By Ken De Laat
To begin, as admittedly a bit of a defense, I adore nurses.
As a group I find them to be in possession of a special kind of wisdom as well as a deep sense of compassion, and an innate ability to cut through the nonsense.
And they are seldom wrong because if there is anything they despise it is mistakes.
Because in their field mistakes can be incredibly costly.
I have been around nurses most of my life with three stints of hospital work sprinkled through a lengthy, diverse and dust gathering personal resume.
One of my best friends from years ago graduated from nursing school...not the 4 year degree from a college mind you but the old hands on, clinical work every day variety that produced a cadre of skilled clinicians.
My favorite boss of all time was a nurse, the late Helen Brent who taught me the meaning of true leadership.
I was mentored in the field of psychiatric care by Harry Lemmon who had begun his nursing career in the 1920’s.
We have nurses throughout the family with nieces, great nieces, in laws, etc. performing the good work.
Oh and my favorite nurse?
The lovely and exceptionally patient woman who has allowed me to share her life the past several decades. So, yes, I am exceptionally fond of nurses.
And I like TV.
And what has this to do with anything you ask?
Well if you notice at all there are a seemingly endless amount of television shows that have something or other to do with medicine.
And for years...nay more like decades...of watching the tube together there is one thing I learned.
If you feel like you’re watching TV too much you can eliminate all shows related to medicine simply by sitting down and watching one with a nurse.
They will point out the discrepancies between real life and television life in no uncertain terms.
And once you see the man behind the curtain (love WizofOz references) the show’s interest diminishes rapidly.
China Beach 1988
Doogie Howser 1989
Chicago Hope 1994
Grey's Anatomy 2005
All were short lived watch material. The 11 year sabbatical between ER and Grey’s apparently didn’t do a thing for the accuracy on the screen.
And don’t get me going on Nurse Jackie (2009). I kind of liked it but for a time I thought this show would create a groundswell of rebellion with angered RNs from across the country demanding this oh so offensive offering be not just cancelled but also ensure any remaining copies of the show be destroyed.
Then a couple weeks ago a new show much ballyhooed by its network called Nurses debuted and we decided to give it a try since it was said to portray the heroism often required in this field.
Admittedly it was awful. Poorly written, poorly acted and absent of any discernible charm.
And although retired from the profession (though most RNs go dormant rather than really retire) the show’s many shortcomings clearly disappointed the nurse I live with.
“Why can’t they put out a show about nurses that at least is somewhat accurate?”
I have the answer.
Because no one who has not been there nor spent time with the people who populate this profession would believe what it is truly like on their end. There is the physical part of the job to be sure but the emotional toll is one that few can imagine much less handle. They are there to deal with people at the worst times of their life or sometimes at the best part of their lives but there is no middle ground. The work can go from 0 to 60 in a moment, there are doctors to contend with (some smart enough to form collegial relationships with these front liners and some who wear their narcissism like a badge of honor) families of patients, and any number of outside forces seemingly designed to make the day difficult.
And romance? Often a major part of these shows?
Yeah. As if there’s time or desire for any of that when you’re knee deep in patient care and erupting crises until utterly exhausted.
Lately the profession has been given its due in many circles by virtue of being the people who are forced into dealing with the results of this pandemic while of course needing to continue on with the work they did every day when we were in a non pandemic world.
No other group I know could possibly be better equipped to handle this and it grieves me to think of those who toil in places where the sheer volume renders their jobs dangerously close to impossible, a situation that can arrive quickly in rural areas such as ours.
So if you don’t believe in masks, well good for you. If you think the pandemic is fake? Well that’s just peachy. If you persist in being anti-vax, anti-mask, and maintain a grip on those little conspiracy theories some of you embrace so readily while calling science and medicine fake news?
But make no mistake, you each have a hand in keeping the ongoing battle these most venerated nurses are engaged in thriving. When you insist on making minor inconveniences your stand for some convoluted sense of freedom you , whether you can believe it or not, are depriving others of their health and perpetuating this dreadful siege.
Oh and if this were truly a TV show?
You’d be the bad guys.
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