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The image of nursing is blurry and out of focus

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“What do you do?”

“I’m a nurse.”

“Oh, so you work in a hospital? Or do you pass pills?” “Where’s your white outfit?”

Any of this sound familiar? Lately the ‘image’ of nursing seems to be gaining some attention out here in the internet and blogosphere. I chatted with some fellow nurses on Twitter last week concerning Hollywood’s effect on our ‘image’ and possibly our recruiting / retention / shortage challenges.

Days later I watched a brief video on the image of nursing on a fellow nursing blog.

Does the media (Hollywood) bear that much influence on our profession? If so, why?

I’m guilty as charged here. Ever since I started blogging as a nurse, I’ve been fighting the good fight. I’ve been barking and blogging about Hollywood’s goof ups as well as the warped reality the media has created in regards to anything and everything nursing.

Over the years my views of Hollywood’s contribution have changed, but my stance on our profession and how we should spread the knowledge has not.

I’ll be the first to defend our worth, our skill, our knowledge and our need. I’ll be the first to defend our importance and our right for respect. I’ll be the first to fight, always. I just wonder if we’re setting up camp on the wrong playing field these days?

Hollywood is not our enemy. If it was, then every other medical profession would have staked the claim years ago. I mean, what medical profession hasn’t been misrepresented in the media?! Need I remind everyone of how physicians our portrayed sometimes? Or EMT’s (and Paramedics) ? Or Dentists? Or Pharmacists? The list is infinitely long.

Likening any medical profession to their TV/Movie counterpart is just fantasy and fraught with ignorance. If John Q. Public thinks their nurse is going to be what they see in Hollywood, they’ll get the same slap of reality everyone else gets when they receive my care.

Those who need us know us, and those who know us, know the difference.

I think the true battlefield is out in the trenches. Speaking up at a colleague who sullenly replies, “I’m just a nurse”. Correcting a patient/ family member when they think we are just pill passers or butt-wipers. Challenging the old-school (or new school) physician who treats you or a colleague like a servant. Encouraging a new green-behind-the-ears nurse to step outside their comfort zone and reach for the stars. Educating the local public and high school crowd about what we really do, who we really are, and how we make the difference every day. And above all, help escort out every old bitter beaten burned out and negative Nick and Nancy nurse who does nothing but bring our profession down.

I believe our profession has a bright future full of infinite possibilities, all we have to do is seize them and pay it forward, regardless of Hollywood.

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Sean Dent

Sean Dent is a second-degree nurse who has worked in telemetry, orthopedics, surgical services, oncology and at times as a travel nurse. He is a CCRN certified critical care nurse where he's worked in cardiac, surgical as well as trauma intensive care nursing. After five years practicing as an RN, Sean pursued and attained his Masters of Science in Nursing. Sean currently practices as a Board Certified Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP-BC) in a Shock Trauma urban teaching hospital. He has been in healthcare for almost 20 years. He originally received a bachelor's degree in Exercise and Sport Science where he worked as a Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC).
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