This post was written by CHMP Graduate Fellow Amanda Anderson RN, BSN, CCRN
Recently, I posed the following question to a group of my RN friends on Facebook: “Are you nurses ashamed of being nurses? Why aren’t you telling everybody with an ‘RN’”? You see, I follow my Facebook name with the letters, “RN,” and proudly. In response, my friends told me that they kept their nurse status secret when off the job. Some spoke of liability, others, fears that neighbors would show up with weird spots and bumps on their days off.
These concerns are real, but are they valid? Is nursing something to hide, or is it a vocation that should be shared 100% of the time, in everything we do, in every situation we’re in?
My response to their responses was simply, “How is this any different than walking away from a coding person on the street?” A response, I realize, that is quite direct and some might say harsh, but wouldn’t you consider it valid, too?
Such a situation happened to me just the other day. I was leaving my local grocery store with a few breakfast items, and I noticed a crowd outside the door. A man was lying on the sidewalk, clearly having a seizure. My two-second nursing assessment determined that he was safe and supported by the pavement, and the unnecessarily large crowd surrounding him told me that help was on the way. I started my walk home.
Quickly, I realized that I couldn’t continue. I’m a nurse, and I was fleeing the scene. So much of me wanted to exit and pretend I hadn’t seen what I had just seen. Why bother? He was okay; there was nothing to be done but wait for help to arrive. But something inside me – is that you, Florence? – made me go back.
In the past, I’d crouch down, touch the man, take his pulse, look at his chest, let everyone know I was the nurse, and wait with him for the EMT’s to arrive. But this time, I felt differently. I needed to participate, yes, but I wanted to do so in a brief and unconnected way.
I stood beside the man and searched for the person in the crowd who seemed to be in charge. I went to this person, and said, “Do you know this man? Is he homeless? Do you think he is on drugs?” The man in charge told me that he was a frequent customer, and no, he was an upstanding resident. I then told him what I thought to be true about the situation, “I’m a nurse. He looks like he’s having a seizure. He is safe in that position. Watch out for his head, and keep him lying flat until help arrives. He’ll be okay.”
This assessment took me two seconds to come to and thirty to convey. But after I shared it, the man in charge looked relieved, and double-checked about the seizing man’s position, saying, “I shouldn’t try to sit him up?” I told him no, and then moved along on my way.
This felt better than simply walking past begrudgingly. So does trailing “RN” after my name on my checks, return address labels, credit cards, signatures, and Facebook. Why wouldn’t I tell everyone I know that I’m a member of the exclusive nursing club?
Without public recognition of nurses as members of everyday society, we’ll continue to suffer injustices like short staffing, poor work conditions, and underpay. Without recognition in the posts of Facebook, we’ll never be recognized in the halls of Congress. Without shouting from the rooftops that we are nurses, we are strong, and we outnumber all other healthcare professionals, we’ll continue to be nameless and invisible.
At work, we have dry erase boards in each room. We write the name of the attending physician, the respiratory therapist, and our name, the name of the nurse. Why do so many of us write only our first names, instead of our full name and title? Why are we simply, Amanda smiley face, instead of Amanda Anderson, RN, BSN, CCRN? Why are nurses continually the least proud, least inspired, most victimized members of the healthcare profession?
Just the other day, I plastered a sticker that says “RN” on the back of my bike helmet. I hope that it will inspire me to act in a way that proudly broadcasts my title (no more running red lights for me), and that inspires cab drivers not to hit me. Because, yes. Telling everyone that I’m a nurse holds me – 24/7 – to a level of accountability that I could easily escape by keeping my profession to myself. But sharing my title also gives me a level of credibility and safety that I wouldn’t have if I hid it from the public. Think about it as simply as this: everyone wants to know a nurse, and nobody wants to hit one with their car.
How much of your nursing self are you sharing?