Nurse as Handmaid-Tart

Read why this stereotype is so wrong and dangerous for the patient…

TV, novels, films  and much of the internet portray the nurse as secondary.  As emptier of bedpans and bringer of water.  Period.  As someone killing time until she marries a doctor (G_d forbid!).

The great majority of doctors see nurses as annoyance, as threat, as hated mother and as handmaiden.  Someone once said: “Doctors treat all nurses like old dry dog shit and they treat outspoken nurses like warm, steamy dog shit.”  She was right.

In former times, the nurse was the core of a team.  Because there was no machinery, the doctor was forced to rely on assessment and information from those closest to the patient, the nurses.  They functioned as a problem solving team and physicians were not control-avoidant, they listened and together made plans, set goals and moved on to the next step.  This system worked extremely well and it was heady.

Joys of the job.

The nurse has a goal, driven by fear of failure and the absolute fun of achieving this goal AND THE PATIENT BENEFITS.  The goal is to return every body system and function to normal.  To do this, she must know exactly what is happening physiologically with the patient, assesses every change and define and watch for the next problem.  She watches pressures, body chemistry, neuro changes, heart and lung symptoms and any improvement or degeneration of status.  In addition, she gives medical treatments, medications, personal physical care, and emotional support and kindness to the patient.

She knows the status of her patient, minute to minute but she has a problem.  She can’t tell the patient’s doctor.  She can’t even tell him in private.  The best she can do is drop hints and clues… I use she for nurse and he for doctor because this defines the underlying dynamic of the exchange.  It is the same, however, with nurses and female doctors which means the dynamic is  actually about power, not gender. AND THE PATIENT SUFFERS.

And then there is the sub-text woo woo, (behind the scene and mostly invisible to the patient).  Bully managers that don’t ‘get it’, control avoidant doctors who don’t listen and administrations that have no idea what is going on in their hospital and have only one goal, money, and who make sweeping changes of doubling the nurse’s patient load to save money, (This destroys her ability to do the job correctly, a very, very expensive error.)

As for the tart!  That’s the last thing on our minds and we are generally not delicious, young, compliant and adoring subjects.  We are tired, overworked, sick of hospital politics and pissed-off.

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