No angels here

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One stereotype of nursing (and it’s perpetuated by nurses as well as by those not in the medical or nursing fields) that bothers me is that of nurses as “angels of mercy.”

We’re expected to smile while up to our elbows in bloody shit and vomit; be pleasant to rude and sometimes violent people; put up with crap from doctors, managers, patients, their families, nurse techs and janitors—yet keep our cool, never cry, never sweat, never lose our tempers with each other, always be prepared and be right there when we are needed.

We’re expected to be a “cool hand on a fevered brow” or a sweet smile in a time of difficulty, or a shoulder to cry on—every day, every minute, every hour.

Look, I love being a nurse. I love being able to make you feel better. And when I have time (i.e., when I have less than 12 patients all screaming my name and falling on the floor—and not in a rock-star Beatles type of way), I can get you a pillow and tuck you in, and be that cool hand.

But sometimes I’m having a bad day: received bad news from family, got up late, working my third 12-hour shift in a row, have to pee, hungry, got spat on six times already. I’m a human being. I have a family and a life outside of this hospital, although sometimes it doesn’t feel like it.

So when this happens, you can count on me to be as kind to you as I can, and to be professional and to do my job.

But pardon me if my wings are not unfurled as majestically as you’d like, and if my halo is a little tarnished. I got some melena on it during the last GI bleed and I haven’t quite gotten it to the laundry yet.

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Guitar Girl RN

Guitar (and now bass)-playin' rock-and-roll emergency room RN. I pulled the trigger and now I have a public blog - Guitar Girl, RN. Scary.

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9 Responses to No angels here

  1. acey

    I thought there was something wrong with me for wincing whenever I saw a twee ‘nurses are angels!!’ decoration hanging somewhere in a nursing station.

    Thank you for letting me know I’m not alone in my sentiment that we can be competent and effective without being martyrs.

  2. Sean Dent


  3. Patricia

    Very well said indeed.

  4. bhadleyRN

    I was once told by both my unit director and an employee relations HR representative that “as a nurse I was not allowed to have bad days”! DO WHAT?!! I knew that I was entering an elite group when I graduated and passed my NCLEX, but I never knew that those two initials after my name (RN) meant I was no longer human! Apparently I gave up my right to get a little out of sorts from time to time, stress out, or (God Forbid!) make a simple mistake when I was hired as an RN at this particular facility. Needless to say I did not stay at that facility longer than necessary.
    The most wonderful and powerful thing anyone can do is allow us each our humanity. That humanity after all is our best asset in patient relations.

  5. Conni

    I’m an angel, but I have some appendages underneath to hold the halo up :)

  6. Mikki Loive

    I can handle angel of mercy better than calling me babe or honey. I am a professional nurse and those names belittle us female nurses.

  7. Mary

    Thanks for saying this out loud. I am not an angel, I am a professional with many years of school and experience behind me. I use evidence based practice, research and knowledge to treat you and your disease as best I can. I am human.

  8. lorraine

    to all the nurses out there, we’ll get our reward in heaven

  9. saturn567

    agree with you totally everyone forgets we are human too, we have feelings and lives outside of work, wish my boss understood that