Throughout the world there are nurses on the frontline of health care doing many jobs that many have not ever considered doing. There are 3.4 million Registered Nurses in the United States – one in a hundred people in the U.S. are nurses. For 13 years, RNs have been named number one as the most respected profession. Nurses are women and men, we come in all sizes, ages, colors, nationalities. We work long hours doing things that are far from glamorous.
I have been a nurse for many, many years, and often I am asked, “What do nurses do?” When my children were growing up, it was a question they would ask. When they were young and I was working nights, I would often bring home donuts, so they thought I had gone out early to get the donuts. As they grew up, they stopped in one day when I was working in the SICU, I happened to be assigned to the first room, “Ah,” my son said, “you are like the Walmart greeter!”
A couple of years ago my husband was critically ill with what turned out to be a tick-borne disease called anaplasma. As one of my daughters and I watched, his nurse in the Medical Intensive Care Unit seamlessly worked on him, hung fluids, suctioned him, monitored his vital signs, titrated life saving medications, and talked to us, all the time as she prepared him for a CAT scan. When we left that evening, my daughter, a successful computer software professional, turned to me and said, “I could never be a nurse, she never stopped working for the last four hours, she was toiling over someone she doesn’t even know. She never once complained or took a break. I am exhausted from just watching her.”
This month, Kelley Johnson, RN, a contestant in the Miss America pageant, expressed her passion for nursing in the talent portion of the contest. It was a poignant, memorable, from-the-heart monologue. She was expressing what every nurse feels: the satisfaction of connecting, caring, touching another person.
Members of the TV show The View, commented on her “costume,” her “MD’S stethoscope”, and found the monologue, “hilarious,” “she was reading her e-mails.” After the “apology” was issued, another cast member suggested that the nurses “listen more carefully.”
Message given and received. I, and I suspect many other nurses, will not be watching The View again, but I will be buying Eggland’s Best eggs and Johnson & Johnson products, as they have both pulled their advertisement support of the show.
When the anger and disappointment that this incident has created passes, hopefully more people will know what nurses do, and what a great job it is for those lucky enough to be blessed with the passion for it.
In a society that often confuses success with the amount of money earned, or by becoming a celebrity for one thing or another, or by expressing our opinions on a talk show, we are reminded that the Kelley Johnson’s of the younger generation are our bright lights.
Maya Angelou said, “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” Kelley Johnson is a success and a reminder to us all – nurses are not on TV, are not famous, but most of America respects us.
And that is the take-away in this controversy – and the panelists on The View now realize nurses are respected.