I have been told that some nurses think the comments made on The View about nurses aren’t important. They are just words. Indeed, they are. But let’s not forget that just like a nurse is not just a nurse, words are not just words. Words are not a jumble on letters on a page. Words are how we put into language what we think. When Joy Behar used the words “a doctor’s stethoscope” the problem wasn’t the 18 letters that left her mouth. The problem was the thought, the attitudes those words reflected. Those thoughts were surely that physicians do the important work and nurses, well they just just…. These attitudes stand behind all the decisions that we make about patient care. For example, many patients think doctors are the ones to go to when they have questions about their illness,and that nurses have nothing to offer. Policymakers think nurses are just extensions of the physician’s brain. Think of the term “physician-extender.” Where does that come from? It comes from the same kind of thinking that makes people use words like the “doctor’s stethoscope.”
Words like “girl,” to describe nurses conjures up images — thoughts that turn into actions. Do girls need to be well paid? Do girls have fully developed brains? Are girls able to think on their own, for themselves? Do they have their own knowledge? Certainly not! Just as girls need to be supervised and guided by parental wisdom, nurses are conceptualized as needing a big daddy — or now big mommy — to help them make it through the day.
Nurses should never doubt the power of their words and actions. The commitment of nurses like those at #nursesunite to respond to these negative comments with their own words has resulted in the loss of two advertisers to The View.
So yes, the things that people say, or write are indeed just words. But words make a difference. Like nurses, they can be a matter of life and death.