Now Reading
We need to talk about the perception of nurses

A nurse called into the radio show I was listening to this morning and requested a song. Much to the host’s surprise it was P.I.M.P by 50 Cent. How could a nurse request that? He even dropped a, “oh nurses, you do such good work” line, and it just made me realise how prevalent certain perceptions are about nurses.

When I tell people I’m a nurse, it’s generally a coin flip as to what response I’m met with:

Nurse #1: The Florence Nightingale Martyr

“I could never do what you do!”

Nurse #2: The Ben Pan Babysitter

“Oh, you’re just a nurse?”

Which is correct? Neither, and I believe this typecasting is pushing a lot of people either towards or away from nursing for the wrong reasons. But who is to blame? Who is giving the general public these perceptions?

I’m going to call out nurses.

Nursing students, stop complaining.

It’s tertiary education – it’s supposed to be hard. When I look back at the work I was doing at high school, it’s a walk in the park compared to what you’re required to do at university or college, and there’s not the handholding that you receive in school. This is the case for any degree and not just for nursing– university education in general is hard.

Nurses working, stop claiming it’s a thankless job.

Accountants do not asked to be thanked any more than teachers, police officers, nurses, doctors, and/or firefighters. We do what we do for a variety of reasons and the satisfaction for a “job well done” should come from your own pride in what you do, not anyone else’s.

While I am thanked almost daily by most of my patients,

the world is full of thankless jobs and they are that way because we as a culture do not thank the people who do them.

What makes me happy is when I see my patients getting better. When I have a patient skin and bones, NPO, turn into someone who is able to eat solid foods, gain weight, and walk out of the building to discharge home. I in no way have the hero mentality but I do view my work as my signature and I give it 110%. Replacing decannulated trach, administering IM glucagon to a diabetic with BS of 20, and alerting the MD with changes in labs over the past month DO save lives. To think nurses only administer medications is not true. I’m the type of nurse the doctor goes to so he knows what’s going on – we are actually a team.

A classic complaint is that we work long hours, holidays and weekends. I know a hell of a lot of people in ‘office jobs’ who should we require turning for the amount of time they spend at their desks. The shifts can suck, but everyone in that hospital is also working the same schedule as you. We knew what we were getting into and unfortunately sickness doesn’t keep to a 9-5 schedule, so neither can its aid.

Nurses on social media.

I think there are a portion of nurses who have a very vocal martyr complex that bleeds out into other social media spaces. I have some friends on Facebook who seem to post nothing other than nursing memes and #nurselife complaints about gross stuff, annoying patients, the hours, working conditions, etc.

If I went by their FB statues alone, I would think of nurses as severely overworked, underpaid saints who are the only thing keeping you (the patient) from being actively killed by an incompetent doctor.

I constantly hear and see nurses martyring themselves daily, and it’s neither necessary nor true. We need to stop putting ourselves on peddle stools as it’s only damaging ourselves and removing the enjoyment from a job just because someone didn’t say ‘thank you’, or pat us on the back for doing our job.

Do I think nurses are heroes? No. Do I think I’m any better than someone else because I’ve decided to study nursing? Absolutely not.We may not be doctors making the ‘life saving decisions’, but we are not bed pan babysitters either and I do love that my career choice entails helping people.

So what type of nurse am I? A nurse. That’s it. Every person has their job, their career, and each has their own version of ‘normal’ for what work involves. For us, the reward comes from working with our patients, but we aren’t angels. We aren’t heroes. We are nurses. And maybe I do like listening to 50 cent in the morning.


So you think you could be a nurse? How about an ICU nurse?

What's Your Reaction?
In Love
Not Sure
View Comments (2)
  • Thanks for your down to earth appraisal of the nurse martyr complex.

    You know who else doesn’t get holidays off? The janitor. They make a lot less than the nurses do, they probably don’t get overtime, and they do more than anyone else in the hospital to prevent the spread of infectious disease. No one’s giving the janitor ‘moppy’ awards for their work on Christmas.

    Maybe it’s felt that the janitors, despite the importance of their jobs, don’t deserve praise because it is unskilled labor. But then, when was the last time you saw a Facebook pity meme go around for your medical technologists in the laboratory, or for respiratory therapists? What about all the people in Information Technology, Information Systems, and biomedical engineering who make everything work? Yeah. They’re coming in on Thanksgiving, too.

    A hospital is supported by hundreds of highly skilled workers. Doctors get their thanks up front, in hard cash. Nurses are endlessly canonized in social media, and in internal communications. The rest of us, supporting lifesaving activities from behind the scenes, only exist when something isn’t working.

    Which is fine. I can take pride in my work without the validation of my colleagues. But don’t expect me to get all wispy-eyed the next time a nurse martyr meme complains about the “thankless job of nursing”.

  • Clearly the person writing this is not a nurse. Nurses do not take breaks to go to the washroom they do not take breaks to take breaks to eat they will go above and beyond and work overtime and not get paid for it many other professions this is not the case. Depending on where you live you may get more premiums for when you’re working. Otherwise you’re expected to work some weekends holidays and most likely unless you have over 10 years experience you do not get vacation and prime times. Right now during what we’re going throughWe are not covered if we get sick from COVID. All of this is outstanding and clearly all I have to say is you are not a nurse on the front lines and you probably should not be writing regarding this.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll To Top