because we want to help people, have an affinity for science — and believe it or not — want to prevent those “gross” things from occurring.

In a perfect word, we might be able to do that. But in the real world, many things are beyond our control: chronic disease, superbugs, trauma, violence, our food supply, pollution, poverty, stress; I could go on.

The “gross stuff” is part of the job. It’s part of our nursing assessment and can contribute to a diagnosis. The “gross stuff” is what triggers empathy. Nurses don’t say, “Cool! Check out this draining ulcer!”

We say, “I’m so sorry. I’m going to do everything I can to help.”

“You’re so smart; why didn’t you go to medical school?”

Right, smart people go to medical school. They also go to law school and business school, become teachers and artists, and yes – even go to nursing school and become nurses. So why does this question exist?

Because certain perceptions exist.

The public still seems to think that nurses are doctors’ assistants. They assume that doctors are nurses’ bosses. Many consider nurse practitioners to be “halfway” doctors.

We need to change these views. There’s a medical model, and there’s a nursing model. The two fields are collaborative, not hierarchical.

“When the nurse drew my blood this morning…”

“You mean the phlebotomist?”

“Yeah, that one.”

Not all those who wear scrubs are nurses.

Now, I am in no way knocking phlebotomists. You can replace ‘phlebotomist’ with respiratory therapist, physical therapist, nursing assistant, etc. Why do all of these professions run together in the public’s minds?

The thing is – when someone walks into a patient’s room donned in a white coat, everyone sits up straight and addresses him or her as “Dr.” The white coat universally signifies ‘physician’.

So, what designates nurses? Hospitals have been increasingly using “RN” identification tags for registered nurses. Maybe, with time, patients will start to take note of who is or isn’t wearing these credentials.

What other questions or statements about nurses are you tired of hearing? Comment below! It’s up to us to educate the public about who nurses are and what we do. As we say at NursesACT, let’s take ACTion!

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