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A Response by a Nurse

(RN, MSN and future DNP. A proud nurse going on 9 years and still
continuing to learn everyday.)
In reference to this article
Direct quotes from the article are italicized and my responses
are underneath.
Lets be real. Nursing is our job. And sometimes it sucks and is hard
and we wonder why we do it. And then we have a really rewarding
moment with a patient that reminds us why. But we arent angels. We
arent heroes. We are nurses. And nursing is just our job.
Yes nursing has its pros and cons like any other job, but nursing is more
than just a job. Any nurse who has worked knows that our job
encompasses so much more. We are there constantly for patients,
families and the public. We are the ones to nurture, monitor and
educate. We are the advocates for those that cannot speak for
themselves and we are the gatekeepers to those that are most
vulnerable in their time of need. This is more than just a job, this is a
profession that has been present for hundreds of years and for some, a
call to caring.
And we get compensated very well for the relatively little education we
have. We dont have the education and knowledge doctors have. They
do the hard work. Unless they work in an ICU or a critical care setting,
nurses dont make the decisions that will save your life. We sometimes
prevent mistakes that might make you sicker, but we arent going to
cure you or fix you. We are going to do nursing-related tasks that are
aimed at making sure you dont get sicker and hopefully make your
stay in the hospital a little bit better.
Compensation? What compensation are you referring to? Monetary? As
far as I know there are no facilities that will pay back the thousands of
dollars in tuition for your BSN or associates degree. Many students
have multiple jobs in order to pay for their tuition. Are you referring to
higher education with tuition reimbursement? Again this only pays
partially for your degree or certification, this does not mean a free for
all in footing your academic bill. The point of achieving an education is
for yourself, for whatever needs or goals you may have in life, not for
anyone else. We all choose to get our education, a choice that
everyone makes.
The little education you speak of? Are you referring to the hours upon
hours of clinical required by state boards of nursing while in school? Or

the hard work that nursing educators provide in guiding future nurses
into the world? In the years of working alongside many nurses and
doctors, everyone works as a team. Hence the term health care team
and not health care self. Yes MDs certainly do have a lot of education,
but does that replace the amount of knowledge and experience that
many other MDs as well as nurses have? I do not think so. There are
many who would argue that education would never be able to replace
the experiences learnt from the bedside. As anyone in the field can
attest to, textbooks can only provide so much. They provide
information from an academic standpoint and also from a perfect world
scenario where all things are equal. They do not account for what
others would describe as a real world scenario.
Nurses everyday make life-changing decisions for their patients. Any
interaction or intervention that a nurse provides changes the life of
someone else. Medications change the scope of therapeutic care,
along with assessment, getting the patient to mobilize and talking with
them about how their day is going. All of this involves the process of
critically thinking, using clinical judgments to assess how is our patient
performing? Are they achieving their goals or is there something
abnormal occurring? No we are not going to cure you, but we will make
sure that whatever the plan of care is for you that it will be upheld to
the highest standards of care possible. That means being a voice of
reason to all others, to uphold what care is the best possible for our
And that often involves things that arent so pleasant. Lets face it,
wiping butts and cleaning up vomit isnt the funnest thing ever. But
teachers do it too. And they get paid half as much as nurses do. And to
be honest with you, most of the time nurses dont clean up poop and
vomit. Nurses often delegate the gross stuff to the CNAs.
In the end, the CNAs do the dirty work and the Doctors do the hard
Yes our job does involve perianal care and tending to our patient when
they are at their sickest. And yes perhaps teachers who work in the
elementary or kindergarten setting do it as well. But my caveat to that
is what is your argument? That nursing involves physical care? That
our patients who are going through many medical issues will
experience symptoms of their illness, which may include vomiting or
diarrhea? And as a health care team many nurses have to clean our
patients, I do not know many nurses who do not. Delegation to CNAs is
certainly needed, but with many health care facilities cutting down on
staffing resources, CNAs unfortunately are viewed as a luxury rather
than a necessity. The reality is that many facilities have minimal to no
assistive staff available and the responsibility then falls upon the

nurse. So based upon your statement it seems that you have the
fortune to refer to all supportive resources available and that you are
able to fully take advantage of them at your disposal. I would be
grateful to work in a facility that has the budget to accommodate all
staff and patients for all their health care needs.
The statement that members of the health care team are isolated into
one-dimensional categories is disturbing. The perspective that CNAs
only do one part, MDs another and nurses the rest is an extremely
skewed view of not just nursing, but health care overall. What unit in a
hospital or facility has members working solely as individuals rather
than as a team? What experiences have you had where no one
communicates with each other? Who do not work together to be able
to provide care for the patients and goals that everyone can mutually
agree upon? Everyone strives to work as hard as they can to provide
the best care possible, no one should be sitting on the sidelines.
Everyone is a participant and the only way to ensure that the patient is
discharged with the confidence of reducing the risk of readmission is to
work together. No man is an island, no person is alone.
But every nurse out there is going to be extremely angry at me.
Because there is this culture in nursing that makes nurses out to be
heroes. And anyone who says otherwise is the villain.
Nurses join the profession not to be a hero. We do not set out for the
spotlight or to be glorified as your title suggests. If we did then
nursing would not be our first choice, we would head to more
publicized Hollywood careers as an actor or lead singer of a rock band.
Nurses are those that shape peoples lives in a way that no one else
can. There is no other profession out there that spends time 24 hours a
day at the bedside constantly assessing and monitoring our patients
needs. We are the ones that are needed to be able to provide that
complete clinical picture that unfortunately others on our team do not
see. Your article at first did anger me, but then after reflecting on your
opinion, saddened me. It illustrated a larger problem that perhaps not
only you have but also maybe many others do. It is the view that
nursing is simply one dimensional, only a job that requires tasks to be
performed. It is a view that limits what nurses do on a daily basis to
just one area. This view discounts the many other skills and thought
processes that are required in order to provide the best standard of
care possible.
For some reason, it is okay for nurses to complain about their life and
their job, to be self-sacrificing and a martyr. Because thats what we
have been trained to do. It all starts in nursing school. Students in
nursing school complain about being stressed out more than I have

ever seen any students complain. But I am 100% sure that chemical
engineering and physics is harder than nursing, and you dont see
them complaining half as much as nurses do. Because, for some
reason, complaining about how hard our job/school/life is seems to be
acceptable among nurses. I often hear nurses complain that they have
to work long 12-hour days, and the holidays and weekends. Or that
they have to kiss their little kids goodbye on Christmas eve to go
sacrifice their time as a unappreciated nurse. And I just want to
scream. Because yes, working the holidays and weekends sucks.
Period. But EVERYONE who works in the hospital with you works that
same, sucky schedule. Can we just stop it? We knew what we were
getting into!
Yes just like any other profession there are pros and cons. With any
career there will be downsides and health care is certainly no
exception. As a nurse who currently works with nursing students, they
certainly have their own stresses to handle. School is a different ball
game altogether, as it not only encompasses maintaining academic
standards, but in many cases having to do that alongside a job to pay
tuition and their own family to support. For many students they
honestly do not understand fully the responsibility that nurses handle
on a daily basis. Many do not experience a full shift of 12 hours nor
does the school allow students to experience their required clinical
hours during government-sanctioned holidays. The comparison of
nursing students to full time nurses is apples to oranges. Both areas
involve different viewpoints and provide their own perspective based
upon moments in time.
So I would argue that no not everyone knows what we were getting
into. School cannot teach the moments of connecting with your
patient when it comes to loss of function or bereavement. What makes
nursing unique is the human aspect and connection that is needed. Im
sure chemical and physical engineers certainly have their own
stresses, but as far as my knowledge is of their professions, it is not
necessarily required to have that human aspect within their careers.
I often hear people say I could never be a nurse and I vehemently
disagree. Everyone in college could be a nurse. And if you are a kindhearted and loving person, you would be a better nurse than many of
the people I went to school with. But for some reason, nursing is made
out to be this terribly hard, self-sacrificing, terrible field that only an
elect few could possible endure.
Give me a break.
I agree to some extent. Anyone can be anything they set their mind to,
I certainly wouldnt want to limit someones career choices based upon

my own personal opinions. I also know though that nursing is not

necessarily for everyone. As I have mentioned previously, nursing is
one of the most humane professions out there that not only
encompasses critical thinking and clinical judgments, but an emotional
involvement as well. The empathy that we develop for our patients and
patient families is not learned overnight. I personally remember in
nursing school having a moment during my clinical practice hours of
how overwhelming it can be emotionally to take care of someone. It
was a moment of sadness between my patient and me, where after
meeting with my nursing teacher I had to cry. It was the first of many
moments in my nursing profession where emotions can engulf you and
pull you into moments of deep grieving over a patients situation.
Nursing can be a profession that can drain you emotionally and
potentially burn you out. Interacting with those that are at their worst
physically and perhaps mentally can be exhausting. I have seen and
heard many stories that involve heartbreak and loss. Nurses out there
are witnesses to moments in life for a patient that can either be
tremendously joyful, a cause for celebration or deeply sorrowful, a time
to grieve. For many nurses that I have met in the past it can be difficult
to endure. After all there is only so much any human can handle. And
in the end we are all humans.
Reading the articles written in honor of national nursing day
perpetuated this idea that nurses dont get the respect and thanks
they deserve. But come on, it is your job. Not your life. Everyone
loves things about their job, everyone hates things about their job, and
everyone wishes that they were better recognized for their hard work.
Lets not play the victim here.
How do events that celebrate our profession constitute playing the
victim? As a proud nurse why should we be ashamed of what we do? If
you look back in history, our profession has come such a long way from
thousands of years ago to Florence Nightingale. We have developed
and evolved so much from being just a handmaid at the patients
bedside. We are the ones that are relied upon to critically think, to
assess and understand what changes are happening with our patient.
We are the ones to help MDs, physical therapists, social work and case
managers shape and frame our patients future. We are the ones to
educate, manage and assist our patients to become as independent as
possible before being discharged. It is more than just a job, it is an
art, an art that involves the ability to not only think, but to care for our
patients that only nurses know how.
Also, lets not glorify the fact that nurses internalize and identify with
the needs of their patients to the point where you fall asleep crying at
night. It is a really unhealthy behavior and leads to secondary trauma.

Which is a big problem in nursing. Nurses often empathize and try to

help, but you have to separate yourself form the sorrow and grief
around you. Because if not, you will burn out too fast and it can
honestly affect your psyche.
Yes it can be unhealthy to internalize every patient encounter, whether
good or bad. But there is a difference between sympathizing and
empathizing. As you have pointed out, empathy is the ability for the
nurse to relate to our patient and understand what they are going
through, but also to look at it from a professional point of view. We as
nurses are educated in understanding what is happening; we learn the
anatomy and physiology, the pathology and disease process. We have
insight into what is going on and that is why we are relied upon to help
educate and encourage our patient to also better understand what is
happening. Nursing burn out is all too common and perhaps that
should be something that as a profession we need to work on. A
program or type of therapy put in place where we can also vent and
release our own frustrations or emotions. Some facilities do provide
this option but not all. Perhaps this can be a goal that can be provided
across the country for all health care staff.
But yes, we want to get your IV in the first time.
And yes, if we dont answer your call light its not because we want you
to suffer.
We probably are lifting and turning a 300 pound person so they dont
get bed sores.
Yes I can certainly concur that task wise we can get very busy in trying
to manage what priorities we need to address first. But again it is so
much more than just tasks; we are so much more than just one
dimension. We are part of that human connection in health care, we
are nurses.