“Thanks for the compliment, but I’m not a nurse” – What do you think?

Wavebreak Media | iStockphoto | ThinkStock + Scrubs

Wavebreak Media | iStockphoto | ThinkStock + Scrubs

Dr. Megan Lemay recently posted an article on KevinMD.com about being mistaken for a nurse and why she hates it. We thought it was an interesting topic and wanted to share her story with you, as we think it might resonate.

Here are some excerpts from the article:

“Let’s get one thing clear from the start: I love nurses. My grandmother was a nurse’s aide. My aunt is a nurse. My mother is a nurse. Nurses have been by my side for the most frightening and important experiences in my life (in the hospital and out). However, I’m not a nurse. I’m a doctor. And when someone calls me nurse, I hate it.”

She continues with reasons it bothers her, including…

“I hate being called ‘nurse,’ because I feel like it undoes the work of thousands of female physicians before me. Recently, I was on service with one of the most accomplished female physicians at my institution. Our first patient welcomed us into his room with this: ‘Can I call you back? The nurses want to talk to me about something.’

One hundred and fifty-four years ago, he would have certainly been correct. However, in 1849, Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman to receive a medical degree in the U.S. Hundreds of thousands of female medical school graduates later, women are now poised to outnumber their male colleagues by 2017. Still, I can’t say I feel secure in my place as a female physician. We are still underpaid and under-promoted compared to our male colleagues. To me, it feels like we’ve just splintered the shell of this previously male-dominated field. Being called ‘nurse’ reminds me of the enormous gender gap I have yet to cross. Overpowering gender stereotypes will take more than outnumbering the men in our field.”

Then, she gets to the heart of the issue for patients…

“I hate being called ‘nurse,’ because it sets up expectations for my relationship with a patient that I will not be able to fill. I cannot get you the medication that alleviates your pain or quiets your cough. I will be your advocate, but often after your nurse has called to my attention what I should advocate for. Your nurse will dress your wounds, clean you when you are not able, and tell that your family called. I will be the one who wakes you at 5:30 am and orders the medication that gives you diarrhea and tastes like dirt. Don’t call me ‘nurse,’ because I cannot be a nurse to you.”

And concludes with this…

“It’s not that doctors’ and nurses’ roles don’t overlap. They certainly do. Nevertheless, we are different providers with different skills. It is in this very difference that there is the greatest potential for learning and growth. I can’t explain all of this every time someone calls me nurse. So, for now, I’ll stick to my go-to line for this circumstance. ‘Thank you for the compliment, but I’m not your nurse. I’m your doctor.””

Read the entire story here, then tell us, how do situations like this affect you? Do you ever get mistaken for a doctor? How does it make you feel? Sound off in the comments below!


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4 Responses to “Thanks for the compliment, but I’m not a nurse” – What do you think?

  1. fmerjudio

    Well, we can’t blame her being upset for getting mistaken for somebody that she’s not. I’m sure anybody here would feel the same way on any level (you get called a Japanese but you’re a Filipino; you get called a PT but you’re actually a Pharmacist), especially if it gets repeated millions and millions of times. Big kudos to her still for keeping her cool all the way, which should always be the thing to do.

  2. Pompilot Caption Contest

    I am neither a doctor, nor an RN. Rather, I am a student veterinary assistant, who also works at a humane society animal shelter, where the staff wear scrubs.

    Last year, my mother was in hospital, after having a couple of TIA’s. I looked in on her every day after I got off of work. One visit, while in the elevator going to mom’s floor, a wonderful nurse noticed the ‘Hello Kitty’ scrubs I was wearing, and asked if I was from pediatrics. I showed my shelter ID and replied … “No; puppies and kitties”. We both had a good giggle over that.

  3. Dee Caption Contest

    I can understand why Dr. Lemay wants to be addressed as “Dr.” – she worked very hard for this title and deserves every bit of acknowledgment for having done so. I don’t feel she’s putting down nurses, as she states what we can do for a patient and how we participate in the care. I once heard it said, “Nurses are caregivers, doctors are problem solvers.” That just about sums it up. We are the eyes and ears of the doctor for the patient. All of us are needed and teamwork is absolutely crucial. This team also has to have wonderful CNAs, Patient Care Techs, etc. to make it a really great team. They are the nurses’ eyes and ears as well. Health care is changing so much and good staff are crucial. Doctors are not gods and we’re not “just nurses” – we all deserve a pat on the back for a difficult but rewarding career.

  4. lauramarie1979

    I understand her frustration when she is not called DR a title she has truly earned. What do we call then our APNs? They are still referred to as nurses…just a thought.