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Joy Who?

The internet was in an uproar. Miss Colorado, Kelley Johnson, delivered a monologue about her experience of being “just a nurse” for the talent portion of the Miss America pageant. I watched it on YouTube the night of the contest. Like many nurses, I felt all the warm, fuzzy, nurse feelings and even got a little misty eyed. By Tuesday morning, the news reached my Facebook nursing groups. Joy Behar and Michelle Collins had mocked Miss Colorado on The View. Ms. Collins thought it would be a good laugh to poke fun at the heartfelt monologue delivered by Nurse Kelley. Ms Behar chimed in with the question, “why does she have a doctor’s stethoscope around her neck?”

A doctor’s stethoscope! Behar poked a sleeping bear with those words. Nurses roared into action as the disparaging remarks reached nurses across the globe. Hashtags like #nursesshareyourstethoscopes, #nursesrock, #nursesmatter, #notacostume, #mytalentisnursing, #nursesunite and #notjustanurse began trending on social media. I wish that Ms. Behar and Ms. Collins had supported Nurse Kelley, not only as a healthcare professional, but as a woman. It was disturbing to watch an all-woman-panel mock another woman for sharing her talent, the art of nursing.

The backlash from three million nurses was swift and strong. Pictures of nurses wearing stethoscopes flooded my news feeds. I spent time retweeting every one of my fellow nurses posts about the scandal. I was caught up in the collective outrage and for a few days I felt united with my sister and brother nurses.

Weeks later, the nurse hashtags have stopped trending and the conversation has changed to other hot topics. All of the nurse empowerment energy has evaporated.

Have we once again become stethescope#justnurses?

Joy Behar’s comment was careless. It was a throw away thing to say to fill up space and to seem like she had something intelligent to add to the conversation. I don’t believe that she meant it maliciously, she was being thoughtless. Her thoughtlessness united nurses in a way that I have not seen since nurses jumped on planes and busses to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The energy on social media was exciting. It was gratifying to read supportive comments and see nurses being given positive attention. I loved seeing all the stethoscopes and reading nursing stories about where those stethoscopes have been. For a few days it has felt like nurses were united and a part of a large community. United in their outrage of being publicly mocked.
It is now clear that nurses have the ability to direct national conversations. Where have all the hashtags gone? Why aren’t there trending hashtags like #endhealthdisparity, #decreasepatientratios, #stoplateralviolence, #nurseautonomy, or #APRNsIncreaseAccessToHealthcare? Healthcare policy and laws are influenced by a handful of lobbyists and legislators. These lobbyists and legislators number far fewer than three million nurses, but their decisions affect the entire nation. Can you envision a healthcare system being directed by our modern day Florence Nightingales and Clara Bartons, with the support of the national nursing community?
The best thing that could result from this stethoscope spectacle would be for nurses to finally find their voice.

We have power to influence, educate and advocate for the healthcare changes that we know we need. We can command a national stage whenever we choose to unite behind a cause. Its time to come together to influence issues that affect our friends, neighbors and families. Nurses are never just nurses, it is time to prove it.

To take action start here: American Nurses Association


Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2015 Carrie Halsey
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Private Fears of Healthcare Workers

I saw the tweet shoot across my phone during a meeting.  Someone had walked into Brigham and Women’s Hospital and shot a surgeon.  I did not know the story.  I did not need to read the details to feel the familiar terror creep into my heart.  It is not something that nurses often talk about.  In the privacy of break rooms, during whispered conversations and in our own minds we admit that patients sometimes scare us.

Death, birth, illness, surgery, dementia, sleep deprivation, drug induced psychosis, and alcohol withdrawal are examples of the dangerous landscapes that healthcare workers navigate each day.  I have been a nurse in many different situations and types of patients.  Labor and delivery is one of the most volatile units in a hospital.  Emotions run high when mothers and babies are involved.  Babies do not always go home with their mothers.  When child protective services is taking custody of a newborn, there is a palpable stress on the unit.


Nurses are an easy target for angry parents.  Nurses are blamed, by parents, for reporting mothers who test positive for illegal drugs.  Threats against nurses and doctors are common in these type of situations.  Threats can lead to actual violence.  I have been physically hurt by angry patients.  I have seen nurses punched in the face, choked and pinned against walls.  In the back of my mind I am always planning my escape route.  My internal alarm goes off when I see a father stomping across the unit.  It makes me uncomfortable to see the poster banning guns from the hospital grounds.  Its a daily reminder that we are defenseless against a shooter that disregards that posted warning.

Hospitals practice disaster drills, one of which is an active shooter drill.  We prepare for the worst.  We hope we never have to face what Dr. Michael Davidson did on January 20th.  The investigation in the Brigham and Women’s shooting is still ongoing.  We do not know the relationship between the doctor and the shooter.  Regardless of the relationship, it will not decrease the worry and fear that healthcare workers live with in order to do their work.  Our mission and passion is to care for patients.  Patient safety is our top concern and what we base all care around.  On days like today, we are reminded that we need to also worry about our own safety.

As I was writing this post I recieved another tweet.  The surgeon has died. Dr. Michael Davidson, your colleagues around the nation are thinking about you tonight and mourning your loss.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family in this sad time.





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The 5 Worst Nursing Errors I’ve Made


I, like many of my fellow RNs, have been appalled at the treatment the nurses with Ebola have been getting online and in the press.  Nursing is hard.  Nursing is scary.  Nursing is sad.  Nursing is stressful.  Nursing can kill you and not just from Ebola.  There are lots of dangers to nurses from the smallest bacteria up to corrupt corporations or governments.  Even the patients that we are caring for sometimes kill us.  These nurses have had their reputations trashed and blamed for contracting this terrifying disease.  In support and solidarity with my fellow RNs I am sharing my top 5 nursing errors.

1. The first year I was a nurse there was a huge outbreak of Rotavirus in my community.  Nursing homes were shutting down in quarantines and the med/surg floor was overflowing with vomit and diarrhea.  Everyone was on contact precautions so I should have been safe, right?  NOPE.  I got rotavirus two times that winter.  All the nurses were taking turns being sick at home and sick at work.  As careful as I was I couldn’t help catching the nasty bug.

IV2.  I was inducing a woman’s labor and I had started her oxytocin at 0800.  Two hours later she wasn’t having any contractions.  I had increased the drip every 20 minutes.  When I got her up to use the restroom I saw the problem.  The IV tube had never been connected to the patient and there was a puddle of oxytocin on the side of the bed.  I was so embarrassed to tell the patient and the doctor I had wasted two hours and we were just now starting.

3. I was askmed2ed to be the labor nurse by a patient that I knew.  Her delivery was   beautiful and I was honored that she had asked me to be her nurse.  I was watching her husband cut the cord and smiling like a goober.  Cord blood squirted right into my eye.  I had to leave the delivery and wash out my eye.  We both had to be tested for bloodborne pathogens and thankfully were negative.  I felt terrible and wished that I had just held the blanket up higher or looked away or wore my stupid glasses.

4.   One time I was trying to start an IV on a patient that was admitted for preterm labor.  I didn’t hit the vein on the first stick which is bad enough.  I forgot to hit the retractor button on the needle and poked the woman in the abdomen with it when I reached across her for a bandage.  It barely scratched her belly, but I was devastated that I had hurt that poor mama.

5.  If there is one smell nurses loathe it is the odor of a GI bleed.  I was taking care of a patient with this condition and became overwhelmed by the aroma.  I stepped into his bathroom and puked into the trash can.  I returned to his bedside, after cleaning up the mess in the bathroom, looking pale and remorseful.  That man broke my heart when he asked if I had been sick and then apologized for his smell.

We all make mistakes.  No one regrets those mistakes  more that the nurse whom made them.  I don’t know if these ladies made mistakes that allowed them to get Ebola.  I can’t imagine that they would take the situation lightly.  I assume that they would take every precaution that was afforded them, just as I would have.  Sometimes no matter how careful you are, it is not enough.  While so many people are criticizing these ladies, I will be joining those that are praying for their full recovery.  I also pray that I don’t ever have to live a day in their scrubs.