An Homage to Nurses on National Nurses Week
My father was a pediatrician. When I was growing up there were always incoming calls into our house from patients of my father. When my father wasn’t there, my mother would take the calls and dispense worldly and medical advice (after all, she brought up five children) to anxious patients. She wasn’t a nurse, but could have been.
Mothers nurse their children at birth and nurse them when ill. I guess for all of us the
first nurse we encounter is our mother or a mother figure. In my time we grew up with nurses being exclusively female. That has changed. Also, we now have nurse practitioners who essentially act as doctors. This is new, appropriate, and good to see.
When in residency training, nurses were your best friends. If you treated them well and with respect and you were catching a few hours of sleep after being up for twenty four hours, they would wait until early morning rounds to give you any important news. If you treated them badly, they would beep you at all hours of the night for every little thing. You learned quickly where to place your respect.
But I didn’t need residency training to learn this. Maybe it came from my mother and probably more from my father. When I decided to go into Medicine my father started talking about his work. I remember him focusing frequently on those in the profession who support physician efforts. He would never not see a detail person, despite the medical professions looking down on folks in medicine related businesses who show up at their offices trying to drum up business. His rationale: they have families and are trying to make a living just like himself. At Christmas I would go with him to deliver gifts to the nurses who worked in his office.
He was never more vocal when describing doctors who would berate, belittle, scream at, and criticize nurses. In retrospect, I think he was talking about surgeons, who are notorious for this in the operating room. During a tense, difficult operation early in my career I went off on a scrub nurse. I thought she was unresponsive and didn’t sense my sense of urgency. I was embarrassed for myself afterwards. My father would have taken me to the woodshed for such behavior. For weeks I apologized to the nurse in question until she got so tired of it that she told me she forgave me and would I please stop
my guilt trip. It never happened again. Nurses know best.
I guess I learned my lesson, but many in the profession haven’t. I still see such behavior on the part of doctors continuing
We physicians should keep in mind all that nurses do to make our work better. At its best it is a wonderful collaboration. We couldn’t do what we do without them. Yes, there are the battleaxes like Nurse Ratcheds and troubled nurses like Nurse Jackie, but they are few. One doesn’t have to get off a high horse to acknowledge and say thanks to all nurses in all walks of our profession and health care system who continue to do much of the heavy lifting that makes us look good while providing needed assistance to