Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Just a Nurse

You will never hear me utter the phrase, "I'm just a nurse."

Back in my cubicle days, when someone asked me what I did for a living, I would say something like, "Oh, you don't want to hear about it. It's not even interesting to me."

If nothing else, my current job is "interesting." I'm also proud to have it- I get people through some of the worst days of their lives, I help make scary medical information manageable, and I can deal with a person at his pukiest and barely gag. I'm a nurse, dammit, no "just" about it.

But actually my real objection to the phrase "I'm just a nurse" is that it's usually a cop out. Generally I hear it uttered in the context of, "I'm just a nurse, the doctor decided that you need to have blood drawn," or "I'm just a nurse, I don't know if you need to be admitted."

It's true that in the hospital nurses are outranked by some other members of the medical team, but it doesn't mean that we are powerless automatons, unquestioningly following the orders of others. When a patient asks why a blood draw is needed, I explain what we're looking for- elevated white blood cell counts, kidney function, electrolyte abnormalities, etc. If I don't know if the patient will be admitted, I either find out, or explain that we won't be able to make the decision until test results come back. The correct answer to a patient's question is never, "I don't know, somebody else decides."

So when I hear "I don't know, I'm just a nurse," what I really hear is, "I'm too lazy to take the time to explain this to you." I know it's frustrating when patient care begins to interrupt your Facebooking and texting, but really, when that's the case, just admit it. Just tell the patient, "I'm completely burned out and I don't care about you enough to address what's making your scared/nervous/uncomfortable." Perhaps you were disappointed because you thought being a nurse would be like it is on TV, and your primary job funtions would be looking good in scrubs and servicing medical residents in supply closets. I get it, I do, but don't blame your incompetence on the profession that so many hard working people have dedicated their lives and every other weekend to doing.

I guess what I'm saying is that when you say, "I'm just a nurse," what you're really telling everyone is "I'm not that good at my job." Sometimes the most important thing we do is to address the patient's concerns. Isn't that what you would want on one of the scariest days of your life?

Thank you as always for making it all the way through this rant. As a reward, here is a cute picture of Leo, who doesn't care how well I do my job as long as it keeps him in a cozy bed and lets him eat the high end cat food.

So long for now, KISS (keep it simple stupid), and beware of cop-out excuses at work. They only make you look bad.


  1. Good perspective! Nurses are very important to a patient and their families. I'm so glad you found something you enjoy.

  2. Preach, girl! I'd never say that either. RN and proud!


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