“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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